MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Eric Gagne has said all along that he bears no ill-will toward the fans who have tried to boo him out of town all summer. On Thursday, he proved it with his pocketbook. Gagne footed the bill for 5,000 tickets to Thursday's Brewers-Pirates finale and then gave them away to fans via Brewers.com. The supply of seats was gobbled up in 20 minutes, according to the team. Gagne got the idea while listening to one of the team's postgame radio shows on his drive home Wednesday night. The discussion centered on the fact than 10,000 seats sat empty at Miller Park on Wednesday, when a CC Sabathia win pushed the Brewers even with the Mets atop the National League Wild Card standings.
Gagne placed a late-night call to Brewers traveling secretary Dan Larrea and asked if a ticket giveaway was possible. Club officials worked out the details. "It's not every day that you get to see us try to get to the playoffs," Gagne said. "In Milwaukee it's been what, 26 years? It's something special and I wanted to give a chance to see more people get to see it. "I'm a fan of the game, too, and I don't like to see empty seats," Gagne said. "All the kids here deserve that chance to come. I remember having to sneak into Olympic Stadium [in Montreal] even though it was $4. It's expensive to come to a game. ... I like doing something that's spontaneous." Thursday was Fan Appreciation Night at Miller Park, and the team had plenty to appreciate. Even with the empty seats on Wednesday night, the season attendance was pushed to 2,893,685, a new franchise record. Before the end of the weekend, the Brewers will surpass 3 million in attendance for the first time. "It gives us a huge boost," Gagne said. Many of those millions have booed Gagne, who signed a $10 million, one-year contract with the Brewers. The honeymoon was short; Gagne was named in former Sen. George Mitchell's report on performance-enhancing drugs three days after he signed, and six weeks into the regular season he was on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and supplanted as closer by Salomon Torres. Gagne was roundly booed when he entered Wednesday's win in the eighth inning, then was cheered after he pitched a scoreless frame. Even with eight consecutive scoreless appearances, he has a 5.56 ERA this season in 49 games. "I haven't really pitched that good. Look at my ERA," Gagne said. "I've booed a lot of Canadian hockey players in my life, so I know how it is." Make no mistake, he hears the boos. He views them as a challenge. "But I've had more than my share of cheers in my life," Gagne said. "There's ups and downs in a career, and the fans want to win. It's been 26 years here and they're pretty interested. They want to get to the playoffs and they want to win. ... I don't think they boo the person, they boo the performance. It's nothing personal." Gagne has donated $200,000 to Brewers Charities this year for a variety of causes this year. A $50,000 chunk went to the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes against Childhood Cancer), the largest single donation in that organization's history. "I try to donate to the kids because I have four really healthy children and I was really fortunate," Gagne said. "I was in a position to [donate] ... and I am in a good position to do something. I know it is not much compared to how much money we're making."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.