Retired Numbers: Milwaukee Brewers

(This is part of a series on retired numbers, with somewhat of a focus on Retired Number Bandits — players who wore a number that was later retired at any point after the person for whom it was retired first wore it. See the introduction for more information and explanation on Bandits.)

The Milwaukee Brewers have officially retired the numbers of four players. They also have one number retired for a non-player, one number “honored” but not retired for a broadcaster, and one number unofficially retired.

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Bud Selig, 1

Selig was the largest public stockholder in the Milwaukee Braves, and he was devastated when they moved to Atlanta in 1965. In 1970, he bought the bankrupt Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee, renaming them the Brewers.

Selig led the group of owners that ousted commissioner Fay Vincent in 1992, and he served as acting commissioner until 1998 when he was named commissioner of baseball. His tenure as commissioner had ups and downs, to massively understate things, and he remains a legend in Milwaukee as the man who brought baseball back.

After his retirement as commissioner in 2014, the Brewers retired number 1 in his honor in 2015.

Paul Molitor, 4

Molitor put up one of the quietest Hall of Fame careers a player has ever had. Part of that was due to playing in Milwaukee and Minnesota for much of his career, but he also never led the league in any triple-crown category and had only two top-five MVP finishes. He batted .306/.369/.448 with 234 home runs, 1,782 runs scored, and 504 stolen bases in his 21-year career, and he is currently tenth on the all-time hits leaderboard with 3,319.

Molitor retired after the 1998 season, and the Brewers retired his number 4 in 1999. Only Pat Listach in 1996 has worn the number since Molitor. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004.

Robin Yount, 19

Yount played his entire 20-year career in Milwaukee, winning two MVP Awards (one as a shortstop, one as a center fielder) for the Brewers. Like Molitor, Yount never led the league in any triple-crown category, although he did lead the majors in slugging percentage and OPS in 1982 with 210 hits, 46 doubles, 12 triples, and 29 home runs. Yount recorded his 3,000th hit in 1992 and retired after the 1993 season with 3,142 total hits.

The Brewers retired Yount’s number 19 in early 1994, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1999.

Rollie Fingers, 34

Fingers did not play for the Brewers for very long. In fact, he pitched significantly more games and innings with both the Oakland A’s and the San Diego Padres. But the highlight of his career came in Milwaukee, when his 28 saves and 1.04 ERA in the strike-shortened 1981 season earned him the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards.

The Brewers did not take Fingers’ number 34 out of circulation upon his retirement, but when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992 they retired his number as well. In the interim, it was worn by John Henry Johnson, Mark Ciardi, Billy Bates, Dennis Powell, and Mark Lee.

Hank Aaron, 44

Like Fingers, Aaron is a Hall of Famer who played just a small portion of his career with the Brewers. But Aaron is one of the greatest players of all time, and his stint with the Brewers was just a completion of the circle for a career that began in Milwaukee with the Braves in 1954. All told, Aaron spent 14 of his 23 big league seasons (and hit 420 of his 755 home runs) with Milwaukee teams.

Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a season, but he also never hit fewer than 25 in a full season. From age 21 to age 36, the fewest games he played in a season was 145. His Baseball-Reference page is a sight to behold, and you can spend hours finding different ways to show how great he was.

After playing his final two seasons with the Brewers, the team retired his number 44 on October 3, 1976, the day of his final game. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.

Bob Uecker, 50

Uecker was not a very good baseball player, and he played that mediocrity up to great effect in his post-playing career as an actor, comedian, and broadcaster. He has been calling play-by-play on the Brewers’ radio broadcasts since 1971. In 2005, to honor Uecker’s 50th year in professional baseball, the Brewers placed a number 50 in their “Ring of Honor.” In 2012, they erected a statue of Uecker outside Miller Park. The number 50 is not retired, though, and it has been issued every year since it was honored for Uecker.

Uecker’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech when he won the Ford C. Frick Award in 2003 is typically random and hilarious:

Unofficial: Jim Gantner, 17

Gantner is a wonderful example of the connection a team and its fans can have to a particular player. He was not a great player, but he was solid. He never made an All-Star team or led the league in anything (except when he was hit by an AL-leading ten pitches in 1989). His .274/.319/.351 batting line was nothing special, and while he stole 137 bases, he was also caught stealing 78 times. Simply put, Gantner was as unspectacular as they come.

But Gantner had two things going for him: He was a native Wisconsinite, and he was part of a legendary infield. He was raised in Eden, Wisconsin, and drafted by the Brewers out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1974. He was the Brewers’ starting second basemen through the 1980s, alongside slugging first baseman Cecil Cooper and Hall of Famers Yount and Molitor.

Gantner’s number 17 is not retired, but it has not been issued since his retirement in 1992 except to him as a coach in 1996-97.

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