The Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a one-year contract with first baseman Rowdy Tellez to avoid arbitration. This contract, while seemingly insignificant, all-but guarantees that the same player will start at first base on Opening Day in back-to-back years since Prince Fielder. Indeed, the Brewers have seen plenty of first basemen come and go, some good, and some not-so-good. However, the return of Tellez to the Brewers behooves us to take a look at the greatest first basemen in team history.
#5- John Jaha
To be honest, I wanted to put Corey Hart here. Hart spent more time with the Brewers and had more productive seasons. However, Hart only spent one season at first base, so John Jaha gets the nod.
John Jaha made his major league debut with the Brewers in 1992 and spent seven seasons with the club. In those seven years, he hit a respectable .268/.361/.463 with 141 home runs and 490 RBI’s. His best season for the Brewers was the 1996 campaign. During that season, he hit .300/.398/.543 with 34 home runs and 118 RBI’s. Unfortunately, the 1996 season was one of only two in which he played over 100 games (1993 being the first). The rest of his time in Milwaukee was marred with injuries.
Jaha signed with the Oakland Athletics ahead of the 1999 season. He had the best season of his career in 1999, hitting .276/.414/.556 with 35 home runs and 111 RBI’s. He also made his only All-Star team that year. However, his injury struggles returned in 2000 and he only played 45 games in his final two years in the league.
#4- Richie Sexson
Richie Sexson had a short but productive tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers. He originally play with the Cleveland Indians, but was acquired by the Brewers midway through the 2000 season. In his first full season with the Brewers in 2001, he hit .271/.342/.571 with 45 home runs and 125 RBI’s. His 45 home runs tied the club record set by Gorman Thomas, and he matched that total again in 2003. Sexson was a two-time All-Star with the Brewers, including the 2002 game which took place at Miller Park. In addition, he competed in the Home Run Derby that year.
The Brewers traded Sexson following the 2003 season to the Arizona Diamondbacks for six players. Notable players that came to Milwaukee via this trade were Craig Counsell, Chris Capuano, and Lyle Overbay. Sexson only played in 23 games for Arizona before an injury ended his 2004 season. He signed as a free agent with the Seattle Mariners ahead of 2005 and had two more seasons in which he hit over 30 home runs. He last appeared in the Majors with the New York Yankees in 2008.
#3- George Scott
By the time he came to Milwaukee via a trade for Tommy Harper, George Scott was already a great defensive first basemen. As a member of the Boston Red Sox, Scott was already a one-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. He had also finished tenth in the American League MVP vote in 1967, and 26th in 1971.
With the Brewers, Scott would enjoy arguably the best seasons of his career. As a Brewer, Scott hit .283/.342/.456 with 115 home runs 463 RBI’s in five seasons. He also won the Gold Glove at first base in each season he played with the Brewers and made another All-Star team. His best season with the team was in 1975, when he hit .285/.341/.515 with 36 home runs and 109 RBI’s. Both his home run and RBI totals led the American League. He finished eighth in the MVP vote that year.
George Scott was traded back to Boston following the 1976 season in the deal that brought Cecil Cooper to Milwaukee (more on him in a minute). He would make one more All-Star team in 1977 with the Red Sox. He would play just two more years in the league, though, finishing his career with the Yankees in 1979.
#2- Cecil Cooper
The argument could be made the Coop should have the top spot on this list, and anyone who would make that case would not be wrong.
Cecil Cooper first played for the Boston Red Sox, but easily had the best years of his career as a Milwaukee Brewer. In 11 seasons with the Brewers, Coop hit .302/.339/.470 with 201 home runs and 944 RBI’s. His best season was the 1980 campaign in which he hit .352/.387/.539 with 25 home runs and 122 RBI’s. His RBI total led the American League that season, as did his 335 total bases. He was named an All-Star that year, and also won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award. Amazingly, he did not win the batting title that year as George Brett had an incredible .390 average.
All told, Cooper made five All-Star teams with the Brewers. He also won two Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. He played an influential part in the 1982 World Series run and drove in over 120 runs in three different seasons. If not for the next person on this list, he would be the clear-cut greatest Brewers first baseman.
#1- Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder gets the nod as the best first baseman in Brewers history. It was not an easy choice, but the fact that Fielder was drafted and developed by the Brewers pushed him over the top.
Fielder was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft by the Brewers. He made his major league debut in 2005, but did not spend much time with the Big League club. In his first full season (2006), Fielder hit .271/.347/.483 with 28 home runs and 81 RBI’s. He finished seventh in Rookie of the Year voting. 2007, though, was the season that Fielder exploded into baseball stardom. He became the youngest player ever to hit 50 home runs in his season with a slash line of .288/.395/.618 with 50 home runs and 119 RBI’s.
Fielder’s best season, though, is arguably his 2009 season in which he hit .299/.412/.602 with 46 home runs and a league-leading 141 RBI’s. All told, Fielder made three All-Star games with the Brewers, won two Silver Sluggers, and finished in the top four of the MVP vote three times.
Unfortunately, the Brewers were not able to pay Fielder as much as other clubs could offer and he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers ahead of the 2012 season. He would make three more All-Star teams with the Tigers and Rangers, but was forced to retire early due to a neck injury. He ended his career with 319 home runs, and may have been in the Hall of Fame discussion had he not been injured.