CHICAGO -- Kelly Wunsch had a pretty decent 1997 season for Class A Stockton as part of the Brewers' Minor League system, posting a 3.46 ERA over 22 starts and 24 appearances in total. Those season's statistics are not what formed the lasting memory in California where Wunsch is concerned.
The sidearming left-hander, who made his big league name with a 2.93 ERA over 83 relief appearances for the American League Central-winning 2000 White Sox, proposed to his wife, Jessica, on the field during a Stockton home contest on Aug. 2, 1997. He did so in the Mighty Casey mascot costume, with the Ports representing Mudville in the original Casey at the Bat poem.
Wunsch started the game in full baseball uniform but changed into the mascot costume somewhere between the first and second innings. He even participated in the mascot race before the second inning.
There was a promotion at the ballpark called "If The Shoe Fits," which Wunsch compared to the popular and long-running game show "Let's Make A Deal." Fans could choose a prize from one of three boots on a table, sponsored by a local shoe store, or take the gift coupons Casey was holding.
Thanks to Wunsch's setup, Jessica was pre-selected and her then-boyfriend was ready. He offered her the gift coupons, flowers and then a bottle of champagne, which Jessica turned down, before dropping down to one knee and proposing in between the second and third innings.
"She claims she didn't know it was me," said Wunsch, who currently lives in Austin, Texas, with Jessica and their two sons while working as a custom home builder. "She kind of tackled me and gave me a big hug. All 1,500 or 2,000 people at the game gave us a big standing ovation."
A special script was given to the public address announcer by Wunsch, and the hurler got it all on video tape thanks to a big camera that was usually used to tape pitchers. The two were married on Oct. 3, 1998. About the only issue for the evening was Wunsch accidentally "freaking out" some of the kids at the game by taking off the mascot head after Jessica accepted the proposal.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.