Wisconsin has quietly built up quite the history of great professional athletes. Between the Bucks, Brewers, and Green Bay Packers, a plethora of high-profile athletes have spent any number of years in the great state of Wisconsin. In this series, we will take a look at the best players to wear each jersey number. In this edition, we are looking at the best all-time Wisconsin players who wore numbers 41 through 45.
Number 41- Jim Slaton: Milwaukee Brewers (1971-1977; 1979-1983)
When fans discuss who the greatest Brewers pitchers are, very rarely is Jim Slaton’s name brought up. This may be fair, as he was never an overwhelmingly dominant pitcher, but he wasn’t bad either. He makes this list, though, as the greatest Wisconsin athlete to wear number 41 because of his reliability and consistency.
Jim Slaton is the Brewers’ all time leader in wins with 117. On the other end of the spectrum, he is the Brewers’ leader in losses as well with 121. That’s what happens when a guy sticks with the same team for 12 years. He had a very respectable 3.83 career ERA as a Brewer. He also tossed the most shut outs in Brewers history, doing so 19 times.
Slaton was a one-time All-Star. He achieved this in 1977 when he went 10-14 with a 3.58 ERA. Arguably his best season, though, was in 1979, when he returned to Milwaukee after spending 1978 with Detroit. That year, he went 15-9 with a 3.63 ERA and 12 complete games, three of which were shutouts.
Honorable Mention: Eugene Robinson (Packers)
Number 42- John Brockington: Green Bay Packers (1971-1977)
John Brockington was drafted by the Packers with the ninth overall pick in the 1971 draft. He produced right away, becoming the first running back in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. His rookie season was great enough to earn the 1971 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Not only did Brockington rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, he made the Pro Bowl all three years as well. In addition, he was named a first-team All-Pro in his rookie year. His best year was in 1972, his second year in the league. He had 1,027 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. While this is not his highest rushing total, he also added 243 receiving yards and an additional score.
Brockington would not rush for 1,000 yards again in his NFL career after his first three season. In 1974, he had a very good year with 883 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had a career-high 314 receiving yards and led the NFL with 309 touches. Unfortunately, Brockington’s career took a quick downward turn, and no one is really sure why. Brockington feels like it was because the offense moved away from the smash-mouth style of offense he was so good at. In any case, Brockington was a shadow of his former self and only played three more years after 1974.
Honorable Mention: Vin Baker (Bucks); Morgan Burnett (Packers)
Number 43- Jack Sickma: Milwaukee Bucks (1987-1991)
Jack Sickma comes in as our greatest number 43 in Wisconsin sports history. While he spent most of his career with the Seattle Super Sonics, he finished up with five productive years in Milwaukee. While his production in Milwaukee was not as productive as in Seattle, he still was a large contributor to some very good Bucks teams in the late 1980’s.
Jack Sickma’s arrival in Milwaukee coincided with the arrival of new head coach Del Harris. The Bucks made the playoffs in each of Sikma’s five seasons in Milwaukee. In the first two playoff runs, Sikma led the team in win shares. Unfortunately, the Bucks never made it past the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in any of his seasons.
Jack Sickma was a seven-time All-Star, though none of his selections came as a Buck. His best season in Milwaukee was the 1987-1988 season, in which he averaged 16.5 points and 8.6 rebounds. He also led the entire NBA with an 92.2 free throw percentage. Sikma retired following the 1990-1991 season, and was finally elected to the Hall of Fame last year.
Honorable Mention: Randy Wolf (Brewers)
Number 44- Hank Aaron: Milwaukee Brewers (1975-1976)
I hate writing in first person; it’s so unprofessional. But (and I hate starting a sentence with the word “but”), there is nothing I could write that would adequately describe the importance of Hank Aaron to the city of Milwaukee.
Best known as a Brave, Hammerin’ Hank played 14 of his 23 seasons in Milwaukee. For the sake of focusing on Brewers, I am going to highlight his years as a Brewer. His years as a Milwaukee Brave could fill several volumes.
Aaron’s best year as a Brewer was the first of the two years he spent in Milwaukee. In 1975, he hit .234/.332/.355 with 12 home runs and 60 RBI. It should be noted that he was 41 years old at the time. While his time as a Brewer was short, it pales in comparison to the the 12 years of production he had as a Brave. Hank Aaron ended his career as the all-time home run leader, and is still third on the all-time hits list. As great as Robin Yount is to Milwaukee baseball, Hank Aaron is in a higher stratosphere.
Honorable Mention: Special shoutout to my friend, Ron Brix, who has reminded me of the importance of Milwaukee Braves baseball. In his, and the Braves, honor, please stay tuned for a memorial piece on the history of Milwaukee Braves baseball.
Number 45- Rob Deer: Milwaukee Brewers (1986-1990)
Rob Deer, much like Gorman Thomas before him, was an all-or-nothing kind of hitter. He led the league in strikeouts twice in his five seasons as a Brewer; but he also never hit less than 23 home runs in a given season.
Rob Deer holds (or held) many dubious honors. He led the AL in strikeouts five times during his career. While with the Tigers, he set the record for the lowest batting average (.179) of any hitter qualifying for the batting title (Dan Uggla tied it in 2013). However, there was just something about Deer’s game that endeared him to fans.
While the strikeout numbers where high, so were the power numbers. In a 162-game average, Deer would have struck out 198 times per season. He also would have belted 32 home runs per season. A decent outfielder, he was a solid part of any lineup he was in. He is best remembered in Milwaukee for a game-tying three-run home run he hit in the ninth inning of the 1987 Brewers’ twelfth win in a row. How well is he regarded in Milwaukee? When the famous Wall of Honor was built in 2014, Deer was one of the first inductees. His fellow inductees that year include: Hank Aaron, Bill Castro, Craig Counsell, Jeromy Burnitz, and Cecil Cooper. That is not bad company to keep.
MORE IN THE SERIES
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