A greasy cheeseburger got Dale Brewer featured in Sports Illustrated.
And more than a decade after one of the wackiest sports rituals you've probably ever heard of put the former local baseball standout on the national stage, it was the inspiration of his 7-year-old daughter that landed him on a physical stage.
Brewer, a Co-State Player of the Year when he led Skyline College to a Coast Conference title in 1994, has found a new calling.
He’s now an actor in the local community theater circuit, and part of an ensemble performing in at Foster City's . "The Producers" is in its third week with eight remaining performances including tonight’s 8 p.m. show. The finale is May 27.
Brewer, 40, said he got the performance arts bug when his daughter, Sammi, started getting involved in acting about six years ago.
"My daughter became involved in theater and I saw other parents practicing with their kids and it looked like fun," Brewer said.
"She is absolutely the reason I'm in theater."
Dale Brewer is the ultimate utilityman in "The Producers," playing a gay cowboy, a Nazi storm trooper, and a pathetically unattractive showgirl.
Sammi Brewer, now 13, is in the ensemble too, multitasking in equally varied roles (she plays an usherette, an accountant, an old lady, a storm trooper and a prisoner).
The play's director, Bill Starr, said he's been impressed with how many things Dale Brewer does well.
"He's very versatile," Starr said. "He can sing, the guy moves around and he's a good actor too. He throws himself into any role a thousand percent."
But it was a cheeseburger habit that Brewer will never live down.
On a day when he’d skipped lunch, Brewer was standing in the on-deck during a summer league game when his mother and girlfriend made it back from a McDonald's run and tossed two cheeseburgers over the fence. He scarfed down one, but had to stuff the other in a back pocket when his at-bat came up.
"I remember I was in a really bad slump and I got a hit off a guy who was a college pitcher from Texas," Brewer said.
And a ritual that would make Oscar Madison blush was born.
"From then on I always put a cheeseburger in my back pocket," he said.
Brewer's cheeseburger habit got him a mention in Sports Illustrated (under the "Short-Order Shortstop" heading), among other publications. Opponents hung the "Cheese Burglar" tag on him, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist noted.
For the record, Brewer never actually ate the burgers, instead just spitting a quick chew out onto the field before stuffing the rest back in his pocket.
"A few times I'd slide into second base and it would pop out of my pocket and I'd have to pick it up off the middle of the field," he said.
Brewer had professional aspirations when he went on to play shortstop and third base at Division II Sonoma State.
A compact and powerful swing helped him set a school record for doubles his junior year. He sat out his senior year with an ankle injury and gave up baseball for good after becoming disillusioned with the politics of a sport that no longer seemed like a kid's game.
Brewer, a union electrician working in the San Mateo Union High School District, is appearing in his 10th stage play. His first role was the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz" about six years ago. He has no aspirations beyond the community theater circuit.
"It's like golf," he said. "It's something you can do until you're dead."
Sammi Brewer, 13, is a Taylor Middle School of Millbrae student who plans to enroll in San Mateo High's dance and drama program later this year.
Dale Brewer believes his baseball background made picking up theater a lot easier.
"The performance part of it is actually pretty similar," he said. "You go out there to see what the show is going to be like that day.
"The choreography involved in executing double plays and a flawless set are similar."
But there are key differences.
When he's on stage, he doesn't have to worry about dodging knockdown pitches or opponents’ spikes tearing up his shins.
"Compared to baseball, theater is a safety net," he said.
And baseball fans and theatergoers approach performances and performers differently too, he said.
"People who go to the theater are eager to see you do well," Brewer said. "In baseball half the people want to see you do well and the other half want to see you fail miserably."
Starr believes Brewer's sports background is an off-stage asset too, noting that being a good teammate is a quality overlooked in theater.
"I can so see him being on any kind of a team because of his attitude and the way that he conducts himself," Starr said.
"He's just a very positive person and he spreads that positive energy throughout the cast. He motivates everybody, he makes everybody have a good time and enjoy what they're doing too."
The most important similarity between baseball and acting, Brewer said, is the camaraderie factor.
"It's not just about the show and it's not just about the game, it's about the people and the relationships," Brewer said. "That's what I've realized."