Prince provided Milwaukee many memories
Dramatic homers, grand celebrations highlight Brewers tenure
MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder played 1,013 meaningful games for the Brewers if you count the postseason, and stepped to the plate 4,273 times, mostly intending to hit a baseball somewhere into the stratosphere. He succeeded to the tune of 230 regular-season homers and four more in the playoffs, shy only of Hall of Famer Robin Yount in the history of the franchise.So it's no surprise that home runs represent many of Fielder's most memorable accomplishments over his near-decade with the Brewers, an era that formally ended Thursday, the day of his introductory news conference in Detroit. Fielder struck a nine-year, $214 million free-agent contract with the Tigers earlier in the week. His Brewers home runs do not tell the whole story of a player known, yes, for his power, but also for a personality that alternated between fiery and fun-loving, for playing every day, and for more than any other single player marking the Brewers' return to respectability. Here's a list of 10 moments that may be on Brewers fans' minds as they ponder a future without Fielder: 10. Signing day Cecil Fielder choked back tears on June 19, 2002, the day his son signed with the Brewers. Milwaukee had made Prince Fielder the seventh overall pick in the Draft about two weeks earlier -- you can read coverage from that day here, here and here -- and sealed the deal with a $2.4 million signing bonus, plus a chance to hit a few homers in batting practice at Miller Park. Dad and son were as close as brothers on that signing day, a relationship that would change in the years to come. Thus began Fielder's rocket ride through the Minor Leagues. He spent that first summer between rookie-level Helena and Class A Beloit, set a franchise record with 112 RBIs the following season at Beloit, and then moved to Double-A in 2004, and Triple-A and the Majors in 2005. He was ready for the big time. 9. First hit in '06 is a winner Fielder was in the Opening Day lineup by 2006, after the Brewers had traded popular first baseman Lyle Overbay to open a spot in the starting lineup, and the pressure proved a challenge. Fielder started the 2006 season 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts before his broken-bat single in the eighth inning beat the Pirates at Miller Park on April 5. "I didn't really panic, but it was like, 'Geez, am I ever going to get on base again?'" a smiling Fielder said afterward. 8. Inside-the-park home run king Fielder always knew how to have fun, even in an otherwise lousy game, like the one June 17, 2007, at Minnesota. Jeff Suppan was tagged for nine runs that day, and reliever Chris Spurling surrendered a walk-off homer, but Fielder provided the day's most memorable highlight by far after carrying his 262-pound frame all the way around the bases for his first career inside-the-park home run. Twins outfielder Lew Ford had lost Fielder's fly ball in the Metrodome's white roof. "It actually felt like I was in Little League," said Fielder, who led the National League with 25 home runs at the time. "It was kind of funny. I never thought I would be able to do that. That was the perfect spot, I guess." It might have been called a once-in-a-lifetime event had Fielder not repeated it about a year later, on June 19, 2008. Again, it was an Interleague Play game, and this time, Toronto outfielder Alex Rios lost the baseball after it wedged under the padded right-field wall. Fielder, who had trotted into second base with what he thought was a double, kept on running. "He had to run a lot harder on the other one," Brewers outfielder Corey Hart said. "I don't think Prince knew what was going on this time. None of us knew. Everyone kind of stopped and Prince kept running." 7. Down the stretch in 2008 The Mets were in the midst of a late-season collapse in 2008, and the Brewers were trying to end a franchise posteason drought that went all the way back to 1982. Fielder aided his club's cause on Sept. 23, with one of his most clutch home runs, a line-drive winner in the bottom of the ninth inning that beat the Pirates. Fielder batted .316 that September with 21 RBIs, a bright spot for an offense mired in a funk so deep it cost manager Ned Yost his job with 12 regular-season games to play. The Brewers needed that particular hit to keep pace with the Mets, who owned a one-game lead in the NL Wild Card standings with five games to play. Spoiler alert: The Brewers would win the Wild Card and face the Phillies in the National League Division Series, a watershed moment for the franchise. Fielder hit the Brewers' only home run in that series, in Game 4 at Miller Park. 6. All-Star moments Fielder made the National League All-Star team three times in his six full seasons with the Brewers, and each appearance was memorable. In 2007, he became the first Brewer voted to the starting lineup by fans since Paul Molitor in 1988. In 2009, Fielder won the All-Star Home Run Derby by besting a former Brewers farmhand, Texas' Nelson Cruz, in a thrilling final. And in 2011, Fielder won All-Star Game MVP honors after hitting a three-run home run that propelled the NL to a 5-1 win. 5. Fiery Fielder Yes, Fielder has a temper. He flashed it back in August 2008, when he had to be restrained from going after teammate Manny Parra in the visiting dugout in Cincinnati -- Fielder apologized the next day. A year later, he directed his ire toward a former teammate, then-Los Angeles reliever Guillermo Mota, charging to the door of the Dodgers' clubhouse looking to settle the score after Mota had plunked Fielder with a pitch. One fortunate television crew happened to catch the bizarre scene in a video clip, which Harold Reynolds broke down for MLB Network. 4. Fielder and Weeks go deep Back to happier times. All the way back to June 25, 2005, when Fielder and second baseman Rickie Weeks -- a fellow first-round Draft pick and an old friend from Orlando, who eventually would be godfather to Fielder's children -- combined for a watershed moment in Brewers history. With yet another first-rounder, Ryan Braun, watching in the stands after signing his first pro contract, Fielder and Weeks each hit his first Major League homer in the same win over the Twins -- Fielder's a pinch-hit, three-run blast that capped a Milwaukee comeback. Fielder was 21 at the time. "Should be a lot more nights like this to come," Ben Sheets said that night. Then-Brewers broadcaster Daron Sutton certainly got into it. You can revisit Sutton's memorable call of Fielder's maiden home run. 3. Boom goes the dynamite If there's one enduring image of Fielder, it may be him standing on home plate, head back and arms splayed in the air with his teammates on the ground around him. It's been called the bomb celebration, or bowling pins, and it really ticked off the San Francisco Giants. The visiting Giants had postseason aspirations on Sept. 6, 2010, and the Brewers were essentially out of it, but that didn't stop them from engaging San Francisco in one of the best regular-season baseball games in 11 seasons at Miller Park. Fielder squeezed the final out of the Brewers' first triple play in more than a decade, one of a slew of defensive gems turned in by both teams, then snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 10th inning with a homer that hugged the right-field foul line. When he reached home plate, Fielder and his Brewers executed a celebration they'd been planning for some time. Fielder did not appreciate, to say the least, what he perceived as negative coverage of the celebration. He chalked it up to just having a little fun. 2. No. 50 Fielder had already established a Brewers record with his 46th home run (topping Gorman Thomas and Richie Sexson) and a Milwaukee Major League record with his 48th home run (passing the Braves' Eddie Mathews). But he wanted an even 50, and Fielder got there on Sept. 25, 2007, with a two-homer effort against the Cardinals. At 23 years and 139 days old, he became the youngest player in history to hit 50 homers, beating a mark previously held by Willie Mays. "I told the boys, 'You're watching a little history -- remember it,'" Yost said. But Fielder surprised many that night in Miller Park's media interview room by talking not about Mays but about his father, Cecil. By this time, their relationship had become complicated. Asked whether he wanted the baseball from No. 50, Prince Fielder said that number didn't matter. "My Dad hit 51," Prince said. "If I hit 52, he can't say anything to me." He would finish the season with 50, still a career high. 1. Fielder Farewell By 2011, it had become very apparent to Brewers officials that they would lose Fielder to free agency. There were no serious talks with agent Scott Boras after 2010 Spring Training, when Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin says the club made its best pitch. So they settled on a one-year contract for 2011, and tried to send Fielder out a winner. He did his part by batting .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs, arguably his best season if you discount Fielder's 2009 (.299, 46 homers, 141 RBIs) because the Brewers didn't make the playoffs. This time they did, setting a franchise record with 96 regular-season wins, then taking down the D-backs in a five-game NL Division Series, after which Fielder took a victory lap around Miller Park, hugged fans and lingered on the field to celebrate with fans longer than any of the team's star players.
Fielder homered twice in the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals, but the Brewers fell in six games. When Fielder stepped to the plate for the final time in Game 6, Cardinals first baseman and fellow free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols called time, so the fans could stand and salute one last time.Considering that only 10 players have appeared in more regular-season games for the Brewers, it was no surprise that Fielder fought back emotion after the game. "I had to clear the throat once, but it was all right," he said. "I love these guys. I've been playing with most of them since I was 18. So this organization has been great to me. Yeah, man, it's just been good. It's been real." Now, nearly 10 years since the Brewers called his name on Draft day, it's time for Fielder to make new memories in Detroit.