The score is tied. The situation is tense.
It's the top of the eighth inning, there are runners on every base and relievers are warming up in both bullpens when the TV camera pans over to the corner of the home dugout at Miller Park. Brewers manager Ned Yost, bench coach Robin Yount and third base coach Dale Sveum are plotting strategy and at this critical moment -- from the comfort of a well-worn Barcalounger -- springs a realization:
Those three guys have hit some of the more significant home runs in Brewers' history.
"I think if you ask him, those were the biggest ones he ever hit," former Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner said. "They were huge. We needed to win that day and it was (Don) Sutton against Palmer. It doesn't get much bigger than that."
Yount's homers, which lifted the Brewers to a 10-2 victory and a berth in the American League Championship Series, came on Oct. 3. Four days earlier at Fenway Park, Yost hit a hugely important homer -- his only round-tripper of that season and one of only 16 in his big-league career -- to lift the Brewers to a critical victory over Boston.
"It was my destiny. It was my claim to fame," Yost recalled after a recent game. "It was the one thing I did in my career that was really good."
When Yost and Yount hit their big homers that fall, Sveum was an 18-year-old rookie who had just finished playing for Pikeville in the Appalachian League. His big home-run moment would come nearly five years later -- on Easter Sunday, 1987 -- when he smacked a game-winning homer to help the Brewers to their 12th consecutive victory to open the season.
"It was a fun day," Sveum said. "It was a fun 13 days (during the team's winning streak). It was an unbelievable year. For not going to the playoffs, it's hard to have a better year than we did (in 1987). We had streaks and ups and downs. It was a fun year."
Making lists can be fun, too. We asked Brewers historian Mario Ziino to give us his list of the top five home runs in Brewers history and he gave us 11 episodes encompassing 16 homers. Here is Ziino's list:
Sixto Lezcano's game-winning grand slam against Boston on opening day at County Stadium (April 10, 1980).
Yount's two homers off Palmer in the AL East pennant showdown at Memorial Stadium (Oct. 3, 1982).
Sveum's game-winning two-run homer to keep the streak alive on Easter Sunday at County Stadium (April 18, 1987).
Larry Hisle's two homers off Goose Gossage (July 8, 1978).
Cecil Cooper's three homers -- including a game-winner against New York's Goose Gossage (July 27, 1979).
Yost's only homer of the year at Fenway Park (September 29, 1982).
Joey Meyer's game-winning homer off Roger Clemens (Aug. 9, 1988).
Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks each hitting their first big-league homers on the same night as the Brewers beat the Twins at Miller Park (June 25, 2005).
Richie Sexson's game-winning homer against Cincinnati in the eighth inning of the inaugural game at Miller Park (April 6, 2001).
(tie). Gantner ending his 1,762 at-bat homerless drought against Dave Stewart (Sept. 3, 1991) and Rob Deer debuting with a homer off Tom Seaver that cleared Comiskey Park (April 7, 1986).
"To me, the home run by Sixto was the most special," Ziino said of Lezcano's blast, which broke a 5-5 tie. "Lezcano had hit an opening day grand slam in '78, but this one was probably one of the early dramatic moments for a team on the rise. First impressions mean a lot, and it came on opening day against Boston, which was really the team to beat at that time. There were 50,000 people in the park that day and everybody was just looking for a base hit when he hit that ball out. I remember him going around the bases pumping his fists and the place just going crazy."
Many fans who weren't at the game can still remember Bob Uecker's spine-tingling call "Here's a drive to deep right-center ... Way back goes Evans ... It's got a chance to go ... GONE! Hey, a grand slam home run for Lezcano! Oh, what a finish here at County Stadium! Can you believe this today? Lezcano with his second home run of the ballgame, a grand slammer here in the bottom of the ninth, and the Brewers have won this game by a score of 9-5."
As electrifying as that moment was for fans who witnessed it -- in person or on the radio -- Lezcano's homer won the first game of 162 in the season. Yount's homers, which came in the first and third innings, helped win the final game and kept the Brewers from making what would have been a historic choke-job down the stretch.
Yost's homer in Boston had lifted the Brewers to a four-game lead over Baltimore with five games left in the season. But, they lost four in a row, getting outscored in the process, 35-11.
With a playoff berth hanging in the balance on the final day of the season, the Brewers sent Sutton to the mound against Palmer and the atmosphere in the ballpark was electric.
"The crowd was so loud, it was unbelievable," Gantner said. "The stadium was full when we took infield and the fans were on their feet. They were going nuts. It was incredible."
Before he threw his first pitch, Sutton had a 1-0 lead courtesy of Yount's homer. "There a lot of things that very few people are privy to; all the stuff going on in the clubhouse and how nervous everybody was," said Sutton, a Hall of Famer who now broadcasts games for the Atlanta Braves.
"That morning, Robin walked by and jabbed at my chest and said "Don't make us have to score five to get even and we'll kick Palmer's butt. I may get you one early." That put me at ease. Then the game started and it was BOOM! BOOM! He came out and did it."
Informed of Sutton's recollection, Yount laughed and said he doesn't remember calling his shot.
"I don't think I said that," he said. "I never felt like I could hit a home run on purpose. I might have said "We're going to get you some runs." I may have said that.
"I know it was big when we jumped out early and a big play that saved it was Ben Oglivie's catch. He made a hell of a play in left field at a time when they could have knotted it up. That was probably the turning point in the game as far as I was concerned."
For many in the Brewers' camp, the turning point of that week was the unlikely homer by Yost, one of the least likely heroes on the roster. Yost hadn't played in 18 days before the shot, so he certainly didn't expect to play in the final innings of a pivotal game.
"I was sitting in the bullpen when they called down the seventh inning," Yost recalled. "I jumped up to warm up a pitcher and then I looked up and thought "Why are we warming up a pitcher? We're hitting." It turns out they had pinch-run for Ted Simmons and they called down and said I was coming into the game. It was tied, 3-3.
"I just figured "All right, maybe we'll score and I won't have to hit." I hadn't played in three weeks and I only had about 100 at-bats all year. So I come in and catch the next inning and I'm up fifth. Gumby (Gantner) makes an out. Then Paulie (Molitor) gets on and Robin is up. I think Robin struck out and Paulie stole second. Now, I'm fumbling around the whole time looking for a bat. The only bat I had on the trip was a broken BP bat and I'm in the bat rack and I find one of Charlie Moore's bats. So, I grab it. I run out and I get on the on-deck circle with Cecil Cooper.
"I've got my shin guards on and I still don't think I'm going to have to hit. Then, the Red Sox called time out and they were standing out there on the mound and they're looking at me and they're looking at Coop and they're looking at me and I'm thinking "What are they doing?" I'm trying to get my stuff off. Then the manager goes back to the bench and they walk Cooper and I think "Oh, great. I haven't played in three weeks. The dadgum winning run is at second base. Mark Clear is pitching and he was one of the premier relievers in the American League at the time. He had a big, huge, hard breaking ball."
Yost stepped to the plate and lightning struck, but not right away.
"For the first time and probably only time in my life, all I was trying to do was hit a blooper to right," he said. "First and second, two outs. I got up first pitch was one of them knee-buckling breaking balls right down the middle and I'm fumbling around. And I heard the umpire go "Ball one!" And it was right down the middle and I stood there thinking, "Oh, man, I'm in trouble now.
"I was literally thinking -- "just hit a duck-fart into right field.' Then he threw me a fastball right down the middle and I swung and I hit it. Every time you hit a home run, you know you smoke it. I hit it -- Boom! -- and it was like surreal. It was like everything went into slow motion. I saw (Boston leftfielder) Jim Rice turn and start running back to the wall and I was thinking -- this is how crazy it was -- I was thinking "Please, don't catch it. Don't catch it." Well, the ball went over the net into the street. I smoked it."
The Brewers' dugout erupted in joy and disbelief.
"We couldn't believe it," Gantner said. "We figured (Clear) was going to give him a nasty hook and he'd come back to the bench. But, that didn't happen. Ned didn't miss it. It wasn't a cheapie."
Many players would have been tempted to savor such a homer with a slow trot around the bases. Not Yost.
"I wanted to jump up and down and go nuts," he said. "But, I didn't. I kind of sprinted around the bases. I got to home plate. By the time I got back to the dugout, it was a mob scene. The whole team came out like it was college. They were smacking and slamming me. We got back in (to the dugout) and we were all going nuts and we heard (a groan) and Harvey (Kuenn, the manager) had fallen down in the bat rack and we had to lift Harvey up. I'll never forget that.
"It was a pretty cool moment. I was geeked up. But, the game wasn't over. Bob McClure was the pitcher and he came over and literally grabbed me and said "Let's go. We've got three more outs to get. Get your focus." We were ahead at that point, 6-3, but we had to get three more outs."
The last three outs are often the most elusive. Texas found that out in the famous Easter Sunday game in 1987, when Rob Deer and Sveum homered to give the Brewers a spectacular come-from-behind victory.
Milwaukee had won 11 in a row to start the season, but trailed the Rangers by a 4-1 score heading into the ninth inning on a sunny, warm afternoon. The Brewers put two men on base, prompting Texas manager Bobby Valentine to remove closer Mitch Williams in favor of Greg Harris, who served up a tying homer to Deer.
"Rooster's home run was a big one," said Gantner, who watched it from the on-deck circle. "He hit that son of a bitch almost out of the stadium. It was three quarters of the way up."
Gantner followed Deer's blast with a walk to bring up Sveum, who pounded a pitch from Greg Harris into the seats.
"I think we had a big relief when they took Mitch Williams out of that
game," Sveum said. "At that time, Mitch threw 99 mph. If he just threw strikes, he was tough, but he didn't. They brought in Harris to throw his big curveball to Roostr. It worked, but only for two pitches. The third went a long way."
Said Gantner: "When Deer hit that home run, we all kind of thought "We're going to win this sucker, now." It was meant to be."
With Gantner running on a 3-2 count, Sveum hit one a long way, too.
"We had won 11 in a row and Bobby Witt started for Texas that day and we didn't do crap," Sveum said. "It was just one of those days. We were exhausted. We came off the field in the ninth inning and the people (more than 27,000) stood and went crazy and we kind of went "Whoa." Obviously, we came back. I think the crowd had a lot to do with it."
Led by leftfielder Carlos Lee, the current Brewers have led the National League in home runs for much of this season. Maybe Lee, Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall, Weeks and Fielder can provide some historic homers for the home crowd at Miller Park this summer.
If they do, Yost, Yount and Sveum will be waiting by the bench, ready to celebrate.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.