MILWAUKEE — Red Smith, one of the greatest of all sports writers, was there the day in 1951 when Bobby Thomson smashed “The Shot Heard Round the World.” Inspired by the “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff,” Smith, a Green Bay native, wrote one of the more famous ledes in sports writing history:
“Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.”
Even the great wordSmith, were he still with us, would be at a loss to describe what happened today at County Stadium. Anyone would. The Milwaukee Brewers’ current implausible reality has all of baseball shaking their heads, rubbing their eyes and has left even the most seasoned observers with their mouths agape.
So, how to explain how the Brewers scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth on a Rob Deer three-run homer and Dale Sveum‘s game-winning two-run job to improbably win their 12th straight game to open the 1987 season?
We use Easter as an inspiration and talk of their resurrection as their 11-game win streak was on the line, and the Brewers’ chance at winning their 12th game was seemingly entombed in a 4-1 ninth inning deficit. We could talk of how these Brewers never seem to die. We could talk of water into wine, loaves and fishes and making the blind see. We could talk of miracles.
But that would be blasphemy.
We could talk of history and how the Brewers now hold the American League record for consecutive wins to open a season, but what do we know about those A’s? We could also mention the Crew is now one win from tying the Major League record, set by the hated Atlanta Braves in 1982.
Yet, why should we give the carpetbaggers any satisfaction? These Brewers are unique, a force unto themselves.
We could talk about the George Webb’s burgers that they will give away for free later this week. But that would reduce the streak to a simple, gastronomic level.
Or, we could go blow by blow and try to capture the excitement, the rapture that was felt within County Stadium’s confines at 4:18 p.m. CT time as Sveum’s shot slipped into the bullpen just next to the right field stands, the early spring shadows starting to grow as long as the Brewers’ win streak.
But what really could do this win, this streak, this team justice?
As fans, we’re along for the ride and only the Brewers can describe how they feel. Yet, they can’t either.
“It’s all so amazing, isn’t it?” Crew manager Tom Trebelhorn asked rhetorically.
It is amazing. It’s stupendous. It’s unprecedented. And it’s still alive thanks to the Brewers’ plucky might in the ninth inning.
Down by four, their largest margin of the season, after the Rangers added three runs against Brewers’ starter Mike Birkbeck in the fifth inning, the Crew finally got on the board in the bottom of the inning with Deer’s sixth homer of the season.
The bats, however, stayed silent as Rangers’ hurlers Jose Guzman and Mitch Williams, who struck out the side in the eighth, kept the Crew off the board until the ninth inning when Glenn Braggs walked and Greg Brock singled. After Cecil Cooper flied out to center, the Rangers brought in Greg Harris to shut the door on the Brewers.
Harris’ first batter was Deer, and he made Deer look foolish on the first pitch, with the Brewers’ slugger swinging wildly through a curve ball. Thinking he had Deer, Harris threw another. This pitch didn’t have the break of the previous pitch. In fact, it didn’t break at all. It hung like a disco ball and cast a twinkle in Deer’s eye.
“It was huge,” Deer said of the pitch.
Deer swung and the ball, despite a 16-mph wind blowing in, landed two rows from the top of the stadium in left field. The homer sent County Stadium into delirium and tied the game at 4-4.
“The funnest game I’ve ever been in,” Deer told the Milwaukee Sentinel.
After that, a trip to extra innings would have been satisfactory. But this Brewers team doesn’t settle for satisfactory. After B.J. Surhoff struck out, Jim Gantner walked, setting the stage for Sveum. The shortstop worked the count to 3-2 before turning on an inside fastball and turning the Stadium into a madhouse.
The delirium couldn’t be contained to the Stadium. Brewer Fever had become too contagious. Neighborhoods throughout the state erupted as if it were New Year’s Eve. Families stopped dinner to listen to Bob Uecker lose his voice. This author and his brother flew into each others’ arms and jumped up and down as what was left of Uecker’s voice was drowned out by the crowd noise. We hadn’t felt like this about the Brewers since they were in the World Series.
Back then, we expected the ’82 Brewers to be good, but the ’87 Brewers have been too good to be true.
They have been, as Red would have said, inexpressibly fantastic. And, again, he would have been right.