After the 2003 baseball season, then infielder Craig Counsell was traded to the Brewers as part of a blockbuster deal for Richie Sexson that would eventually lead to moves that would completely remake the team for years to come.
And in January 2004, I sat down with the future Brewers skipper at a Starbucks in Whitefish Bay for a Milwaukee Talks interview. Not a single person in the shop recognized him.
But that was a long time ago. Now, as the Brewers gear up for the NLCS, Counsell has a much higher profile in Milwaukee, but there’s a lot of trivia surrounding the Whitefish Bay native that you might not know. Here are eight nuggets you can use to impress your friends.
1. Counsell credits his dad’s time with the Brewers for his making it to Major League Baseball
As he told me in 2004, "He worked there from '78 to '88, during the stretch that they had good teams. I'd spend weekends there, and get my mom to drop me off after school. I had great experiences (at County Stadium), and I don't think I'd be in the big leagues if I didn't spend all that time there to soak all of it in."
2. Counsell was OK with being considered over-achieving
From the same interview: "I’ve heard people describe me as overachieving, too. It means, physically, you're not as gifted as some other players, which is probably accurate. But that's what you learn. There's more than one way to play the game."
3. Counsell was the the NLCS MVP in 2001
When playing for the Diamondbacks during his first stint with the team, he batted 8-for-21 in that series. He was plunked by Mariano Rivera to load the bases for Luis Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, after which Gonzalez drove in the winning run for Arizona.
4. He’s smart
In 2010, Counsell was chosen as the 13th-smartest athlete in sports by Sporting News. Former Brewer Jody Gerut was listed one slot above him. He scored 1260 on his SATs and majored in accounting at Notre Dame with a 3.0 GPA.
5. He was a part-time radio announcer
During the 2012 season, he filled in for Bob Uecker on the Brewers Radio Network. One of the other fill-in announcers was Darryl Hamilton, who played for the Crew in 1988 and 1990-95, and was tragically shot to death by his girlfriend in 2015.
6. He has a park named after him, and really played baseball in Whitefish Bay
According to the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, "He lived on Berkeley Boulevard, a block away from Richards Elementary School, where kids would play baseball almost every day in the summer. Just 10 miles from his current perch at Miller Park, he would spend hours fielding grounders until after dark using Robin Yount’s old mitt."
7. He wore Robin Yount’s number for the Whitefish Bay Dukes
Everyone knows his childhood job was opening mail for Robin Yount, but apparently "The Kid" impacted him on the field, too. Counsell’s number is hung by the fence near home plate at his eponymous little league park, which was formerly known as Water Tower Park.
8. Counsell is a Packers fan
As he said in my 2004 interview, "I watch the games and root them on for sure."
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.