No. 16, Nyjer Morgan’s walk-off

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With the sports activities world on maintain, we current a countdown of the 50 best moments in Wisconsin sports activities historical past over the previous 50 years. That is No. 16.

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It is laborious to think about a stronger case of déjà vu for Craig Counsell. The Milwaukee Brewers supervisor had simply watched Mike Moustakas finish Sport 1 of the 2018 Nationwide League Division Collection with a single to assist the Brewers beat the Colorado Rockies in 10 innings, 3-2.

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He was requested if he might evaluate it to the rest in Brewers playoff historical past. It appeared too apparent. 

“I believe the closest most likely was from the man who threw out the primary pitch in the present day,” Counsell stated.

Counsell was referring to Nyjer Morgan, who grew to become a Brewers cult hero by driving within the successful run within the 10th inning of Sport 5 of the Nationwide League Division Collection in opposition to Arizona at Miller Park in 2011. That was a sequence clincher as a substitute of a sequence opener, nevertheless it was the identical inning and the identical rating. And Counsell was within the dugout for each, as soon as as a 40-year-old utility man within the last season of his 16-year taking part in profession and as soon as as skipper.

Morgan had returned to Miller Park for that recreation in 2018, firing up the gang earlier than throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Three days shy of the seven-year anniversary, Counsell and Brewers followers skilled all of it once more. All that was lacking had been the “T-Plush” shirseys.

In the course of the 2011 season, town fell in love with the brash and entertaining outfielder who had seemingly come out of nowhere, introduced in by an under-the-radar roster transfer simply earlier than the season. Nyjer Morgan was his title, however most followers had warmed to his colourful alter ego, “Tony Plush.”

Morgan’s standout yr included a .778 OPS and .304 batting common, and followers throughout Miller Park had been carrying shirseys with “T Plush” on the again in a goofy nontraditional script. However Morgan additionally gave the Brewers a long-lasting reminiscence that made his celebrated stint in Milwaukee greater than only a one-year section.

He had one of many greatest hits in Milwaukee postseason historical past.

Morgan’s base hit to attain Carlos Gomez within the backside of the 10th inning gave the Brewers a 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Oct. 7, 2011, capping a wild Nationwide League Division Collection and sending the Brewers to their first League Championship Collection since 1982.

‘Plushdamentals’

Nothing about Morgan was typical. His obsession with hockey led him to depart San Jose for Canada, the place he might play in a developmental hockey league.

He’d additionally been drafted to play baseball by the Colorado Rockies, and although he was capable of work his approach up the chain, his character did not all the time mesh with big-league teammates, notably in Pittsburgh and Washington. The Nationals had witnessed a few of Morgan’s extra damaging tendencies – equivalent to when he struck a fan within the stands with a ball or charged the mound in opposition to the Marlins. Fed up, they traded Morgan to the Brewers in March 2011 for minor-leaguer Cutter Dykstra, the son of  all-star Lenny Dykstra. 

“I all the time attributed him performing the best way he acted as a result of he was on a younger crew with no veteran management,” stated Brewers veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins in the course of the 2011 season. “And I might be the primary to inform Nyjer: ‘Calm that (expletive) down, OK? Flip it down a notch. Please.’ “

However the Brewers did permit Morgan to be himself, and that included the Tony Plush persona he’d developed since his days in San Jose.

“We would have liked his vitality so far as seeing how a lot enjoyable as a crew we might have,” stated Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. “As an alternative of being all-stars and leaders, we’re extra of a clubhouse once more. He is helped deliver that crew enjoyable again.”

“Some individuals need you to be plain like Marvel Bread,” Morgan stated. “I assume you are presupposed to be a choirboy on the market. I do joke round, however I come to work on daily basis ready, mentally and bodily able to compete and win. … I do not do something that claims I am not taking part in laborious or not hustling for my teammates. I’ve all the time been this type of participant. That is what obtained me up right here.” 

Brewers followers ate up Morgan’s electrical character and high-energy postgame interviews (“ahhhh, gotta go!”), particularly when it got here connected with outcomes.

In June, his walk-off double gave the Brewers a 7-6 win over the Mets; afterward Morgan admitted he did not even comprehend it was the ninth inning. In July, his two-run double within the ninth tied the sport in opposition to the Twins, after which Morgan scored the successful run in an 8-7 victory on his 31st birthday, a recreation the Brewers had trailed, 8-7.

“That is most likely my finest birthday ever,” stated Morgan, who completed the sport Three for five with 4 RBI and only a single wanting the cycle. “Besides my ninth birthday. My mother and father simply moved into the brand new home and we had a candy pool occasion.”

When he clashed with the St. Louis Cardinals, sufficient that benches cleared in a September assembly, Brewers followers had been alongside for the journey, regardless that the Cardinals obtained the final giggle within the Nationwide League Championship Collection.

However earlier than the Cardinals ended Milwaukee’s season in a 4-2 sequence win, the Brewers discovered themselves in a nail-biting place, at dwelling for Sport 5 of the NLDS in opposition to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

A 10th-inning thriller

Morgan had already made one thing occur within the decisive fifth recreation of the sequence, scoring from third on a sacrifice fly when Jerry Hairston’s shallow fly ball was caught by a ranging second baseman Aaron Hill within the fourth. That tied the sport at 1-1.

The Brewers had been nursing a 2-1 lead within the ninth when nearer John Axford, who led the league with 46 saves and posted an ERA of 1.95 for the season, allowed a leadoff double to Gerardo Parra and confronted runners on the corners with no person out. 

Axford and Fielder could not subject a Willie Bloomquist bunt one batter later, and the tying run scored. The silver lining, although, was Axford figuring out of further hassle after which navigating a 1-2-3 10th inning.

“The character of this crew is unbelievable,” Axford stated. “There’s quite a lot of perseverance on this room, from each single participant right here.” 

Gomez, who had struggled many of the yr – leaving loads of taking part in time in heart subject for Mogan – singled with one out within the backside of the 10th and stole second.

On a 2-2 pitch in opposition to Arizona nearer J.J. Putz, Morgan slapped a floor ball again up the center. Gomez scored with a headfirst slide, and the stadium went bonkers as gamers tumbled onto the sphere.

“That was ‘Tony Clutch’ all the best way,” Morgan stated. “Just a bit tickler into the outfield. Putz is a reasonably stable pitcher. I knew he was going to problem me. I used to be simply on the lookout for one thing up (within the strike zone).” 

How the second lives on

As talked about, the Brewers misplaced to the wild-card successful Cardinals within the NLCS, and St. Louis went on to win the World Collection.

The Brewers, who had bolstered their 2011 crew with quite a lot of key roster acquisitions (Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Morgan, Jerry Hairston, Francisco Rodriguez, Takashi Saito) started to disintegrate in 2012. Hairston and Saito went elsewhere, Greinke was traded, Morgan struggled, and the 2012 Brewers completed 83-79, third within the Central after their 96-win run to the division title in 2011. 

Morgan’s hit is now not the one walk-off in Brewers playoff historical past; in 2018, Moustakas delivered one other 10th-inning single to beat  the Colorado Rockies within the NLDS. Morgan was introduced again in the course of the 2018 postseason as a part of the celebration and the membership’s first division title since that 2011 squad, a crew that additionally matched the franchise-record 96 wins of 2011.

Morgan briefly tried to return with Cleveland in 2014, however 2012 was his final full season of Main League Baseball. 

The one-time wonders

Morgan would not fairly qualify as a one-year surprise as a result of he performed in 2012 for the Brewers, however he was a short-term thrill journey within the pantheon of Wisconsin sports activities.

Think about these different taking pictures stars previously 50 years:

Matt Flynn (2011). The backup quarterback actually had two loopy moments within the solar. He set a franchise report with six passing touchdowns within the season finale in opposition to Detroit within the 2011 season, and upon his midseason return to the franchise in 2013, he helped Inexperienced Bay patch collectively a tie and two wins to remain alive for a playoff berth the Packers later obtained.

Yuniesky Betancourt (2011). He will not be remembered as a cornerstone on that 2011 crew, however he was sensational within the postseason, with 13 hits in 42 at-bats (.319), together with a homer and 6 RBI. He had a go-ahead single with two outs in Sport 5 of the NLDS and made a key defensive play to maintain the sport tied.

Brandon Jennings (2009). It is unfair to incorporate him as a “one-hit surprise,” as a result of he spent 5 years with the Milwaukee Bucks and contributed to a few playoff appearances. However he’ll all the time be remembered for the seventh recreation in his profession, a recreation Nov. 11, 2009, wherein he scored 55 factors in opposition to Golden State.

Samkon Gado (2005). At present, he is a chief resident at a hospital, however Dr. Gado was big for the Packers in 2005 when he got here out of nowhere to attain seven touchdowns in eight video games, with 582 dashing yards and 77 receiving yards. Promoted to the lively roster after accidents to Ahman Inexperienced and Najeh Davenport, he received two NFL Rookie of the Week awards earlier than his personal damage in the end short-circuited his season.

Jon Bryant (2000). The previous Division II participant at St. Cloud State performed two years with the Wisconsin males’s basketball crew, scoring 7.Three factors per recreation. However within the 2000 NCAA Event, he was unstoppable, making 18 of 39 from three-point vary (46.1%) to steer the Badgers on a wild run to the Closing 4. Bryant earned regional MVP for his efforts, which included three video games of 6 three-pointers or extra. 

Steve Woodard (1997). Like Jennings, he spent a number of years in Milwaukee, greater than three with the Brewers. However on July 28, 1997, he out-dueled Roger Clemens in a incredible eight-inning, one-hit efficiency for his main league debut, when the Brewers beat the Blue Jays, 1-0. It is one of the dazzling debuts in Brewers historical past. 

Ned Yost (1982). Earlier than he was the Brewers’ supervisor, he was a lightly-used catcher who slugged his solely dwelling run of the 1982 season in opposition to Boston within the prime of the ninth with six video games to go, a three-run blast that broke a tie and gave the Brewers a vital 6-Three win.

Mark Brouhard (1982). He appeared solely in Sport Four within the ALCS, however what a efficiency it was. The outfielder went Three for Four with a house run that gave the Brewers some respiratory room late, plus a double and three RBI whole. He additionally caught the ultimate out in a 9-5 win.

Guidelines of the 50 in 50 sequence

  • Moments are recorded over the 50-year window from 1970 to 2019 (sorry 2020, however you are disqualified)
  • These are moments and never achievements, though that largely goes hand-in-hand.
  • These are “best” 50 moments, so you will not see moments which can be pivotal however in the end heartbreaking (just like the NFC Championship loss to Seattle, Kareem getting traded, and many others.)
  • You additionally will not see (many) moments that got here to be acknowledged for his or her greatness later, such because the day the Bucks drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo or the day the Packers traded for Brett Favre.
  • Moments thought-about embrace groups based mostly in Wisconsin and Wisconsin athletes competing in particular person sports activities or as a part of nationwide groups (such because the Olympics), or moments on Wisconsin soil.
  • These are singular moments. You are supposed to recollect the place you had been once they occurred.
Extra of the 50 best Wisconsin sports activities moments of the previous 50 years

JR Radcliffe may be reached at (262) 361-9141 or jradcliffe@gannett.com. Observe him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.

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