MLB Playoffs back in Milwaukee

David Koier, Courier Staff

For those of you who have read my articles before, you know I am a fiend for all things Wisconsin. And, for all of you who are baseball fans, you know that this past Wednesday, the Milwaukee Brewers clinched a spot in this year’s MLB postseason for the fifth time in franchise history, after completing the three-game sweep on division rival the St. Louis Cardinals.

As a lifelong fan of the Brew Crew, I was bouncing off the walls after watching Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress strike out Cardinals pinch hitter Tyler O’Neill, to clinch their first trip to October since winning the NL Central back in 2011.

With only four previous playoff appearances in franchise history, this team is special for the fans of the Brewers. One of the seven teams in the MLB who have never won a World Series in franchise history, the Brewers are looking to bring a championship to Milwaukee. While the Brewers franchise may not have won a World Series, the city of Milwaukee has tasted championship gold before.

Back in 1953, the Braves organization relocated to Milwaukee from Boston and were welcomed as heroes to the city that hadn’t seen a baseball team in decades. 1.8 million fans came out to County Stadium to see the Braves post a .597 winning percentage in their inaugural season in Milwaukee.

That success, led by sluggers Eddie Matthews and Hank Aaron, didn’t take long to bloom into a pennant, as the Braves headed to the 1957 World Series against the Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle led New York Yankees. The Braves brought that World Series trophy home to Milwaukee after beating the Bronx Bombers in seven games.

After the 1965 season, the fans of Milwaukee were heartbroken and baseball-less as their beloved Braves moved to their current home of Atlanta. Milwaukee was crushed. The Milwaukee Braves are the only team in the modern era to play more than one season and never had a losing record and now they were in Atlanta.

It wouldn’t be until 1970 that the city would have baseball again. Bud Selig, a car dealership owner in Milwaukee, purchased the failing Seattle Pilots expansion team and moved them to Milwaukee, renaming them the Brewers in the process. Fans didn’t take too lightly to the move as they were still sour on the “betrayal” by their former team.

With many promising prospects developing over the years (specifically future hall of famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount) and some killer free agent signings, most specifically Oakland Athletics power pitcher Rollie Fingers, the Brewers brought the playoffs back to Milwaukee.

The 1981 season saw a dominant pitching performance by aces Pete Vuckovich and Mike Caldwell. The hitting for the Crew wasn’t too bad either as Yount, Molitor, second-baseman Jim Gantner and first baseman Cecil Cooper, helped the team to 96 home runs and a overall .257 batting average.

Rollie Fingers was a force from the bullpen. His 1.04 ERA, 61 strikeouts and 28 saves not only helped the Brewers to an ALDS appearance, but also saw the closer receive the AL Cy Young and MVP awards. The Brewers fell in five games to the Yankees in the ALDS, but that didn’t stop the Brewers.

Milwaukee saw an even more dominant team the following year. A league leading 216 home runs and league runner up .279 batting average earned the Crew their appropriate nickname of “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after newly appointed manager Harvey Kuehn.

Yount was the 1982 AL MVP after leading the league in hits (210), doubles (46), slugging percentage (.578) and total bases (367). Brewers ace Vuckovich was the American League’s Cy Young award winner.

The ’82 team saw a franchise record, with four players being sent to the All-Star game with Yount and Cooper start in the midsummer classic.

After a clutch five game ALCS against the California Angels, the city of Milwaukee had a World Series once again. The teams split the first four games at two a piece before the Brewers took game five 6-4 at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, putting them one game away from giving Milwaukee a championship.

A 13-1 rout by the Cardinals saw the 1982 World Series head to a game seven that the Brewers just couldn’t win. The Cardinals won game seven 6-3 and were the champions of the world.

The franchise wouldn’t make the playoffs again until 2008. Power hitting duo Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun and the pitching of mid-season acquisition CC Sabathia helped the Brewers win the NL Wild Card spot, bringing the postseason back to Milwaukee for the first time in 26 years. The Crew fell to the eventual World Series champs Philadelphia Phillies four games to none in the NLDS.

It would only take three years for Milwaukee to have October baseball back. Led by NL MVP Ryan Braun, with help from Prince Fielder, as well as outfielders Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez, the Brewers saw their first division win since 1982.

The Brewers won the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games on a walk-off base hit by Morgan. The Brewers went on to lose in the NLCS to who else but the same team they lost to in 1982, St. Louis Cardinals who ended up winning that year’s World Series.

I, as well as the city of Milwaukee, are dying to see a World Series win by this team. It has been 61 years since the city has seen a championship and almost 50 years in the franchise’s history without a trip to the Series. Milwaukee is looking to clinch the NL Central but is also ready to fight their way through the wild card to make it to the finale.

This team can do it, and I can’t wait to watch it happen.