You may recall that the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers had a rough start to their season. On May 31, the Buck Rodgers-led team was 22-24, in sixth place and 7.5 games back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
While the transformation to Harvey's Wallbangers under new manager Harvey Kuenn on June 2 was virtually immediate, it would take the team two months before taking first place in the division for good. After a fast start under their new skipper, they actually lost three in a row and fell to 8.5 games back on June 9. The Crew would rise to first on July 11, but a 4-7 stretch at the end of July kept them from separating themselves from the pack. Beginning on July 11, the Brewers and Red Sox would dance between first and second place, separated by no more than a game and a half through August 4.
But it was on this day, July 31 in 1982, that would mark a turning point. The Brewers beat the Indians 4-2 to move a half game up on the Red Sox, who lost to the White Sox 7-5 later that day. From this day forward, no team other than the Brewers would own first place outright. The Red Sox would tie the Brewers one last time on August 2 and the Orioles put a scare into Milwaukee two months later on October 2, but that was it.
So what happened that fateful day of July 31, 1982? It was American Legion Day and Wisconsin Tavern League Day at County Stadium, and a Junior League All-Star Game would be played after the big boys finished. Those Juniors may have been able to teach the pros a thing or two about playing defense.
Five of the game's six runs scored in the first inning. Mike Caldwell surrendered back-to-back homers to Toby Harrah and Mike Hargrove to give the Indians an early 2-0 lead. But in the bottom of the first, the Indians gave the Brewers a gift in one of the most sloppily played exchanges in memory.
After Gorman Thomas singled in Paul Molitor to make it a 2-1 game, Ben Oglivie hit a hard liner to Larry Milbourne at second base for the second out. Gorman was leading a bit too far, and Milbourne fired to first to try and double him off. Instead, Milbourne threw the ball wide of first as Thomas and Hargrove collided in a heap. While Thomas and Hargrove were tangled, Robin took off for home. Hargrove recovered, picked up the ball and fired to the plate. Yount dived head first, but the ball sailed wide of catcher Chris Bando. Gorman then took second and headed for third. Bando picked up the ball and -- you guessed it -- threw it into left field. Gorman Thomas scored with the go-ahead run.
Follow all of that? Thanks to the gift from the Indians along with seven dominant innings from Caldwell and one perfect inning from Rollie Fingers, the Brewers wouldn't trail again in that game. And once the win was official, they wouldn't trail again in the standings.
Want to know more about this game and the 1982 Brewers? You can follow the season in "real time" by reading Brewers1982.com or following @TweetsFrom1982 on Twitter and Brewers Updates From 1982 on Facebook.