COMMENTARY | The Milwaukee Brewers couldn't have asked for a better start to the 1982 World Series.
They made easy work of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1, shutting out the Redbirds 10-0 behind a strong pitching performance from Mike Caldwell and a 5-hit effort from Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.
Already, the Brewers had gained home-field advantage, something they quite frankly should have held right off the bat. Milwaukee won 95 games during the regular season compared to St. Louis' 92 victories, but home-field advantage alternated from year to year between the American League and National League prior to 2003.
Nevertheless, Milwaukee put itself in a good position moving forward. A Game 2 victory at old Busch Stadium would not only be icing on the cake but also a potential dagger to the Cardinals' hopes of winning the '82 World Series.
Before analyzing the exact call that came under question during Game 2, we'll preface it with the proposed expansion of instant replay in 2014. Since 2008, baseball has used replay on boundary home run calls, but with instant replay readily available and so many calls that are impossible for the human eye to pick up, replay expansion has been necessary for quite some time.
The idea is that managers will be given three challenges -- one in the first six innings and two in the final three -- to use throughout the game (via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports).
Of course, there are issues with that train of thought, but that's an argument for another time. Considering that Major League Baseball will have finally joined the 21st century next season, it got me thinking about the one call or play I'd like to review in Brewers history. Naturally, since the Brewers have only reached one World Series in franchise history, we hop in the time machine and travel back to 1982.
Milwaukee managed to jump out to a 4-2 lead in Game 2, but in the bottom of the sixth inning, HOFer Don Sutton ran into some trouble. The Cardinals would tie things up and threaten again in the eighth against a Rollie Fingers-less Brewers bullpen.
It should be noted that the controversial call I'm about to discuss is something that likely won't even be reviewed under baseball's new replay policy -- balls and strikes. Still, considering the high stakes and what it eventually led to, this particular call warrants discussion.
With two men on and one out, St. Louis left fielder Lonnie Smith took a 3-2 pitch and it was called a ball, despite the pitch appearing to catch the outside corner. The walk loaded the bases, and then Steve Braun drew another walk after Brewers reliever Pete Ladd was rattled from the supposed missed call (via Dave Heller of JSOnline). With the bases-loaded walk, the Cardinals took a 5-4 lead, the eventual final score.
"I think it was there. The ump said it was outside. Umps are never wrong, they say. But I had no chance of hitting it."
That quote came from Smith himself following the game.
Instead of a tie game entering the ninth inning, the Brewers were thrown into the pressure-cooker, down to their final three outs. Instead of being provided with an opportunity to grab the lead and take a 2-0 series lead back to County Stadium, Milwaukee lost all momentum -- not only because of the loss of MVP relief pitcher Rollie Fingers to injury but also because of a missed strike-three call.
In seven games, St. Louis would best Milwaukee for its 9th World Series championship. Since the Suds Series, the Cardinals have won two titles. The Brewers? They have two playoff appearances.
Again, it's likely not a reviewable call and the Brewers still would have had to pull out the victory in Game 2. But Ladd was squeezed, it impacted the game and therefore the World Series -- the only World Series appearance in Brewers franchise history.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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