Notes: Club dons throwback jersies

Notes: Club dons throwback jersies

MILWAUKEE -- Rickie Weeks' grandfather, Victor, called the young second baseman on Friday and assured him he would most definitely watch Saturday evening's Brewers game on television.

The Brewers hosted their second annual Negro Leagues Tribute game on Saturday, with Milwaukee's players wearing the black-pinstriped uniforms of the Milwaukee Bears, the city's representatives in the Negro National League in 1923. The Royals donned replica uniforms of the Kansas City Monarchs, the legendary franchise that sent players like Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige to the Major Leagues.

The tribute meant a little extra to Weeks because his grandfather had played for the league's Newark Eagles in the 1950s. Victor Weeks used to regale his grandson with stories about what it was like to live and play baseball in a segregated world.

"People forget that we couldn't play baseball back then," Weeks said. "We had to go through a long way from those times. African-American players went through a lot."

Fans in attendance received a Negro Leagues placard to commemorate the day, and the first 15,000 also got a Milwaukee Bears hat.

The Brewers also honored former Negro Leagues players Arthur Hamilton and Jim Cobbin in a pregame ceremony on the field, and the duo then signed autographs for fans during the first three innings.

Hamilton, who played alongside players like Ernie Banks, Larry Doby, Robinson and Paige, said the history of Negro Leagues baseball still doesn't receive enough recognition from baseball fans.

"If not for the Negro Leagues, I wouldn't be here today," Hamilton said before the ceremony.

Hamilton recalled the days when he and his teammates still had to eat in different restaurants from the Major Leagues' white players, but he refused to feel bitter about his experiences.

"I suffered, but I'm glad I suffered, because then I appreciate more about my life now," Hamilton said. "Everything wasn't given to me. I had to earn a lot of things."

Leading the way: The Brewers entered Saturday's game sporting an 8 1/2-game lead over the Cubs and Cardinals in the National League Central, marking the largest divisional lead the franchise has enjoyed.

The Brewers arrived at that cushion thanks to their 11-6 win over the Royals, and the Cardinals' 6-0 loss to the Phillies on Friday night.

But manager Ned Yost and the Brewers aren't sitting around gloating over the chasm between their club and the rest of the division.

"The fans can enjoy it," Yost said. "It doesn't mean anything [to the team]. We're at the end of June. There's still all of July and August."

Veteran left fielder Geoff Jenkins, the longest-tenured player currently on the Brewers roster, has played through some lean years during his time with the team. Jenkins, Milwaukee's first-round pick in 1995, has never experienced a winning season and lost 106 games with the club in 2002.

For the first time, Jenkins feels like his Brewers have finally arrived on the big stage.

"I think 'arrived' is an ideal word to use," Jenkins said. "We've got good talent on this team."

Good Soup: Yost chuckled as he recalled the reaction he got during Friday evening's postgame press conference when he suggested Brewers starter Jeff Suppan hadn't pitched as badly as the scoreboard indicated.

"There were a lot of dumbfounded looks [from reporters]," he said.

Suppan surrendered five earned runs on nine hits and two walks in five innings, but pitching coach Mike Maddux approached Yost after the game and told him Suppan hadn't made any bad pitches all night, drawing an incredulous look from the skipper.

But, Yost then went back and watched video footage of every pitch Suppan tossed, and he realized Maddux was right -- all nine hits Suppan allowed came on good pitches, and many barely squirted past Milwaukee's infielders on the ground.

In fact, Yost saw at least 12 outside pitches he thought were strikes, but which home-plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth called balls. Yost saw a sharp improvement in Suppan from the right-hander's previous outing against the Twins, when he surrendered 10 hits, most of them on pitches right down the middle of the plate.

"They just found some holes [Friday]," Yost said of the Royals hitters.

Injury update: Yost left J.J. Hardy out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row Saturday, just like the skipper said he would on Friday. But Yost said that Hardy's stiff back has improved dramatically and the shortstop most likely will start Sunday afternoon's game against the Royals.

"I'll double-check to see how he's doing today," Yost said.

On deck: Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 4.26 ERA) earned the win in his Major League debut against the Giants on Monday, and the Brewers hope the young right-hander can duplicate that success against Odalis Perez (4-7, 6.06), and the Royals on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. CT in Milwaukee's final Interleague game of the year.

Kelvin Ang is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.