Hot Starts: Eric Thames

Article by Phil Hanrahan

I’m a Brewers fan. That’s what happens when you grow up in Milwaukee. Last season opened with a month-long individual performance that set franchise records and was the talk of the league. In fact, the numbers this guy put up were so impressive that the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee’s divisional archrival, wondered about steroids. The league wondered, too — officials began testing the player’s blood and urine before April was over.

His name was Eric Thames. He was 30 years old. He’d washed out of the league in 2013 and had played the previous three years for a Korean team. For the Brewers, he hit seven home runs in his first 12 games. He tattered in five straight contests. Midway through April, he’d homered more than the entire Boston Red Sox team.

Fellow Brewers began calling him Superman. Teammate Ryan Braun said he’d never seen a two-week stretch like this. Thames ended the month with 11 home runs in all, a Brewers April record, hit .345, and posted a sparkling .810 slugging percentage.

And then Superman fell off a kryptonite cliff. In May he hit .221. In June he hit — if that’s the right word — a miserable .163. He did have a couple good bounce-back months, including September, when the Brew Crew were in a playoff race and the outfielder/first-baseman hit .328. He ended the season with 31 home runs, tied for the team lead.

I think I can speak for the Brewers’ most famous fan, longtime radio announcer Bob Uecker (aka George Owens from the TV sitcom Mr. Belvedere, and David Letterman’s favorite guest) in saying it will be interesting to see how Thames starts off this year.

His blistering April got me wondering: What players this century have had the best opening month? Diving into online baseball almanacs, I assembled a lineup of torrid season starts. Nine hot Aprils, if you will. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Did Eric Thames make it? Read on!