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.”

 

 

 

That Time I Met Robin Yount

Note: This is a guest post from Christopher Zantow

I feel fortunate to have grown up in what many consider to be the greatest era of Milwaukee Brewers baseball:  1978-82.  My Dad first started taking me to games in 1978 and loved to sit along the first base side of Milwaukee County Stadium in the lower box seats.  From there I could try to rush to the front of the railing in an attempt to get autographs before the games.

In the late 70’s Ray Fosse and Jerry Augustine signed baseballs for me.  Unfortunately both autographs have been lost to time, having been signed with a blue pen!  I pretty much freaked out when I met Fosse and Augie on the railing, not knowing what to say.  I just remember blurting out, “Thanks Mister Fosse!  Thanks Mister Augustine!”  At least I was polite.

As time went on and the team got better and ultimately wound up in the ’82 World Series, the more difficult it became to meet any players along the railing.  Crowds were huge and kids had a harder time getting around adults that shoved their way to the front.  I was left simply dreaming of meeting my favorite players such as Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Rollie Fingers, Pete Vuckovich, Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Don Sutton, and Ben Oglivie (and pretty much the rest of the team).

I grew up and little by little all those players retired from the game.  I’d occasionally see a public appearance listed somewhere, but most of the time something got in the way of me attending the event.  Somehow I managed to miss finding out about the 1982 25th anniversary player meet and greet in Milwaukee until it was too late.  Argh!

Time Goes By

In early 2009 I was dating my now wife and she lived close to the Wisconsin/Illinois border.  There is a huge mall in northern Illinois called Gurnee Mills.  We were there shopping and I found out about an upcoming appearance by Robin Yount.   A sports memorabilia shop called Legends of the Field was hosting the event, so it was buy a ticket based on the amount of the souvenir you wanted Robin to sign.  I’ve never been one to go that route but thought I should go for it because other opportunities to meet him had been slim.

It was a winter event and of course in the Midwest that means not much thought is given to baseball.  The line was long and I remember being split into levels of how much money you spent on the souvenir.  I had a hard time deciding what to buy but chose the Sports Illustrated cover with Robin on it from the 1982 World Series.  It was another piece of baseball history that I once owned that had since been lost to time – probably misplaced during one of several moves in my adult life.

Rockin Robin

Robin came out looking fit as ever, and probably could have suited up for the Brew Crew that season.  He was in his mid-50’s at the time, but you’d never have known it.  Robin’s “The Kid” nickname was still appropriate as he still flashed the big grin and had the gleam in his eyes from his playing days.

Robin Yount and Christopher Zantow
Robin Yount looks like he could still go 3-4

Even though my future wife wasn’t getting anything signed, the Legends staff was nice enough to let her go through the line with me and snap a photo of me shaking Robin’s hand.  When it was my turn with “The Kid” I kept it pretty simple, and just thanked him for a lot of baseball memories while I was growing up.  I asked for a photo and he said he’d love to do that, so we shook hands across the table.  He was even nice enough to ask afterward if the photo turned out or if we needed to take another one.   I managed to keep my composure and didn’t blurt out “Thanks Mister Yount” like I was a kid again.

1982 All Over Again

But where I was a kid again was in that moment, as it took me back to when I just turned 14 and the Brewers were driving to the World Series.  Meeting Robin Yount was a special time that helped bring all those childhood memories back for me.  Rockin’ Robin was kind and cordial just like everyone always claimed.

Robin Yount autographGetting a certificate of authenticity afterward was nice, but I don’t really need it.  This autograph won’t be lost to time like the others, plus I now have a great memory of meeting the guy who brought so much happiness to thousands of Brewers fans.  I grinned just like “The Kid” for days after meeting him.

Have you met one of your baseball heroes from the 1980s? I want to hear about it! Click here for details and tell me your story.

 

ABOUT CHRISTOPHER ZANTOW: By day, Chris is a writer of training and resource materials.  By night he’s finishing edits on a historical book about the Milwaukee Brewers. The book covers the backstory of events that led to the Braves moving to Atlanta, and Bud Selig’s fight to bring baseball back to Milwaukee through numerous setbacks and disappointments and the early years of the new Milwaukee franchise. He blogs about the Brewers and can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram