From 1986, which happened to be Thomas’ last with the team, until 1990, Deer roamed right field and filled the role of the home-run hitting heartthrob in all its long-haired glory.
Deer hit .220 in his career and threatened the all-time strikeout record (then 189) on a few occasions, but he also ranked among the top 10 in the majors four times during his career and belted one of the more famous homers in Brewers’ history, a game-tying blast in the ninth inning of an eventual victory over Texas on Easter Sunday, 1987.
Deer left the Brewers as a free agent after the 1990 season and spent the next few years with Detroit, Boston and San Diego before pursuing his interest in motor sports upon his retirement. Despite his hitting resume -- he owns the record for most at-bats (448) in a season by a player with a sub-.200 average (he hit .179 for Detroit in ’91), Deer spent several years as a hitting coach in the minor-league system of the San Diego Padres, for whom he now serves as minor-league hitting coordinator.
We caught up with Deer last month as he was wrapping up a visit to Miller Park for the final "Retro Sunday" promotion of the season. Here is part of our conversation:
OMC: How was your time in Milwaukee?
RD: It was outstanding. My family was supposed to come with me, but my son had an earache and he couldn’t travel, so my dad got to come. That was just as good. He absolutely loved it. They treated us well. I got to see Robin (Yount) and Dale (Sveum) and Rock (Bill Schroeder, the TV announcer). It was a blast.
OMC: It seemed like you had a good time mingling with fans, too.
RD: It’s funny -- they told me I was the only required to sign autographs until the third inning, but I was having so much fun I did it through the first five innings and there were still people in line. I told the lady in charge I wasn’t going to leave until I got everybody.
OMC: How as it watching the Brewers play in those pin striped uniforms?
RD: Rock and I talked about that afterward. I thought the uniforms were outstanding. I loved them. And the ballpark is probably the best ballpark I’ve been in. They did a great job of it.
OMC: Is it strange not coming back to County Stadium?
RD: County Stadium was great. I have a lot of great memories there, but I think Miller Park is great.
OMC: How would describe your time with the Brewers?
RD: The best memories of my career came in Milwaukee. Just having the opportunity to be around guys like George Bamberger and Harry Dalton and Robin and Gorman and (Jim) Gantner was great. I had some phenomenal teammates. I learned a lot from all those guys that has helped me with coaching.
OMC: How do you like coaching?
RD: I enjoy this. It’s my seventh year. I’m more the hitting coordinator for the whole minor-league system. I’ve got 140 kids and six coaches to work with. I make recommendations from rookie league, all the way up to Triple-A.
OMC: That sounds like a job with a lot of travel.
RD: Ideally, I’ll go in to see each minor-league club three times and I’ll spend at least four days with them. I just had major back surgery this summer. I had some metal rods put in my back. They told me I needed to get it taken care of as soon as possible, that the only thing holding it together was my spinal cord. That cut into my travel this year. I’m still not moving around too good, but the Padres were really great about it.
OMC: We’ve got to ask... how does a guy known for home runs, strikeouts and towering popups become a hitting coach?
RD: I answer that a lot. I don’t teach the way I hit. I understand how to hit .300. I know what it takes. We tell the guys to be selectively aggressive. We want that to be their approach. We tell them ‘Be patiently aggressive.’ That’s our motto. What does it mean? If you get a good pitch to hit and you take it, that’s your fault. We don’t ever want to take aggressiveness away. But, we don’t want to swing at bat pitches, either.
"I’ll be the first to admit I don’t want them to hit like I did."
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.