Brewers honor 1982 club with mentality, win

Former AL champions speak highly of current first-place club

Brewers honor 1982 club with mentality, win

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers of the present lined the top step of the dugout Saturday for a ceremony honoring the Brewers of the past, marking the 35th anniversary of the 1982 American League champions. Then they channeled those franchise favorites for a 3-2 win over the Phillies amid an electric atmosphere at Miller Park.

This year's Brewers have now won 11 of their last 13 games and are a season-high 11 games over .500 atop the National League Central.

There were homers, naturally. Hernan Perez hit one go-ahead shot in the sixth inning and Travis Shaw delivered the game-winner in the eighth, with '82 home run co-champ Gorman Thomas on hand. The '82 Brewers led the Majors with 216 homers, and this year's club already has 142. Only the Astros have more.

There was a quality start from Jimmy Nelson, whose 3.27 ERA through 19 starts is actually a hair better than Pete Vuckovich's mark on the way to the AL Cy Young Award in '82. And a save from Corey Knebel, who did his best Rollie Fingers impersonation in the ninth while extending his record strikeout streak.

"Tonight's about them," Shaw said of the players past. "Just a great anniversary for this organization. A lot of good players on that team. For them to all come back and us to get a win tonight, it's kind of a perfect night."

It has been two banner nights for the Brewers, who were welcomed back from the All-Star break on Friday night by a sellout crowd of 41,941. Another 37,950 fans packed Miller Park on Saturday, most of them in their seats in time for a pregame ceremony that featured Hall of Famers Fingers and Robin Yount, one soon-to-be Hall of Famer in Brewers founder Bud Selig and a swath of other memorable players.

Some made comparisons between that Brewers team and this one. Not in terms of experience -- the '82 club was stocked with veterans and was coming off five consecutive winning regular seasons -- but in terms of power, and of verve for the game.

"Heck, they've got chemistry like we had," former second baseman Jim Gantner said. "You can see that in the dugout, how loose they are and how much fun they're having. That's what it takes to win. That's what we did in '82."

Said Ted Simmons, whose long baseball resume includes stints as an All-Star catcher, general manager, farm director and scout: "People ask, 'What comes first? Is it confidence or winning? Winning breeds confidence. Confidence breeds winning."

Gantner, Simmons on '82 Brewers

The way Simmons sees it, every player should wake up the morning of a game day and ask himself, 'Are we better than them?' Simmons remembers going position by position. 'Is our third baseman better than theirs?' With Paul Molitor, the answer was usually yes. Simmons found himself answering in the affirmative all over the diamond.

"When a team says to itself every morning in their own little house, 'You know, we're better than everybody,' then the swagger comes," Simmons said. "Then the confidence comes. Then the winning comes, because they all realize they have the best team."

Does it look to Simmons like the 2017 Brewers are beginning to believe?

"This team is asking the question of itself," Simmons said. "They're saying, 'I don't know if we're the best yet, but we're pretty good, so you better take it seriously.'"

Simmons on '82 Brewers

The 2017 Brewers have a very long way to go. But as Nelson put it, "We're playing with a lot of energy, and who knows what can happen? Who knows what we can do?"

"I think what was fun was that there was a good atmosphere in the park to start the game," said manager Craig Counsell, who was in the stands himself for many games back in '82. "It felt like that team was so close. They were older players, but they were close. They had a ton of fun playing together. They were great teammates together. That's something this group has created, for sure. It is an honor for us to be compared to that team. That was a heck of a baseball team."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.