As the Milwaukee Brewers prepare to play their first playoff game in 26 years, I can't help but think back to 1982. I turned 10 years old that summer--the perfect age to have your team go the World Series. I remember a huge snowstorm and cold snap that went through the state the week of Opening Day--and how it seemed we would never be able to play ball outside.
For my tenth birthday I got a new aluminum baseball bat, a new Bill Madlock signature model Cooper baseball glove--and tickets to the Brewers game the next day at County Stadium. The whole family went along--including my grandparents. Mike Caldwell started for the Crew against the Indians on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in July. We had lower box seats down the first-base line. I even remember it was the NBC Saturday Game of the Week--so there was a national audience as well and a real electricity in the stadium. The Crew fell behind early, rallied late and Rollie Fingers came out of the bullpen to close it out. Even my mother got into the "ROLL-IE, ROLL-IE" chant. The win put the Brewers into first place for the first time all season.
The rest of the season just rolled from their. Unfortunately, I missed out on one of the greatest moments. My parents had a strict "in bed by 8:30 on a school night policy"--so I didn't see the Ned Yost homer over the Green Monster to beat the Red Sox and go up three with four to play. Maybee that's why I had such dis-like for Ned as a manager--it was really an unresolved issue with my parents.
Anyway, I sure didn't miss Robin Yount hitting two homers off Jim Palmer to pull it out for the Crew on the final Sunday in Baltimore. I can still remember being nauseous I was so nervous before that game. I can also recall sneaking a transistor radio and earpiece to school on the Friday of Game Three of the ALCS against the Angels so I could listen at school and on the bus ride home. The Brewers almost had their own Steve Bartman--as a fan in left field reached over the railing and took a fly ball out of Ben Oglivie's glove--giving the Don Baylor a grand slam that almost cost the Crew the game.
Right now, my wife is going nuts because I can remember all of these little details about sporting events that happened 26-years ago--but I can't remember to put out the garbage on Wednesday nights without being reminded every week.
Game Five of the ALCS will always be the high water mark for the Brewers franchise. Charlie Moore throwing out Reggie Jackson at third, Cecil Cooper telling the ball to "get down" in left to drive in the winning runs, Rod Carew grounding out to Robin Yount to end it, all the fans on the field. I'm getting a little choked up just thinking about it.
In a way, I was lucky the Brewers made the World Series when they did--because that was still when they played day games in the Series. That meant I got to watch all of games 3, 4 and 5--because they didn't start at 8:00. It also meant the Crew was ahead in Game Seven when I was sent down the hall. Don't tell my parents, but I actually laid with my head to the door that night listening to Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola describing the Cardnial comeback (thanks for nothing Bob McClure) and Gorman Thomas striking out to end it. I'm not afraid to admit, I cried after that. I just couldn't imagine they would lose.
And now they haven't been back since--until today. I always like to give you predictions--so here's mine for the Phillies series: Philadelphia in four. Sorry.