Gorman Thomas

January 5, 2007

Can someone please tell me what the fuck the Brewers are doing in the National League? When I last looked, I mean really looked, back before I got distracted in the early ’80s by the snares of high puberty and the ensuing ceaseless slide down into the ever-increasing ambiguities, ephemera, and obfuscations of adulthood, there was no clearer representative of the American League than the Brewers. They did not steal bases. They did not bunt. They did not send their keg-bellied hungover hurlers to the plate. They did not swat turf-aided fleet-footed triples ‘neath the ceiling of the Astrodome. No. They had the beards and long greasy hair of motorcycle thugs. They guzzled beer and slugged long home runs. They gnawed bulging wads of tobacco and struck out swinging. They listened to Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr. on their way to discharge shotguns at wildlife. They smashed into outfield fences and bought mescaline from hippies before pounding them with tire irons. Didn’t they? I mean, now that they are in something called the Central Division of the National Fucking League I’m not so sure of anything. But I do know I can at least say this: as much as any team was ever one guy, the Milwaukee Brewers in the late ’70s and early ’80s were Gorman Thomas. And Gorman Thomas did not ever play in the National League. Until October 1982, that is, and that was only because by then the Brewers had laid waste to all the American League teams in their path and the only thing left for them to conquer was the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League, which they probably would have done if the majority of games in the 1982 World Series were played in an American League park and not upon the artificial National League turf of Busch Stadium. After those four National League games, Gorman Thomas was never the same, and neither were the Brewers, and come to think of it neither was I.


  1. 1.  2 comments from old CG site:

    ramblin’ pete millerman said…
    On certain bleak, indigo and moonless October nights,
    …when heartbreak has us down; when leaves rustle lethargically, if at all; when the dispiriting transience of summer has passed by and sunk in; when sobriety, hindsight, and the realization of blown saves and lost chances has subsumed our mortal ken; when we don’t know whether to give up or give in; when we don’t have the strength to get up and take another shot…when the joke’s on us…when there’s nobody even there to bluff…

    On nights like these there is no “National League Central.”

    There are no “Milwaukee Brewers”, even.

    There are no shattered dreams, broken into little pieces.

    On nights like these there are only Seattle Pilots.

    And Gorman Thomas is Don Mincher.

    And that long passed sense of innocence and naivete can maybe, maybe stir again.

    If you listen really carefully…

    5:19 PM

    Anonymous said…
    Don Money!
    Don Money!
    Don Money!
    Don Money!

    6:05 PM

  2. 2.  I’m not sure if I mentioned that this was one of my favorite entries during the early days of this blog.

  3. 3.  I think I would enjoy this one more if I weren’t such an NL-ophile, and hence, my reaction is colored as if my hometown were maligned.

  4. 4.  3 : Ha! You know, on an objective level, even though my favorite team is in the A.L., I actually prefer the N.L. style of baseball. But in a consideration of Gorman Thomas there is no room for objectivity.

  5. 5.  I just now read this posting and the preceding before that. The first line had me guffawing or some such descriptive word like that with opening day in my head.

    I was quizzing my cousin today in the car on all the big league teams of which there were a few of the newer expansion teams he had a hard time identifying. But of all the teams I brought up, the big guys answer to my prompt of “The Milwaukee_________,” he emphatically answered with the Brewers. I then thought, if there is one team out there that the average man could never hate, it has to be the Brew Crew. I mean they are the Brewers of beer. Something that most of the people I know love to drink.

    Fuckin’ A man, great post.

  6. 6.  Gorman was the “good old boy’s” slugger. If you would have asked somebody in 1980 who would be in the Hall of Fame out of these four players (Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor), the answer would not have been Yount and Molitor.

  7. 7.  Gorman Thomas was actually a pretty good ball player. He was a good outfielder, hit for power, took a lot of walks, and had good speed. (He never stole many bases, but he was an A runner in Strat-O-Matic, so there you go.)

    In fact, for a five year period he was a damn fine player indeed: OPS+ of 142, 138, 112, 146 and 137. Unfortunately, no one really acknowleged how good he was, because his batting average over that stretch was only .245.

    My Gorman Thomas story: my mom worked for a firm that had a box 10 or so rows behind the visitors’ dugout, so I got to sit there a fair amount. (This was back when a local city-planning firm, not a huge one, could get a box in that location.) I was sitting there for a Yankees-Brewers game – thanks to the miracle of B-R and Retrosheet, I know that it was the second game of a twi-nighter on September 9, 1981, but otherwise the only thing I remember is Gorman Thomas batting against Dave LaRoche.

    LaRoche had unveiled his eephus pitch, LaLob, and that’s all he threw Thomas. Gorman got more and more outraged, completely befuddled by this meatball floating over the plate, and ended up striking out on a gargantuan swing. On his way back to the dugout, well, Thomas just had to hit something. So he took off his helmet, tossed it up, and, with the same mighty swing, smashed it into little bits. I can only imagine how satisfying it must have been to him; I know the crowd went nuts.

    One of my favorite moments ever.

  8. 8.  I met Gorman outside of Gorman’s Grill at Miller Park, where he said hello, talked to me about ball for a few, and signed my hat on the bill. He reminded me of those days you spoke about with the hippie beating, long home run, Hank Williams, Jr. posturing. Three days later, my German Shepherd ate my hat. Only the bill with Gorman’s signature survived.

  9. Just finished your book so am going back through some of the blog.

    Never has this post rung more true than in 2010. The Brewers once again have an AL-style squad. They’re 2nd in the NL in runs, HRs, and slugging percentage. Pitching? A 5.36 ERA, 14th in the N.L.

    Management seems to think that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder can outslug the mess left by retreads like Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush.

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