Brewer Bombers

It took the Milwaukee Brewers all of 11 innings to assert themselves as one of the top offensive teams of the early 1980s. After beating the Boston Red Sox 9-5 on Opening Day of the 1980 season, they treated their fans to an offensive explosion in the second game of the new decade.

When Mike Torrez took the mound in the bottom of the 2nd inning on April 12th he was trailing 2-0 and he had only himself to blame. His two first-inning errors were key in Milwaukee grabbing an early lead, but what happened next was the stuff of nightmares.

The Carnage Begins

Robin Yount led off the inning with a single and then stole 2nd. Catcher Buck Martinez walked and Paul Molitor laid down a bunt single down the third base line. The fact that there were no outs in the 2nd inning and Molitor had already reached base twice in the game was a sure sign it wasn’t going to be Torrez’s day.

Cecil Cooper stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and unloaded on a Torrez offering. His grand slam gave the Brewers a 6-0 lead and ended Torrez’s afternoon.

His line:

IP
H
R
ER
BB
K
HR
1
4
6
5
2
0
1

Then it got worse.

Chuck Rainey relieved Torrez and walked Larry Hisle. Ben Oglivie doubled and Gorman Thomas struck out. Milwaukee had two on with one out and Sixto Lezcano at the plate, whose sac fly in the 1st inning gave the Brewers their second run. Boston manager Don Zimmer decided to walk the left-handed-hitting Lezcano to set up a righty/righty matchup with Don Money with the bases loaded. A ground ball would get the Red Sox out of the inning with minimal damage.

But instead, Money hit the 2nd grand slam of the inning and the Brewers had a 10-0 lead. They also weren’t finished. Four pitches later, Yount homered off Rainey to make it a nine-run inning.

“My first granny and my first back-to-back jobs in the majors,” Rainey told the Boston Globe after the game. “I’d rather it be in a 6-0 cause than a close game, but I still don’t like it.”

The Carnage Continues

Milwaukee scored two more in the 5th inning off Rainey and an early-season blowout seemed like a good time for the big league debut of Boston’s top pitching prospect Bruce Hurst. The Brewers proved to be rude hosts once again. Yount walked to lead off the inning and Martinez flew out to center. Then Molitor singled to bring up Cooper with two on. In what would be his finest season, Cooper came through again, doubling to right field to score Molitor. Two batters later, Oglivie singled to score Molitor and Cooper before Gorman Thomas capped the afternoon with a two-run homer to make the score 18-1.

Zimmer called the loss an embarrassment but Fred Lynn took it in stride. “We’ve got to shore up our defensive secondary,” joked Lynn. “They’re bombing us.”

After two games, the Brewers were on pace to hit 729 homers and 243 grand slams while the Red Sox were on pace to allow 2,187 runs. The numbers didn’t quite hold up, but Milwaukee did lead all of baseball with 203 longballs in 1980.

“I’d always said that I’d never seen a team as awesome offensively as the one we had in Boston in ’77,” said Boston pitcher Reggie Cleveland. “But I’ve changed my mind. This team is.”

 

 

 

The 1980 All-Star Game

NOTE: I’m giving away a program from the 1980 All-Star Game. Click here to enter!

There have been 87 All-Star games in major league history. Exactly one of them took place at Dodger Stadium.

Watching the game today on YouTube brings you right back to the era, complete with Keith Jackson, Don Drysdale and Howard Cosell in the booth. Love him or hate him, there’s nothing quite like listening to Cosell and his skills were on display immediately as he seamlessly transitioned from discussing A.L. leadoff hitter Willie Randolph’s OB% to Gregory Peck’s childhood vocation when Peck appeared on screen.

J.R. Richard on Display

J.R. Richard
Richard was dominant

The game also presents the opportunity to see J.R. Richard in his prime one last time. Richard left two of his June starts early after complaining of discomfort but doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him. That fueled whispers about how he was faking an injury. That talk intensified after he handled the best the American League had to offer. Richard would make one more regular season start before heading to the disabled list and then suffering a stroke at the end of July that ended his career. But on this night he was brilliant.

Richard was incredibly difficult to face. Even more so when you’d never seen him before, as was the case for many A.L. hitters in the days before interleague play. Add the factor of squaring off against him in the twilight at Dodger Stadium and it appeared to be a mismatch.

Richard threw two scoreless innings and struck out three, but he did surrender a base hit as Bucky Dent singled to right in the top of the 2nd. As good as Richard was though, he was outdone by A.L. starter Steve Stone.

Steve Stone in the Spotlight

In July of 1979, Stone’s record was 6-7 with a robust 4.40 ERA, thanks in part to surrendering 21 home runs. This year he was in the midst of the defining season of his career as well as a run of 10 wins in 10 straight starts during the regular season. He ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant the day before the game and received a fortune cookie telling him he would reach a high level of intelligence.

Steve Stone
Stone was even better

“What I wanted it to say was that I was going to pitch three innings, allow no hits and strike out six,” he joked. Had the fortune cookie said that it wouldn’t have been too far off as Stone turned in one of the best starting performances in All-Star history.  He faced nine N.L. hitters and retired them all, including strikeouts of sluggers Dave Parker and Dave Kingman along with Dodger pitcher Bob Welch. Even more impressive was the fact that he accomplished this on just 24 pitches.

”I couldn’t look at this lineup as a group,” said Stone. ”I had to face each one as a single entity. As a group, it would have seemed too big a task but, one by one, I was able to handle nine guys.”

The A.L. grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the 5th when Rod Carew hit a 2-out single off Welch and Fred Lynn ran the count full before homering into the right field bleachers. Lynn was nursing a sore hamstring and considered skipping the game to rest, but he didn’t want to disappoint the fans so he made the trip.

Griffey Plays Hero

In the bottom of the 5th,  lefty Tommy John was on the mound for the A.L. when N.L. manager Chuck Tanner went off script and sent the left-handed hitting Ken Griffey to pinch hit for Kingman. The move was prompted by Tommy Lasorda, who recalled a time when Griffey had burned Lasorda when John was with the Dodgers. Just as Lasorda predicted, Griffey took John deep and the N.L. was on the board.

Ken Griffey
Griffey’s homer earned him MVP honors and a Stargell Star

“I wasn’t thinking home run,” Griffey told reporters after the game. “I was just looking for a good pitch to hit. I’ve always hit him pretty good. Everybody was pretty pumped up after the home run. Then we just took advantage of their mistakes.”

The mistakes mounted as the N.L. scored two more in the bottom of the 6th on a base hit by George Hendrick and an error on Randloph. They added one more in the 7th when Dave Concepcion scored on a Dave Stieb wild pitch.

The Streak Continues

1980 NL All-Stars
Champions once again

The Nationals came away with a 4-2 win, which marked the 17th time in the previous 18 seasons that the N.L. won the Mid-Summer Classic, a fact that was not lost on the American Leaguers.

“One more year we have to hear we’re inferior all over again,” said Paul Molitor. “That’s the hard part.”