Stars Reflect on Milwaukee’s ‘Love Affair’ With ’82 Brewers

Bud Selig, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers and Bob Uecker mark 40 years since World Series run.

It’s been 40 years since the Milwaukee Brewers’ one and only appearance in the World Series.

Even after those four decades, members of the team remain beloved by Brewers’ fans, and although Milwaukee fell to the St. Louis Cardinals four games to three in the 1982 World Series, the group will always be affectionately hailed as champions.

“The love affair between this team and this community to this day is really remarkable,” former Brewers owner and Commissioner Emeritus of Baseball Bud Selig said in Milwaukee on Thursday.

Selig was among a group of six figures from that AL champion team who gathered at the 3rd St. Market Hall to recollect the experience, engage in some good-natured ribbing and take part in a media session moderated by Brewers’ television broadcaster Brian Anderson. Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ted Simmons and Rollie Fingers – four of the six Hall of Famers on the ’82 team – and beloved 88-year-old broadcaster Bob Uecker rounded out the panel.

The friendships forged on that team have remained strong to this day, said Simmons, the team’s catcher. “There really isn’t a day that goes by in my life that one of these guys from this team ends up in my awareness,” Simmons said. “That’s what makes it wonderful when we all assemble.”


 

 

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Yount, the shortstop on the squad who to this day refers to the team’s former owner as “Mr. Selig,” also stressed how well the team bonded during that magical season.

“In all honesty, we don’t really reminisce,” Yount explained. “It’s like we’re back in the clubhouse again. It feels like we never left. It’s mind-boggling to think that it’s been as long as it’s been, but when we’re back together it’s like nothing has ever changed.”

Fingers, a dominant relief pitcher who helped establish the modern closer role and is noted for his waxed handlebar mustache, won three World Series titles with the Oakland A’s but said he will forever cherish the time he spent in Milwaukee. “In Oakland, there was a lot of bickering and fighting,” Fingers said. “With this club, it wasn’t like that. We all got along.”

Fingers relishes any chance to reconnect with members of the talented 1982 team. “It’s fun to be with these guys again,” he said. “The ’82 team was probably one of the best teams I’ve ever played on. The lineup that we had, there were no holes. I’m glad I had on a Brewers uniform. I would have hated to face these guys.”

Uecker claimed he spent more time hanging out with members of the 1982 team as a broadcaster than he did with teammates during his playing days. “The camaraderie that they allowed me to be a part of was really big time,” Uecker said. “I had a great time with these guys.”

The Brewers led fans on a wild and wonderful ride during the 1982 playoffs. The California Angels won the first two games of the American League Championship Series before the Brewers, affectionately known as “Harvey’s Wallbangers” for their offensive prowess under the leadership of manager Harvey Kuenn, rallied to win the next three games in Milwaukee and earn the franchise’s first pennant and a berth in the World Series.

The Brewers led three games to two in the World Series after a rousing 6-4 win at County Stadium in Milwaukee in Game 5, putting the team on the cusp of a championship. However, the Cardinals won the next two games in St. Louis to end the Brewers’ title quest.

“When we all finished that ’82 season, we all believed in our hearts that we would be back again the next year,” Yount said. “We thought we were that good and that team was going to compete again for a World Series and here we are 40 years later, and it didn’t happen.”

Despite falling short. fans swarmed Downtown Milwaukee for a parade to honor the team as it returned home following the heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Cardinals.

Selig figured the parade would be over quickly and would only draw a few diehard fans. What he heard from law enforcement officers who were patrolling the route left him stunned.

“They said, ‘We just closed Downtown. There’s over a million people there,’” Selig said. “This team brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people.”

Simmons recalls riding in a car with Ed Romero, a utility infielder on the team, while surveying the seemingly endless throngs of people who lined Downtown streets to greet their baseball heroes. “I said to Eddie, ‘These people think we won,’” Simmons recalled.

The Brewers, who moved to the National League in 1998, haven’t returned to the World Series in the four decades since that magical 1982 season.

Milwaukee’s lone World Series crown belongs to the Milwaukee Braves, who captured the title in in 1957 by defeating the vaunted New York Yankees in a seven-game series. The city’s current franchise its start as the Seattle Pilots in 1969 before relocating to Milwaukee the following year.

Several events are planned at American Family Field this weekend as part of the 40th anniversary celebration weekend, including a parade of players on the warning track followed by a ceremony prior to the Brewers’ matchup against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night. The ceremony will feature remarks by Selig, Uecker and current team owner Mark Attanasio. Ceremonial first pitches will be thrown by Yount, Molitor, Simmons and Fingers.

Molitor, the third baseman on the 1982 team, is rooting for the Brewers to soon get back to the World Series and win a title that has to this point eluded the franchise.

“I’m hoping there’s another team that takes our place and returns to the World Series and brings a championship to the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin,” Molitor said.


Photos: 

Bud Selig, Bob Uecker and Robin Yount; Photo by Rich Rovito
Brian Anderson, Bud Selig and Bob Uecker; Photo by Rich Rovito
Paul Molitor, Ted Simmons and Rollie Fingers; Photo by Rich Rovito
Paul Molitor, Ted Simmons and Rollie Fingers; Photo by Rich Rovito
Bud Selig, Bob Uecker and Robin Yount; Photo by Rich Rovito
Bud Selig, Bob Uecker and Robin Yount; Photo by Rich Rovito
Paul Molitor, Ted Simmons and Rollie Fingers; Photo by Rich Rovito
Brian Anderson, Bud Selig and Bob Uecker; Photo by Rich Rovito
Paul Molitor; Photo by Rich Rovito

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.