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  • A History of Heartbreak 1982-2011: Will the Brewers Disappoint Us Again?

    Michael Trzinski

    Anyone who is a Wisconsin sports fan will probably remember the benchmark of the second iteration of Milwaukee baseball--the 1982 Brewers. In the brief 54-year history of the Brewers, only a handful of teams are mentioned when two or more Brewers fans get together for a brat, a beer, and to talk Brewers baseball. 

    Image courtesy of © Rick Wood / USA TODAY NETWORK

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    If you want to travel further back in time, set your ‘wayback’ machine to October 1957 when the Braves were all the rage in Brew City, beating the Yankees for the World Series crown. But that’s a story for another day.

    The ‘82 campaign was a magical year that Brewers fans will never forget. It was the only time the team reached the World Series, and to even get to the American League Championship Series (ALCS), the Brewers had to beat Baltimore on the final day of the regular season, owing to three straight losses that weekend to the O’s to bring the season to a ‘winner-take-all’ match-up on Sunday, October 3. 

    Robin Yount hit two homers and a triple. At the same time, late-season acquisition Don Sutton allowed only two runs in eight innings in a 10-2 Milwaukee victory, propelling the team to the ALCS against the formidable California Angels. After dropping the first two games in Anaheim, Milwaukee came back home and took three thrilling games at County Stadium to advance to the first World Series in franchise history. 

    The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Brewers in the Fall Classic, four games to three. It has been argued by some that a season-ending injury to Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers was enough to cost the Brewers a Series title. But in truth, he probably could have made the difference in Game Two, in which the Cards pulled out a 5-4 win. But most of the other contests were blowouts one way or the other, or Brewers wins. 

    The Brewers have made six post-season appearances since that extraordinary season 41 years ago. Milwaukee came close before losing a pair of National League Championship Series (2011, 2018), two National League Divisional Series (2008, 2021), and two Wild Card series or games (2019, 2020).

    Here is a brief summary of those seasons, each one an arrow in the heart of Milwaukee baseball fans.

    2008: CC Sabathia becomes a Milwaukee hero
    In early July, Carsten Charles (CC) Sabathia, Jr. was traded from the Indians to Milwaukee for four players. It was arguably the best second half by a pitcher in Brewers history. He went 11-2 with an ERA of 1.65 and lost a no-hitter on a bogus call by the official scorer in a game at Pittsburgh on the last day of August. His 17 starts included seven complete games and three shutouts, both of which led the National League. In half a season! That is domination.

    Milwaukee won 20 of 27 games in August and then struggled in September, going 10-16. They finished second in the NL Central, trailing the Chicago Cubs by seven-and-a-half games, but qualified for the wild card spot.

    The Philadelphia Phillies won both games at home in the NLDS, including hammering Sabathia in the second game. Dave Bush kept the Brewers alive with a 4-1 win in Game Three, but the Phillies were too much for Jeff Suppan in Game Four, as the Brewers dropped a 6-2 decision. The Phillies would go on to beat Tampa Bay for the World Series title.

    2011: The Cardinal jinx continues
    The Brewers started the season 0-4 but fought their way to the top of the NL Central in late July and never looked back, finishing with a mark of 96-66, six games ahead of St. Louis, who would get its revenge later.

    Milwaukee beat the Diamondbacks, taking three of five games in the Divisional Series. The Brew Crew won two games at home before Arizona returned the favor back in Chase Field, sending it to Game Five at Miller Park. Nyjer Morgan (Tony Plush) singled in Carlos Gomez in the bottom of the 10th for an exciting 3-2 win. Next up: the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL pennant.

    The two teams went back and forth in the first five games, with the Cards holding a 3-2 edge. But St. Louis got off to a fast start in Game Six, scoring four runs in the first inning on the way to a 12-6 victory, sending St. Louis to the World Series, where they beat the Texas Rangers in seven games.

    PART TWO: Four straight years in the playoffs (2018-2021), coming soon!

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