Jenkins was a 24th-round pick out of Cordova Senior High in Rancho Cordova, Calif., by the San Diego Padres in the 1992 draft, but he followed his older brother and Wiffle ball rival Brett to USC. "We grew up playing in the front yard just about every day, and a lot of days ended with us fighting," Geoff says. "Then the next day we'd be right back out there." Geoff chose to attend college because he knew his stroke needed taming, and he'd acquired a respect for schooling from his father, Jack, an educator for the past 30 years.
Three years later Milwaukee selected Jenkins with the ninth pick of the draft. He reached the big leagues in 1998, homering off Orel Hershiser in his first game. Since then he has become a fan favorite, in part because of his facial resemblance to Wisconsin hero Brett Favre and in part because of that hellacious home run stroke. Fans started calling him Clipper or Clip after someone hung a banner saluting their number 5 as THE MILWAUKEE CLIPPER, though his swing might have made the graceful DiMaggio, who rarely whiffed, cringe. "My dad taught me very early that you can always learn to dial back your swing," Geoff says, "but that it's a lot harder to teach somebody to be aggressive."
Says Jack, "He had a mantra growing up: Don't get cheated. I'm proud of him. What Fm most proud of is when people tell me what a great human being he is. When I saw in the Brewers media guide that he had listed me as his role model, I got very emotional. I teared up." Three weeks after Geoff signed a four-year, $18 million contract on Feb. 24, he tossed the keys to his Lincoln Navigator to Jack and said, "Here, Dad. It's yours."
Word association number 3: explosiveness. Sexson's bat or his trick pen? Less than two weeks after being traded to Milwaukee, Sexson handed Marquis Grissom, a teammate at the time, a retractable ballpoint pen and a baseball and asked for an autograph. When Grissom clicked the top of the pen, it blew up. Sexson also packs a trick soda can and a trick pen that emit shocks. Jenkins, his partner in mischief, packs a remote control flatulence noisemaker—much to the consternation of flight attendants on Brewers charters. "We have a lot of fun in this clubhouse," says Jenkins. "Guys aren't afraid to get on each other in a fun way, like if you're quoted in the papers saying something dumb or if you color your hair wrong."
"Frick and Frack," Lopes calls Sexson and Jenkins, who golf, cruise malls and lunch together regularly. "They're like brothers, as close as their own shadows. If you see one, the other's right next to him." In February, Milwaukee was about to announce a four-year, $17.5 million deal with Sexson when Jenkins asked general manager Dean Taylor to hold off. "Let's do it together," he said. Twelve hours later Jenkins's contract was done. In nearly the same number of career at bats (1,201 for Sexson, 1,221 for Jenkins), Sexson has slightly more home runs (72 to 64) and RBIs (242 to 204), while Jenkins has hit for a higher average (.291 to .271).
Some teammates call Sexson Splinter, though the Spanish-speaking ones favor Flaco, meaning skinny. Sexson had planned to play baseball and basketball at the University of Portland—until he attended an elite basketball camp after graduating from Prairie High in Brush Prairie, Wash., in 1993. "I played against guys like Jason Kidd and Chris Webber," he says. "I found out I wasn't going to have much of a career in basketball."
He signed with Cleveland as a 24th-round draft pick that summer, reporting to the Burlington ( N.C.) Indians in the Appalachian League. When he arrived, a team-issued plain gray T-shirt awaited him in his locker. He hit .186 in 40 games that year. In 1999, his only full season with the Indians, Sexson hit 31 home runs and drove in 116 runs. His manager at the time, Mike Hargrove, compared his power with that of a young Mark McGwire. Sexson was about halfway to similar numbers when the Indians traded him midseason. (He ended the year with 30 homers and 91 RBIs.) "Any other team would have appreciated what I was doing, but the Indians thought I should be hitting 40 home runs and driving in 140," he says. "They were disappointed in me."
Sexson, as he has done every game since 1993, still wears that gray T-shirt under his uniform. The shirt is threadbare and ripped in several spots, as if someone had slashed it with a knife. "I wear it as a reminder of where I came from," he says.
Word association number 4: Bernie Brewer. Is he the Bavarian mascot who popped out of his County Stadium chalet to slide into a giant beer stein in celebration of a Milwaukee home run or the big-swinging rightfielder likely to send him into the suds? Burnitz, or Burnie to his teammates, uses his bat like a sword—he finishes each swing with a swashbuckling one-handed hoist of it over his head. Burnitz hit only .232 last season while fretting about his contract, but he still had 31 homers and 98 RBIs.
Having already been traded by the New York Mets and the Indians, Burnitz was headed to the Padres this winter until the Padres could not agree with him about a contract extension, which was a condition of the trade. "Then out of nowhere, the Brewers got it done," he says, referring to his two-year, $20 million extension. Coupled with the three-year, $21 million contract the club gave free-agent outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds (.335, 20 homers, 106 RBIs with the Colorado Rockies last year), Milwaukee made sure its 3-4-5-6 hitters will be together at least through 2003—as will Bernie Brewer and the brat that engages in wildly popular footraces against club employees and the occasional visiting player dressed like other kinds of sausages.