MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Sellout crowd at Miller Park gets bobblehead with loss

Hank the Dog doll stars as Crew manages two hits amid playoff run

Sellout crowd at Miller Park gets bobblehead with loss

MILWAUKEE -- At least most of the 45,205 in attendance got their Hank the Dog bobblehead. The doll became the consolation prize at Miller Park on Saturday night. This may not have been the original intention, but it was the actual result.

The Brewers, still in the hunt for a National League Wild Card, could not seize a golden opportunity to gain ground. The Pirates, currently in that second berth, lost to the Cubs. But Milwaukee could not do anything substantial against soft-tossing rookie lefty David Holmberg, and it lost to Cincinnati, 5-1.

For the evening, the Brewers had a total of two hits -- neither of them coming after the fourth inning. Holmberg and relievers Sam LeCure and Jumbo Diaz were otherwise unhittable.

"We have to swing the bat better," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "I write out the lineup, I look at the lineup, I look at the guys out on the field, and I think that they can all hit. So I expect us to go out there and score some runs."

The Brewers remained 11/2 games behind the Pirates for the second NL Wild Card berth. They are five games behind the Cardinals, in the NL Central race. But after a stretch in which Milwaukee lost 13 of 14 games, asking for a division title seems to be asking a truly large amount.

The Brewers had hopes of getting on a roll, and they had won three straight prior to Saturday night. They received a quality start from Yovani Gallardo, but they managed just two hits off Holmberg in six innings. Holmberg was making his third Major League start of this season -- this was the first one he won. In the other two, he gave up 11 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

But if this night was not a critical success, it was a highly successful commercial venture. The capacity crowd of filled Miller Park for the 13th sellout of the season for the Brewers.

You can go on at great length about Milwaukee being the smallest media market in the Major Leagues, but the Brewers rank fourth in the NL in attendance. They are on pace to draw about 2.8 million this season. This is a franchise that has drawn more than 3 million fans in three of the last six seasons. There is no way to overstate the loyalty of this fan base.

Maybe in another market, Hank the Dog would have been a non-starter. He came on board after wandering into the Brewers' Spring Training site in the Maryvale section of Phoenix. Hank was a stray. Now, he is a star.

Some of this is vaguely troubling to the purists who can still be found in small pockets among the Milwaukee fan base. In some ways, everyone can agree, this thing with the dog is, of course, cute. In other ways, for other people, it is not progress.

For instance, for a long, long time, if you said the name "Hank" in connection with Milwaukee baseball, everyone automatically thought "Aaron." Both Mr. Aaron's greatness and his connection to Milwaukee are indisputable. Now, if you say "Hank" in connection with Milwaukee baseball, a lot of people, younger people at least, think "the Dog."

That may be heresy to the old-timers and the traditionalists. But on Saturday night, it was a highly successful promotion. The Brewers were going to draw well, anyway, for a Saturday night in mid-September with a postseason berth still in the picture. But the Hank promotion was the icing on the attendance cake.

"The Ballpark Pup," the doll is officially titled. On the box, there is a quote from ABC News: "The most adorable thing in baseball is a stray dog named Hank."

People wonder about the national TV networks devoting so much time to human-interest stories that are, in fact, dog stories. But any time these networks are not reporting on another armed conflict in the Middle East, we are all the better for it.

Hank was around for the traditional Miller Park sausage race. It must be reported that Hank was carried over the vast majority of the race course. It is possible that Hank has lost his competitive edge during his period of stardom. Or he may have become drowsy during Milwaukee's at-bats.

"We know we need to swing it better," Roenicke said.

Right. Over the last 18 games, the Brewers have scored an average of 2.61 runs. That kind of thing won't get them into the postseason.

But the fans have certainly not deserted them. You would like to see the devotion of these people rewarded with a postseason team, even if the Hank the Dog doll was a terrific giveaway.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.