50 cents a pack: Moose Haas

Glancing at Moose Haas' 1986 Topps card (#759 in the set), one thing stands out: the baby-blue uni. Man, those uniforms were ugly, but especially accented in the complimentary bright yellow. Whoever thought up the idea of baby-blue uniforms should be locked in a closet for the next six months and forced to watch nothing but Miami Vice reruns. (Or possibly the Jamie Foxx-Colin Farrell remake that's due to hit this summer.) Even though I identify the baby-blue unis with the '80s, they got their start in the '60s. A quick search turns up the 1964 White Sox as the first team to adopt the blues. Possibly they felt pressure to keep up with trendy cellar-dwellers, the Kansas City A's, who went from this look in 1962 to this look in 1963. No other team dared to don the blue until the expansion Seattle Pilots took on the challenge in 1969. Oddly enough, that year the White Sox tossed out their blue unis and reverted to a more traditional light grey road jersey. Meanwhile, the other expansion team, the Montreal Expos, also went baby blue in '69. And much like the Pilots, they finished dead last in their division. Matter of fact, the two teams combined to finish 81 games out of first place that year. (Montreal kept the blue unis the following year, though, as did the Pilots franchise, which packed their bags for Milwaukee after drawing just 678,000 fans on the season. Montreal fared a bit better, drawing over 500,000 more peeps to the park. Oh, the days when the Expos actually had fans!)

Anyway, in the '70s baseball enjoyed a color explosion, as if the rainbow suddenly decided to barf up its contents on the proud men of baseball. The Orioles went to a sort of dull pumpkin orange, the White Sox reverted back to their blues after two horrible seasons without them, the A's remained bold in their yellow unis with green sleeves, the Padres began a downhill stint in brown and yellow, the Phillies took a cue from the White Sox and went blue and red on the road (and pinstriped at home), the Indians and Braves began exploring with the colored jerseys on white slacks look, the Astros dropped acid, the Pirates said "fuck you, we can one-up that", and on and on. By 1979, you were out of step if you didn't have some sort of colorful ensemble, and baby blue was the summer fashion as no less than 10 teams adopted the color for their road unis. Even my beloved Cardinals flirted with disaster.

But enough about unis. I could write an entire post on the topic. Actually, I'll do that down the road, posting my Top 10 Favorite Unis of All Time. But for now, back to Mr. Moose Haas, who of course I loved simply for his fucked up name. He was born Bryan Edmund Haas, which is far more bland, and since he was going to be wearing a baby-blue uni, I'm glad he adopted a nickname with a bit more pizazz. Haas -- one of six Haases in the history of the game -- was drafted by Milwaukee in the second round of the '74 draft, and was already in the majors two seasons later at the age of 20. By 21, he had earned a spot in the rotation as a pin-point finesse pitcher, going 10-12 with an above-league average 4.33 ERA. If only the Brewers knew it then: his rookie campaign would pretty much represent his entire career. Moose was a slightly below average, .500 pitcher. He peaked at age 24 in 1980 with a 16-15 record, 252 innings pitched, a 3.10 ERA, and 146 strikeouts (all career highs). In '82, when the Brew Crew lost in the World Series to my Cardinals, Haas benefited from a league-best offense that featured five hitters with 23-plus homers (Ted Simmons, Robin Yount, Ben Oglivie, Cecil Cooper, and Gorman Thomas) -- hence the nickname "Harvey's Wallbangers". Moose went 11-8 that season with a robust 4.47 ERA, but the staff was anchored by another of my favorites, Pete Vuckovich, who went 18-6. (Fucked up side note: the Brewers five starters averaged just 3.9 strikeouts per nine innings that season, a ridiculously low rate for a modern pitching rotation.) In the World Series, Haas coughed up 5 runs in Game 4 to give the Cardinals a commanding lead, but the St. Louis pen surrendered 6 runs in the sixth to give away the game. In Game 7, Haas entered in the sixth in the middle of a Cardinals rally, replacing lefty Bob McClure. Whitey the Rat forced the move by pinch hitting for lefty Dane Iorg with righty David Green. With Keith Hernandez at third base and two outs, Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn went to the righthanded Haas, and the chess match was on. Herzog pinch hit yet again, this time switching back to a lefty in Steve Braun. The winner of the match: Haas and the Brewers. Braun grounded out. But Kuenn made the mistake of sticking with Haas with his team down 4-3. After pitching a scoreless frame in the seventh, Moose gave up a leadoff double to Lonnie Smith in the eight, and Smith later scored after Haas left the game. The Cardinals held on to win 6-3, and the World Series title was theirs.

Moose was traded to the A's for prospects in 1986 after nine full seasons of service with the Brewers, and retired after the 1987 season with 100 career wins and a shot arm. His claim to fame? He went three consecutive starts in 1987 without striking out a batter, an Oakland record that stood until Joe Blanton did the same in 2005. It's not as bad as it sounds, however, as Haas only pitched 11.1 innings over those three starts. (Blanton's three starts lasted just 7.2 innings.)

And that, folks, is Moose Haas in a nutshell.


Listmaker said...

love moose haas, hated the '82 brewers for beating the o's.
you ever play the game apba when you were a kid?
haas' card in '80 was top notch.

thenoiseboy said...

I'm familiar with the game, but only because I've heard others talk about it. Never played it myself.