Counsell gets his hit
Craig Counsell had the last laugh on Friday, when he snapped the long slump that had become fodder for late-night comedians.
A day after Stephen Colbert lampooned Counsell’s drought, it was over, thanks to a well-struck single to right field in the ninth inning of Milwaukee’s 8-1 rout of the Astros. It was Counsell’s first hit in 57 days, since a three-hit game against the Cardinals on June 10. It snapped an 0-for-45 drought.
And it sparked the sort of dugout celebration usually reserved for much more dramatic feats. Counsell, it should be noted, has enjoyed a few of those during his 16-year Major League career.
“It was almost like I had been throwing a no-hitter and nobody would talk to me about it,” Counsell said.
They could talk again Friday. Even Counsell, who hours earlier had declined a reporters’ request to discuss the slump.
“It’s been ugly, it’s been bad,” he said later Friday night. “It’s a relief to just do something right.”
The hit spared Counsell further comparisons with Bill Bergen, a light-hitting catcher in the very early 1900s considered by some the worst Major League hitter in history.
Depending on your source, Counsell’s 0-for-45 either matched or fell one shy of Bergen’s 1909 record for consecutive hitless at-bats in a single season. The Brewers, based on data from the Elias Sports Bureau, say the record is 0-for-45. But the Society for American Baseball Research says Bergen was 0-for-46, the figure cited Thursday by the New York Times in a story about Counsell and White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn challenging some of Bergen’s 100-year-old records.
Dunn entered Friday hitting .167. Bergen owns the lowest season batting average for a regular position player, at .139.
Counsell and Dunn are each accomplished Major Leaguers enduring painfully awful seasons. Perfect fodder for comedian Colbert, who lampooned both players on his Colbert Report on Thursday night.
Colbert blamed Counsell’s troubles on his new, simplified batting stance. Until three years ago, Counsell waited in the batter’s box with hands famously high over his head, which, Colbert joked, “made him ineffective against curveballs, but deadly against pinatas.”
Counsell was not laughing. It had become difficult for teammates, too, and for manager Ron Roenicke, who had on several occasions defended Counsell’s very place on the team. Roenicke lauded Counsell’s defense, and his role in the clubhouse as mentor.
“It’s big,” Roenicke said of the hit. “You’re feeling for a guy and you want him to do it, and he finally comes through. It’s a nice relief.”
For him or for everybody?
“Everybody!” Roenicke said. “You feel for the guy.”
“I don’t know if you guys heard us in the dugout, but we were yelling,” winning pitcher Yovani Gallardo said. “We were pretty excited. That’s the kind of team we have here. We help each other out.”
Someday, he said, maybe he will look back on the last two months and laugh. It will be a while.
“Look, I’ve played a long time,” Counsell said. “You have great experiences in the game, and I don’t know if this is a great experience, but it was definitely an experience. … I’m glad it’s over.”
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