Pursuing the Pennant with Milwaukee Brewer Manager Tom Trebelhorn
During spring training this year I had a chance to meet with Milwaukee Brewers Bob McClure and Paul Molitor and reminisce about Pursue the Pennant and it’s succesor DYNASTY League Baseball . My visits with “Mac” and “Molly” reminded me of another meeting I had with Brewer manager Tom Trebelhorn in May of 1987 in which I played Pursue the Pennant with “Treb” in his managerial office in Milwaukee County Stadium:
After getting off to a scorching 20 and 3 start, the Milwaukee Brewers were languishing in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. Some of the hometown faithful seemed to have already soured on rookie manager Tom Trebelhorn, or so it appeared as I entered his office in County Stadium.
“Where do we file letters like this?” queried Trebelhorn as he handed a letter to Public Relations Director Tom Skibosh. I read the hand-written letter alongside of Skibosh. At the top of the page, Trebelhorn had written the words, “STAY POSITIVE” The writer began by saying that the 13-0 streak was the worst thing that could have happened to the Brewers because now they would be “stuck with this miserable manager (Trebelhorn).” The letter contained such compliments as “you stink” and “I can’t wait till (sic) they get rid of you.”
I guess that’s what you get for piloting the Brewers to the best record in baseball after most people picked the team to finish no higher than sixth.
I first met Treblehorn at the annual Diamond Dinner held each January by the Brewers. It’s hard not to like the man. Words like “thoughtful”, “organized” and “down-to-earth” come to mind when describing him. In many ways, he reminds you of a favorite teacher you once had. By now, you probably know that is exactly what Trebelhorn is in the off-season…a school teacher in Oregon.
Despite the long losing streak, on this day as on all others, the rookie skipper was upbeat and positive. When I told him that the name of the game that we were about to play was called Pursue the Pennant, he replied “That’s what we’ll be doing this year.” Based on what had transpired in the first thirteen games of the season, he wasn’t kidding. Lately well….
Like many of the “new breed” of managers, Trebelhorn is aware of the numbers which are necessary to make sound baseball decisions. He combed with delight the Project Scoresheet data I had along on opposition stolen bases vs. pitchers and catchers.
As a field general, Trebelhorn is aggressive. His teams will steal bases. The Brewers are 2nd in stolen bases compared to a dismal 9th last year under George Bamberger’s reign. The hit and run play is often employed to stay out of the double play. Baserunners are more aggressive, going from first to third on singles, stretching base hits, forcing the other team in to making mistakes. Of course, the more chances you take, the more likely things are to backfire, but more often than not in 1987, Trebelhorn had been pushing the right buttons.
Meanwhile, Skibosh was still musing over the letter, describing the author in terms not to be repeated in a family publication such as this. Seemingly undaunted, Trebelhorn took up position behind his desk. He would manage the Brewers and I would manaage the Oakland Athletics in a “preview” of that night’s major league game. It would be Mike Birkbeck vs. Dave Stewart.
We each began to construct our lineups for the game. There were no Pursue the Pennant cards for B.J. Surhoff or Terry Steinbach (although there will be in the upcoming rookie card set), but otherwise, we had all the key players from both teams. As I was making out my lineup, I mentioned to Trebelhorn that the A’s seemed to be weak against pitching. He nodded in agreement.
I briefly explained how to play, and Trebelhorn rolled the dice for Birkbeck as Alfredo Griffin stepped in. He drew a walk, and Carney Lansford followed with a single to center. No outs, men on 1st and 2nd, and Davis, Canseco, Jackson and McGwire due up. I began to think that it looked like things were going just as they had on the current losing streak. My competitive fire took a back seat to secret longing that the Brewers would get out of it. After all, it’s bad enough that Treblehorn’s crew had been getting their brains beaten out in real life, without someone unloading on them in a baseball table-top game.
Birkbeck got out of it, but not without a scare. Davis flied to right, Canseco struck out, but Jackson walked to load the bases before McGwire stuck out.
Both teams went quietly until the bottom on the 2nd. With one out, Deer singled, Cooper walked, and Schroeder reached on an error to load the bases. With Gantner at bat, I explained that the squeeze play is also an option in PTP. Trebelhorn elected to swing away, and Gantner hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Wrong button.
In the bottom of the 3rd, the Brewers got something going again. Sveum led off with a walk. Molitor struck out. Yount flew out deep to left. Braggs singled to center, Sveum to 2nd. Greg Brock then pounded the next offering over the wall in left-center field. Calm, cool, and collected Trebelhorn noted “Brock will do that”.
After Deer struck out to end the inning, Trebelhorn notified our Pursue the Pennant umpire (Andy Etchebarren, a Brewer coach) that he had to get back to work, and that the fourth would have to be our last inning. What a great managerial ploy if it could be worked into the Pursue the Pennant rule book. – RULE 7.03 The home team manager may call the game at anytime if he has to go back to work.
The Athletics loaded the bases with two out, but Birkbeck got Tony Phillips to fly out to Deer to end the game. I hoped that Brock would repeat his feat that night, but he didn’t, and the Brewers troubles continued as they lost their seventh straight game.
After our game was over, Trebelhorn commented that he was impressed with Pursue the Pennant. “I saw some interesting things here, especially with all the information on the player cards, ” he said. He then inquired about the price, commentiing that it would be fun for him and his son, an avid board game enthusiast.
Milwaukee Brewer fans can only hope that manager Tom Trebelhorn can find enough interesting things to get his team turned around and continue their pursuit of the pennant.
The new DYNASTY League Baseball 2011 season player card set with Brewers Ryan Braun, Zack Greinke, Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, John Axford, Yovanni Gallardo, Corey Hart and Francisco Rodriguez is available at the Ticket Window store and also at DYNASTY League Baseball Online.