'Theatrical' Gómez inducted to Wall of Honor

Electrifying center fielder joined by Gallardo, K-Rod

September 25th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- “You sure?” David Stearns asked.

Yes, Carlos Gómez was sure. The sometimes maddening, often electrifying former outfielder was ready to formally retire from Major League Baseball as a Milwaukee Brewer. Gómez signed the paperwork along with Stearns, the Brewers president of baseball operations, in a ceremony on Friday as Gómez was inducted to the Brewers Wall of Honor along with pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Francisco Rodríguez.

The Wall of Honor, located on the external façade of American Family Field in the left field corner, recognizes longtime players and executives based on a set of criteria including awards and years with the club. With Friday’s trio, there are now 69 inductees.

Gómez was supposed to do this a year ago, but the pandemic forced a change of plans. The altered timing was perfect, he noted, since the Brewers were playing their final regular season home series against the Mets, the team that signed Gómez out of the Dominican Republic when he was 16 years old.

“This is the time to retire and be done in the field,” Gómez said. “I’m always going to be a baseball player in my heart. I said when I got traded, I told Mark [Attanasio, the Brewers’ principal owner], ‘Hey, when I’m done playing, when I retire, I want this jersey on my chest.’”

Gómez played in the big leagues for the Mets and Twins before he came to Milwaukee and finally blossomed under manager Ron Roenicke, who was on hand Friday. Roenicke let Gómez be Gómez, which meant swinging hard and often. He broke through with 19 home runs in 2012, then went to the All-Star Game in ’13 and ’14, won a Gold Glove Award and twice garnered votes in NL MVP Award balloting.

“You couldn’t change him,” said Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker. “Why would you want to change him, anyway?”

“He was a wild pony, man,” said Trevor Hoffman, a teammate in 2010, and a significant influence on Gómez. “You weren’t going to corral him. You weren’t going to break him.”

El Potro. That’s what they called Carlos Gómez in the Dominican Republic, and while he grew to be 6-foot-3, 218 pounds in the Brewers media guide, he retained his blazing, gliding speed on the basepaths and in center field, where he could run with the best of them. It was a perfect nickname: The Colt.

“If I’m a fan, if I paid to watch a baseball game, I like to see myself play a game,” Gómez once said. “That’s the reason I play that way. Everybody has their stats, but in the end, baseball is a game. It’s a show.”

Former Brewers GM Doug Melvin used this word to describe Gómez on Friday: Theatrical.

“We don’t use that word a lot in baseball,” Melvin said.

It was true even in Gómez’s final days with the organization. On July 29, 2015, Melvin agreed to trade Gómez to the Mets for pitcher Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores, only to be shocked when the Mets nixed the deal later that night. So, Melvin and his scouts turned around and traded Gómez the next day to the Astros in a deal that would alter the Brewers’ fortunes to this day, since the return included Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, Brett Phillips (who later landed the Brewers Mike Moustakas) and Domingo Santana.

If Gómez oozed showmanship and energy, Gallardo and Rodríguez were in many ways the opposite. Particularly Gallardo, who rarely showed much emotion on the mound while compiling more strikeouts – 1,226 – than any pitcher in Brewers history. He set career highs for victories (17) and strikeouts (207) in 2011, the year the Brewers acquired Rodríguez from the Mets on the night of the All-Star Game to complete a team that gave the franchise its first division crown and postseason series victory in 29 years.

All three of Friday’s inductees played a significant role in that. In Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the D-backs, Gallardo started and pitched six quality innings, Rodríguez protected a one-run lead in a typically harrowing eighth and, after Arizona tied the game in the ninth, Gómez scored the winning run in the 10th on a Nyjer Morgan single that so electrified Attanasio he jumped the railing and jumped into Gómez’s arms.

“That game was sort of a microcosm of the best attributes of the players we're honoring today,” Attanasio said. “That was really a seminal step for us.”

On Friday, with the Brewers pushing toward another division title, everyone paused to enjoy the memories.