By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jun 12, 2005 at 5:24 AM

{image1} Paul Molitor got the money, and Robin Yount got the Harley-Davidson. They also got the fame.

All the while, Jim Gantner went out and did his job quietly.

Over the past few years, support has been growing to hang Gantner's number with the likes of Hank Aaron's number 44, Rollie Fingers' 34, Yount's 19 and Molitor's 4.

It was a nice thought, but the Brewers were and still are content with retiring the numbers of their Hall of Fame Players, while finding other ways to pay tribute to greats in the game.

But it's time to pay respects to the Wisconsin native who spent his entire career playing third, fourth, or even fifth fiddle to some of the greatest names in franchise lore, yet still establishing himself as one of the best, as well.

This shouldn't be a feel-good, public relations move. Gantner deserves an appropriate tribute. A couple of tailgate areas and a concession stand just won't do the trick.

Fans got to say goodbye to Yount, and after a few years, managed to make their peace with Molitor. Both of those guys have moved on to other ventures while Fingers and Aaron don't come around much anymore, either.

Yet, you can still see Gumby milling around on the field before games, watching batting practice, playing catch and tutoring some of the Brewer youngsters on the finer points of playing the middle infield.

An entire lifetime spent in Wisconsin; growing up in Eden before becoming the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh's first big-time big league star; signing with the hometown team and never looking back.

It's quite a story and quite an accomplishment.

The Brewers' longtime second baseman made his first big league appearance as a pinch runner for Henry Aaron in 1976 and became a full-time player in 1980. In all, he spent 22 seasons with the team, and while he may not have had the numbers of Cecil Cooper, Yount and Molitor, he became and remains one of the most-loved players in team history.

He compiled a .276 career batting average, with 1,696 hits. Only four times did he ever strike out more than 40 times in a season.

When Robin retired, there was a televised press conference and a three-day ceremony. Gantner made his retirement official roughly the same time, but he stayed out of the limelight.

It was typical Gumby. That's the kind of humility you expect a guy that was a consistent top-ten in sacrifice hits and flies to possess.

Gumby didn't do all the big things great, he did all the little things very well. At a time when the Brewers can't seem to mount a consistent or fundamental attack, it's refreshing to look back and remember a second baseman that rarely struck out and made 142 errors in his career.

The numbers aren't that impressive. They didn't need to be. Guys like Cooper would get the runs batted in, guys like Gorman Thomas would get the home runs. Guys like Gantner performed the way guys low in the lineup should: he put the ball in play and moved the runners over.

In today's game, that's almost a lost art.

Gantner has been honored so many times since his retirement, including the Brewers Walk of Fame a year ago, and will enter the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame this year. He's proven his worth as a ballplayer, as a part of the franchise and as a part of the community.

Jim Gantner will never be enshrined in Cooperstown, and while it is admirable that the Brewers have chosen to reserve their highest honor for those that have been bestowed baseball's highest honor, it's time to do the right thing.

Let's hang Gumby's No. 17 from the rafters of Miller Park.