A Milwaukee Brewers' centerfielder given a second chance after several challenging seasons is now playing up to earlier expectations, and also keeping fans entertained with his exciting play while creating a special relationship with the Milwaukee community.
That description certainly fits the exploits of Nyjer Morgan this season, but Brewer fans with longer memories could easily dial it back some 33 years to 1978 when the legendary Gorman Thomas first burst on the Milwaukee sports scene.
With Thomas throwing out the first ball at Miller Park at Game 1 of the National Championship Series, there is nothing hotter in Milwaukee than Nyjer Morgan, his NLCS game-winning hit and NL Central Champion Brewers. Those of us old enough to remember the summer of '78 might not recall the temperatures, but we watched Bambi's Bombers energize the old County Stadium on their way to winning 93 games for the first winning season in team history.
To compare these two players more specifically, Morgan and Thomas are both known by their unique first names, they each flourished in Milwaukee in the fifth seasons of their careers, play aggressive defense at the same crucial position, and are strongly embraced by the Milwaukee fan base.
On the contrasting side, Morgan and Thomas are also very different players and personalities. Nyjer Morgan is a speedy, spray hitter with eight career homers, while Gorman Thomas was known for hitting towering home runs, totaling 208 during his 11 seasons in Milwaukee. Thomas bonded with his fans enjoying a few cold ones at parking lot tailgates and local taverns, while Morgan connects with fans via creative and cryptic Twitter posts and hilarious live post-game TV interviews.
Morgan hails from Northern California and enjoys hockey, while Thomas came from South Carolina and likes to hunt, fish and cook. Oh, and last time I checked, Stormin' Gorman didn't use any sort of "gentleman's name" like Tony Plush.
What these players separated by more than three decades do have in common are some serious baseball talent, a hard-nosed hustling attitude and strong outgoing personalities to which fans and regular Milwaukeeans can relate.
If the long-haired, usually unshaven Thomas is more of what we think of the typical Milwaukee working class player and character, Morgan is simply a modern version with a usually clean shaved look and a little more showboating for the TV cameras and smart phones that didn't capture a player's every move in Thomas' day.
And, as revered as both players are by local fans, they have also endured some tough times on and off the field, which only makes them more human to those same fans. All Milwaukeeans really ask for from their professional athletes as that they play hard all the time and keep us entertained.
Gorman Thomas did that for many years in Milwaukee and hopefully Nyjer Morgan will continue to do the same.