It's Monday and we get to our first Brewer just 12 cards into the set. I hope I can keep this blog post under 5000 words.
Who Can It Be Now?
Bryan Edmund "Moose" Haas was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 22, 1956. So let's start with the obvious question: Moose? Really?
Wikipedia has two explanations for why Mr. Haas had the name "Moose" given to him. One explanation -- which, to me, sounds more likely -- is that his father hung the name on him at his birth. Quoting from a 1982 story in the New York Times: "My father gave it to me when I was born,'' he said. ''I wasn't that big, only seven and a quarter pounds, but I guess I looked to my father like I was going to be big. It didn't work out.'' This story was corroborated by his father in a 1992 story about Haas being inducted into the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame.
The other explanation was that he had a run-in with a moose in the Appalachian Mountains, and that Haas killed the moose somehow. Maybe this is the case, but there is no citation to any story to back this claim up.
Haas was a 2nd round draft pick of the Brewers out of Franklin High School in Owings Mills, Maryland, in 1974. Milwaukee rushed him through their system, skipping him from the Midwest League in 1975 to the Pacific Coast League at age 20. Despite his AAA form being poor -- 172 innings, 208 hits, 22 HR allowed, 86 walks, and 130 strikeouts all adding up to a 5.55 ERA -- the Brewers inserted him into their major league rotation in 1977 for nearly 200 innings of major-league work at age 21.
In early 1978, Haas set a team record -- one not broken until Ben Sheets came along -- of 14 strikeouts in one game against the New York Yankees on April 12, 1978. Haas threw back-to-back complete games in the first 5 games of the 1978 season, facing 35 batters in the first game (a 16-3 victory over Baltimore) and 34 against the Yankees. In his next start, Haas went 5-1/3 innings against Baltimore and was shelled -- 6 earned runs and 9 hits -- and then, three days later, was removed after 1-2/3 innings against Baltimore. According to a news story the next spring (which, certainly, was a happy talk feature from Bob Wolf in the Milwaukee Journal), Haas had torn the flexor muscle in his right forearm.
After 1978, Haas had some good seasons but there was always the question of "what if" that circled around him. He threw 14 complete games in 1980 -- as pitchers in 1980s were wont to do (see, e.g., Billy Martin's Oakland A's). Coming into 1982, Haas was a 26 year-old with 6 years experience in the major leagues. He would start Game 4 of the ALCS and win it to keep the Brewers alive. He did not pitch well in the World Series, though.
Eventually, the Brewers decided to cash in on Haas and traded him to the Oakland Athletics at the end of spring training in 1986 for two minor leaguers, Steve Kiefer, and Charlie O'Brien. Haas's career with Oakland was cut short by rotator cuff issues -- mentioned in this story from May 1986 as shoulder stiffness. Due to the injuries, Haas retired at age 31.
Whether it is Wikipedia or any number of the bloggers out there who have tried finding information about Haas on the internet, everyone seems to repeat the same weird things -- that Haas is a locksmith, a magician, and has a black belt in taekwondo. Wikipedia traces these items to Moose's 1987 Topps card, which in fact says exactly that:
Topps wasn't the first to say these things. Fleer's 1983 card, for instance, mentions the magic and the locksmithing:
His 1986 Fleer card brings up the Taekwondo, first mentioning helpfully that his "Nickname is 'Moose'"...ya think?:
It's pretty gnarly to be nicknamed Moose, I suppose -- especially when one is a locksmith.
A Few Minutes with Tony L.
These days, major league baseball players work hard to stay in shape all year. I mean, what started the whole steroid era was the fact that players started having enough money thanks to free agency so that they would not have to take on another job in the offseason. To fill their time, they started working out -- some to extremes.
It appears that Moose Haas was one of the early adopters of the offseason fitness regime. He viewed it as getting himself into great shape to pitch better. A February 1979 story from the Milwaukee Sentinel mentions that Haas started working out at the Nautilus Club in Baltimore with Orioles players like Jim Palmer, Scott McGregor, Al Bumbry, and Mark Belanger and White Sox third baseman Eric Soderholm. Haas said that he had "doubled [his] strength since [he] started and cut [his] waistline down from 34 inches to 31-3/4."
These were early years for baseball players to start doing this, and Haas got injured far too often. This led to whispers that Haas was doing too much running and it was weakening him. Haas was working out like he did because he tended to suffer from fading results in the second halves of season. As Michael Bauman wrote in the article I linked to here, the Brewers always expected a lot from Haas -- more than he ever gave them -- and Haas really could never figure out why that was the case.
As a kid in 1982, Haas was an enigmatic figure to me (not that I used those words). He was, of course, a pitcher for my favorite team and seemingly always had been. But there was always an undercurrent of uneasiness when he took the mound. You can see his stats on the back of the Fleer cards -- he got knocked around pretty good that year. The team did not trust him fully, and he started Game 4 of the ALCS because the team pretty much did not have a choice. That he pitched well made him a hero of sorts for a while, and that he pitched well was surprising.
The few times I encountered him after games, he was never rude or mean to autograph seekers. To the contrary, he was pleasant and seemed to be enjoying himself. But I did not see him all that often either.
He was, as I said, an enigma.
A programming note: I will be taking this week off from the blog after today as I will be out of town for work. We will resume normal postings over the weekend. Thanks for reading, and drop me a note via e-mail if you are enjoying the blog or if you have suggestions.