The back cover of Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt’s latest book, 100 Things Brewers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, bills it as “The Ultimate Resource Guide for True Brewers Fans.” It certainly is a resource, but true Brewers fans won’t find much in the book they don’t already know. The format of the book – a breezy list of events/trivia (interspersed with sidebars and photos) that can be read in a few days – is probably best suited for casual fans looking to deepen their knowledge, or younger folks who aren’t familiar with the pre-21st century Brewers.
Haudricourt’s previous book, Brewers Essential, was released in early 2008, before Milwaukee ended its long playoff drought. That book is a more or less chronological story of significant events in Brewers history, beginning with Bud Selig buying the defunct Seattle Pilots. Most of the stories in that book are also included in 100 Things…: the ’82 World Series, Hank Aaron’s final seasons, Bob Uecker, Juan Nieves’ no-hitter, the Molitor-Yount-Ganter era, decline in the 1990s, Miller Park's construction, etc.
As for the story of the Brewers after 2007, most of what’s in 100 Things… is common knowledge. There are perhaps some details you didn’t catch when these stories were first reported – like Doug Melvin telling the Indians if they were going to trade CC Sabathia, the deal had to be done that day, and they couldn’t shop him around to other teams. But other items like Ryan Braun’s MVP, the trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, and John Axford’s path to the big leagues are all a matter of public record.
100 Things… is strongest in its final third, when it recounts more arcane material, and there’s a better chance of coming across something you didn’t know. For example, I had no idea Terry Francona played for the Brewers, or that he got ejected from a game in the middle of being walked intentionally in 1989 (Thing #95). An item on Jeff Juden’s brief and ignominious tenure with the Brewers in 1998 (Thing #92) is another story fans may not remember. Such pieces of obscure knowledge are the most interesting, but they are relatively few, and appear late in the book.
It should be noted the list format lends itself to a fair amount of repetition. Each Thing is written as a self-contained unit, and they often refer to previous Things, giving the book a certain “yeah, you just said that” quality. Thing #83 is about Ben Sheets’ introduction to Brewers fans at County Stadium’s last game, and includes a paragraph about how Sheets would go on to set a franchise record of 18 strikeouts in one game. That 2004 game against the Atlanta Braves was Thing #77. The acquisition of Sabathia is Thing #32, and refers to his eventual wild-card-clinching complete game against the Cubs on the final day of the 2008 season…which was Thing #9. Over the course of 260 pages, the redundancy factor becomes difficult to ignore.
In all, 100 Things… is a crisply written compilation of Brewers cultural artifacts, most of which are conventional wisdom, with some interesting tidbits here and there. It would be perfect for light reading on vacation, as a gift, or summer reading for a student. Fans should keep in mind, though, that the word “resource” is emphasized on the back cover – not “essential” – and adjust their expectations accordingly.