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Opening Day Countdown: The 1982 Brewers

We're 82 days away from Opening Day so let's take a look back at the best year in franchise history.

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The Brewers franchise best year took place during a dark age for the world. It was before my birth. But that doesn't change any of truths about that year. They finished with the teams best record. Their 95 win season would hold out as a franchise record until 2011. More importantly the reached the playoffs that year and almost did something amazing. They fell just one win shy of becoming World Series Champions.

What's kind of crazy is how close the Brewers were to falling short multiple times that year. I somehow didn't realize, or had forgotten, that the Brewers didn't secure first place in the AL East until the last game of the regular season. They were in a tie with the Baltimore Orioles who just so happened to be the team they were playing in the final series of the regular season. It all game down to Game 162. If you wrote that for a movie...well I was going to say it would be thrown out for being too cute, but that's basically the plot to Major League.

As close as the Brewers were cutting it on the macro-season-record scale, that final game against the Orioles itself was anything but. They trounced Baltimore by a score of 10-2. They scored a run in each of the first three innings before the Orioles even scored one. So the game was pretty much over before it started. Robin Yount hit two home runs in that game. Cecil Cooper and Ted Simmons each hit home runs of their own.

Don Sutton started that game for the Brewers and went 8 innings allowing 2 runs on 8 hits, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts. The opposing pitcher was Jim Palmer who went 5 innings allowing 4 runs, 3 earned. It was a bit of a tough luck day for him as he only allowed 4 hits, 3 of which were home runs.

Brewers fans might have thought they could breathe now that their team had finally secured their spot in the playoffs. But they were wrong. Back then there was the Championship series followed by the World Series. The Brewers were set to face the Angels in a five game series. Milwaukee lost the first two games, meaning every game was then an elimination game for them.

In Game 3 the Brewers scored 5 runs before the Angels score one, so that was a blow out for them. Game 4 the Brewers scored 6 runs before the Angels scored one. So that was a blowout as well. The final game was much closer. The Angels scored a run in the first inning, but so did the Brewers. Then the Angels went ahead 3-1 by the end of the top of the fourth inning. The Brewers scored a run that inning too, but still trailed 3-2. They would score again until the seventh inning, but they scored twice. And eventually they won that game 4-3, securing their spot in the World Series.

Their opponent would grow to become one of the best teams in baseball during this modern era and their arch nemesis: The St. Louis Cardinals. This series would become probably the greatest and most painful for Brewers fans. We all know the outcome now. The Brewers lost in 7 games. But they still made it to the World Series--something that hadn't happened before and hasn't happened since.

Milwaukee opened the series with a thunderous 10-0 victory. I imagine Brewers fans at the time felt like this was their year. But the Cardinals would win the next two games before the Brewers would even the score and bring the series to a 2-2 tie after four games. Then they'd pull ahead with a 6-4 victory in Game 5. The Cardinals would get revenge for the Game 1 blowout with their own--a 13-2 route in Game 6.

Game 7 would be heart-breakingly close. The Cardinals scored first with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Brewers tied it in the top of the fifth and then took a 3-1 lead in the sixth. But the Cardinals would come back to score 3 runs in the bottom of that inning. Later in the eighth they'd score 2 more. The Brewers didn't score another run after the 6th and lost 6-3. It must have been crushing for Brewers fans at the time. Little did they know it would take 26 years to get back to the playoffs at all.

Sidenote: You can read the New York Times recap of Game 7 here.

Despite the final outcome this is easily the best season in franchise history. They played the best ball the Brewers franchise had seen with 95 wins. And then they went deeper into the playoffs than ever before. Robin Yount was named MVP that year. And he sure deserved after hitting an astounding 331/379/578! Pete Vuckovich was awarded the Cy Young--which I'm sorry to say is a testament to how little sports writers knew about baseball at the time as evidenced by this list. But whatever. Great year nonetheless.