Unlike the elder (five whole years elder) Rob Peterson, I can’t lay down explicit detail about where I was and how I felt the day that the Milwaukee Brewers lost Game 7 of the 1982 World Series. The truth is that I lived many of the details of the 1982 season for the first time while we relived them during the past four months. But I can try to put into words what that team meant to me and still means to me this day.
Many of my youngest memories as a child growing up in Wisconsin are around two things: baseball in general or the Brewers more specifically. As a first grader in 1981, I knew every Milwaukee Brewer, their uniform number and batting stance. My older brother and I would have games in the back yard or on one of the dozens of family camping trips where we’d act out game action.
We were The Batting Stance Guy before there was a Batting Stance Guy. [Note: You can watch BSG imitate some of my favorite stances here.] We knew that Ben Oglivie was left-handed and had an up-right, crazy-caffeinated approach. He waggled the bat up high, almost nervously. So did we. Cecil Cooper, on the other hand, took the opposite approach. Also a lefty, he was just too damned cool to get worked up. Slow, laid back, low and relaxed. Cecil Cooper didn’t hit like Rod Carew, Rod Carew hit like Cecil Cooper. Because of those two players, I became a quasi-switch hitter at a young age.
You remember the little things, but not many of the details as a six and seven year-old. Coop was my favorite player, and there’s a picture of me decked out in Brewers gear with a hand-made COOOOOOOP! cardboard sign before heading to County Stadium. Everyone loved Rollie Fingers, and you can bet my brother and I made our own fake handlebar mustaches to look like him.
The sad thing is that I was not in Wisconsin when the Brewers went to the World Series in 1982. Soon after my last day of first grade, we left for a year in Iowa during the summer of 1982. No more Bob Uecker. No more local coverage.
It’s funny, really. For many years, I forgot why it was there was a gap when recalling the 1982 season. Yet I could remember things from 1981. It’s mainly because I was cut off from watching, listening to and even reading about the Brewers for that glorious year.
I remember KNOWING about what was happening at the end of the 1982 season against the Orioles. And the insanity that happened against the Angels. And I’ll always remember that Rollie was hurt, the Brewers destroyed the Cardinals in a game before the Cardinals returned the favor. Little things.
But I didn’t remember the details of how each game was lost, likely because I didn’t see them all. Or hear about them. Or see the newspaper pictures. Or see the stories retold over and over on the local news. So looking back, I really missed out on that experience.
But it was the awesomeness of this team that started coming together in the late 70s and early 80s that got me hooked on the Brewers. We moved to Iowa and I remained a fan. We came back to Wisconsin for a year, then hit the road for Michigan for five. I could have become a Tigers fan, being in Tigers country and having regular access to Ernie Harwell. But I didn’t. I hated the Tigers.
Not even during the rough times of the mid-80s. I wore my Brewers apparel with pride. In 1987, I remember that glorious 13-0 start. My brother and I charted each win and loss throughout the season on graph paper. There was that nice 13 game spike, but also a 12 game drop later. We recorded one of the nationally televised games that happened somewhere around win 11. Robin, Molly, Cooper and Gantner were the only guys left from 1982. I remember being in our living room, listening to the amazing Easter Sunday game when Dale Sveum and Rob Deer hit ninth inning homers to extend the streak.
I remember becoming a BJ Surhoff fan that year, and getting to watch a rare nationally televised Brewers game against the Yankees in County Stadium. Bottom of the ninth (or was it the 10th?) of a back and forth game, BJ at the plate with the bases loaded. Crowd chanting, “BJ! BJ! BJ!” What does he do? Lays down a bunt. Base hit, game over.
I saw BJ later that year at a baseball card show in Michigan. In fact, we only went to that show because he was going to be there. Decked out in my Brewers attire, I approached what seemed to be a god-like figure to me then behind the raggedy table.
“I like your uniform.”
I just stood there, stunned. Probably laughed and said something back awkwardly. But it was awesome.
We lived in Michigan, but my brother and I listened to every game on the radio. Yes, it was close to impossible, but we bought some antenna wire and taped it up on my brother’s wall to listen to Uecker call the games. We often had to battle the static and thunderstorms, but we didn’t miss a game.
What does 1987 have to do with 1982? The point is that I became a baseball fan because of the team that became the 1982 Brewers. I remained a Brewers fan even though the ages I became a fan were at five and six. It’s because the players on that particular team, the team that would eventually play in and lose the World Series in 1982, were special.
I regularly meet people who have transplanted to a new city and state as an adult and then become a fan of that new team. Or fans who are so tired of their team’s lack of success that they find a “second team.” These people disgust me. I guess this is why.
I would later spend high school in Wisconsin, but I’ve spent a total of about 11 years in the Cheese State. Four of those hardly count because I was either pooping myself or too young to care. But I’m still a Milwaukee Brewers fan, the most loyal there can be. And why?
Because of those 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, that’s why. They didn’t always win. They were far from perfect. They didn’t play great defense. They had deficiencies in the bullpen. But they were a fun bunch of dudes. Gorman, Robin, Molly, Coop, Rollie, Benji, Charlie, Vuke, Simmons, Gantner… Hell, even Roy Howell.
No, not Roy Howell. I hated that red-bearded bastard. But I loved those Brewers.