The year of 2003 will undoubtedly go down as a historic point in the history of the Milwaukee Brewers. From changes on the field to controversy off it, the Brewers now push into a very important phase in their rebuiliding as some of the prospects fans have heard about over the past few years begin to trickle up through the Brewers system and onto the big league field.
While keeping an eye on the future, let's take a look back at 2003. Users and visitors of Brewerfan.net recently particpated in a survey that takes a look at the best and worst of the Milwaukee Brewers of last year. This survey will be broken down into parts, with the first installment highlighting the top five memorable games of the 2003 according to Brewerfan.net users.
#5. June 26 vs. Chicago - Jenkins beats Cubs
It was a sunny, breezy day at Wrigley Field, and a capacity crowd turned out to watch the Cubs battle the Brewers in the rubber match of a three-game set.
The Brewers were facing an uphill battle having to take on Cubs ace Mark Prior, who was coming off a loss in his last start. He certainly did what he could to make sure that didn't happen again, fanning eight in the first four innings and 16 batters overall in what a lot of people thought at the time was Prior's most dominating performance in his young career.
Wayne Franklin started the game for the Brewers, and after allowing a single run to the Cubs in the fourth inning, Sammy Sosa crushed a 3-0 pitch for a two-run homer in the fifth to give Chicago a 3-0 lead. That lead looked to be insurmountable with the way Prior was dealing, but a Scott Podsednik single and a Keith Ginter two-run homer in the sixth pulled the Brewers to within 3-2.
However, with Prior throwing 126 pitches, Cubs manager Dusty Baker pulled Prior before the ninth in favor of Joe Borowski. Borowski proceeded to give up a base hit to Podsednik, a walk to Ginter, and a long, three-run homer to Geoff Jenkins. Despite a dominating performance by one of the best young pitchers in the game, a stunned Wrigley crowd watched the Brewers win, 5-3.
#4. Sept. 28 vs. Houston - Podsednik reaches rookie milestone
Scott Podsednik came out of absolutely nowhere to put up one of the best rookie seasons in major league history, and that historic year was capped off in the season finale against the Astros with a milestone that has been duplicated only three other times since the year 1900.
Podsednik's solo home run in the sixth inning gave him 100 runs for the season, allowing him to join the select group of Jimmy Barrett, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, and Ichiro Suzuki as the only players who hit at least .300, scored 100 runs, and stole 40 bases in the same season.
The Brewers lost the game, 8-5. But while the season as a whole ended in disappointment, Podsednik provided a season-long bright spot.
"I can't put into words, to be honest, to do it in front of my friends and family, that was really special," Podsednik said after the game. "It's been a dream year, and to cap it in a dream way, I don't think I could have written it any better."
#3. July 9 vs. Pittsburgh - "Sausagegate"
It was an otherwise ordinary game between the Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Heading into the bottom of the 7th inning, the Brewers and Pirates were tied, 1-1. As usual, the Klements Racing Sausages assembled in the left field corner and began their jaunt up the third base line towards the finish of the fan-favorite sausage race.
However, on this night, Pirates first baseman Randall Simon made sure that at least one sausage wouldn't finish. Simon, hunched over the Pirates' dugout railing as the sausages approached, reached down, grabbed a bat and hit the top of the head of the Italian sausage, causing the 20-year old woman portraying the sausage to fall to the ground. Another sausage character tripped and fell over the fallen Italian.
The incident attracted huge national attention - more than the Brewers had received at any time all season. However, once again, attention given to the Brewers wasn't because of something good that happened on the field. As one survey particpant put it, "Actually, it's very sad that that one is the most memorable. Meaningful games that are won dramatically would be nice to choose from next year."
After the game, Simon was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, and later paid a fine.
#2. April 19 vs. Houston - Rusch's game-winning...bunt
As one survey partipant put it, "It was the most useful thing he did for the Brewers all year."
Brewers pitcher Glendon Rusch, who had been battered on the mound in an 11-5 loss to the Astros the day before, got even with Houston with his bat.
Rusch, considered one of the better hitting pitchers in the game, blooped a perfectly placed suicide squeeze bunt over the head of Astros' second baseman Jeff Kent, scoring Eric Young and giving the Brewers a 3-2, 14 inning win.
"I've seen a lot of things. I've seen a bunt go over the third baseman's head. I've seen a bunt go over the first baseman's head,'' Houston manager Jimy Williams said. "But, I haven't see one go over the second baseman's head, especially in those circumstances.''
That play was arguably the high point of the season for Rusch. The left-hander continued to struggle on the mound, ending up with a 1-11 record before being sent down to AAA later on in the summer. Rusch did return to Milwaukee towards the end of the season, but was relegated to the bullpen.
#1. May 17 vs. Cincinnati - A walk-off winner
Eddie Perez said after the game that he couldn't remember if he had hit a walk-off homer ever before in his life.
However, on this day, in front of Brewerfan.net "FanFest", Perez launched a two-out, three-run homer that clanged off the left field foul pole to propel the Brewers to an 8-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The scene in Miller Park was joyous, with teammates mobbing Perez and fans chanting "Eddie! Eddie!" as he crossed home plate.
The inning was set up by a pair of walks to Richie Sexson and John Vander Wal. After Wes Helms struck out, Perez, relying on what he saw from Scott Williamson in a prior plate appearance, hit the first pitch he saw out of the park.
Perez was put into the game-winning position only because the Brewers had squandered leads of 3-0 after three innings and 5-2 after four innings. Glendon Rusch, mired in a long slump on the mound, left the game leading 5-4 and was in line for the win until Luis Vizcaino allowed two runs to the Reds in the top of the eighth inning.
The Final Tally - Most Memorable Game of 2003
1. May 17 vs. Cincinnati - 19%
2. April 19 vs. Houston - 16%
3. July 9 vs. Pittsburgh - 13%
4. Sept. 18 vs. Houston - 10%
5. June 26 vs. Chicago - 7%