Dan Plesac spent seven years in Milwaukee, earning three All-Star appearances (and even MVP votes!) in a Brewers uniform. Wearing his No. 37 for the first time since 1992 during his Wall of Honor induction in mid-June, the organization's all-time leader in games, saves and ERA reflects back on his favorite memories, what he misses most – and what former owner Bud Selig did that made him nervous on the mound.
OnMilwaukee.com: Welcome back to Milwaukee – what’s going through your head as you look around Miller Park?
Dan Plesac: (Milwaukee) was a very special part of my life. I broke in, I was drafted by the Brewers, came up through the minor leagues. I had the best of both worlds. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, so for me, this was the perfect place to play – close enough to keep people close to me that I wanted, but far enough to where people thought … when you live in Northwest Indiana/Chicago, you think Milwaukee is like eight hours away. It was three hours from where I grew up to here, so I was spoiled. I got to play at home, for me, for the seven years of my career. It was a lot of great memories. It’s funny how life goes. At the time you know that (Paul) Molitor and (Robin) Yount are great players but you don’t know, like my rookie year, hey, these two guys are going to be Hall of Famers. Just a lot of wonderful people.
OMC: What was your reaction to the call that you were being honored for your time here?
DP: I was surprised and honored. Milwaukee was a very special part of my baseball life. It was a very special part of my adult life. And it’s nice to be recognized for my little, small part of Brewers history. I look back at it and to be able to play in three All-Star games, to be able to do that in a Brewers jersey and be part of a team that started out 13-0 in 1987. To watch Molitor. To watch Yount. I was very lucky. I came about at the right time. I was right at the end of the Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie (era), right after the ’82 series. There were still – Pete Vuckovich was around. Moose Haas was around. So I got a chance to see the 82 guys, there were still a few hanging on and I was the infusion of new blood.
OMC: What about Milwaukee as a baseball town?
DP: It was a great place to play. It’s funny. We always think that that’s going to be the only stop. I thought I’d be in Milwaukee forever. And then as the years went on, I never thought I’d play 18 years. And I never thought I’d be in Milwaukee, then Chicago, then Pittsburgh, then Toronto, then Arizona then Philadelphia. But like life, baseball is the same way. The perfect road that you have sometimes is never paved that way. But all my memories of Milwaukee are fabulous.
OMC: You’re in broadcasting now, but do you still follow the Brewers?
DP: With my work now, we have to root for all 30 teams. But I root for one more than the other 29! But I have to do a pretty good job hiding it. Like right now, it’s hard for me. Last week I joked around on the air and said hey, the magic number is 99 Brewers fans and the guys on set look at me like, really? I’m like yeah, really! There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about. But it’s fun. Being able to stay close to baseball like I am, I watch on Friday nights when they wear there (retro) jerseys and I’m like man, those still look good! They’re not outdated. It was a lot of fun.
OMC: You made that drive up through Illinois quite a bit back then – you made it again for the Wall of Honor ceremony.
DP: It’s nice to be back. Driving up here, I came up with my mom and just a lot of memories. Cross the Illinois border, get into Kenosha and then Racine. I used to go home after Sunday day games and have dinner with my mom and dad. They came up every weekend to watch the games. Just a lot of memories. A lot, lot of memories. I was thinking today – ’87 – that Monday night in Comiskey Park (in Chicago) getting to 13-0 and it seemed like Comiskey Park, more than half of that place was Brewers fans. Of the 30,000 people, 20,000 were Brewers fans. All those things run through your mind. Yount getting his 3,000th hit. Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak. Starting the year 13-0. I forget the bad. I try to remember the good!
OMC: Those are some good memories – but if there was one to signify your time here, what would it be?
DP: I guess, for me, selfishly, was getting a chance to play with Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. I knew how good they were. But when you play with one team, you think your team is the greatest team, but the respect that Molitor and Yount had at every stop, everywhere you went, they were the guys. And it took getting out of Milwaukee and moving on and really appreciating how lucky I was for seven years to have my locker next to Paul Molitor’s.
Everything came so fast and so easy I just got accustomed to Paul Molitor’s locker was next to mine and yeah, that’s no big deal. Now I sit back and you don’t realize how good you have it until you get removed from it.
OMC: You wore a Brewers jersey for the first time since 1992 at the Wall of Honor – what was that like to see your former teammates and other Brewers players all together like that?
DP: The only good part about this is that Bud (Selig) doesn’t own the team anymore because he would make me nervous. He would walk on the catwalk. When I would come in and walk the first hitter of the ninth and I’d see Bud pacing back and forth, I’d be like geez, the owner’s even nervous! He’s making me nervous! No, it’s neat. Baseball is a funny game. You play 162 games and when the season is over everybody kind of disbands. The running joke is when the last game and the last out is, everybody says "OK, I get to make my own friends for the next five months."
Then you realize what a close knit fraternity baseball players are, particularly when you share that you played for the same team. Listen, I’m always going to be a Brewer. That was the team that drafted me. The team that I came up with. There were a lot stops in between, but like I said – at the MLB Network we have to root for all 30 teams individually – but I root for the Brewers a little bit more than the rest. And I don’t plan on changing that.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.