October 15, 1982: Willie McGee’s two homers sinks Brewers in Game Three of 1982 World Series

This article was written by Stew Thornley


Game Three of the 1982 World Series was the first Series game in Milwaukee since 1958. It was the first World Series for the Milwaukee Brewers, who had entered the league in 1969 as the Seattle Pilots, and the 13th World Series for their opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Milwaukee had a heavy-hitting lineup that had led the majors in runs scored in 1982 and became known as Harvey’s Wallbangers, after manager Harvey Kuenn.

Kuenn was a former All-Star who still maintained his crusty look with a chaw of tobacco in his left cheek. He was a tough man who had endured heart-bypass surgery in 1976 and later had a leg amputated because of a blood clot.  

Kuenn had been a coach for the Brewers starting in 1971. He managed the club for its final game in 1975 and took over again in early June 1982, succeeding Buck Rodgers with Milwaukee near the bottom of the standings.

The Brewers came back and were tied for first with the Orioles in the AL East  as the two teams met in Baltimore in the final game of the regular season. Milwaukee beat the Orioles to take the division title and then, after losing the first two games of the American League Championship Series to the California Angels, won the next three to go to the World Series. Kuenn got a telegram from a sore loser in California, saying he hoped termites would eat his artificial leg.1

The World Series opened in St. Louis, and the Brewers took the first game as Paul Molitor set a Series record with five hits.

The Cardinals took Game Two, the winning run forced in on back-to-back walks in the bottom of the eighth. The plate umpire, Bill Haller, took some heat for his tight strike zone, and in Milwaukee fans heckled him and held up anti-Haller signs. Years later, Haller was asked about the guff he received and answered, “I deserved it. It was one of the worst games I ever worked.”2

A County Stadium record crowd of 56,556 came for the third game. Many were too young to remember the last World Series game in the city, and those of all ages were excited. In the early innings, the fans jumped in anticipation on every batted ball, especially when Molitor opened the last of the first with a long drive to center.

Willie McGee, who had come up to the Cardinals in May and finished third as the National League’s Rookie of the Year balloting, drifted back to the fence, waited, leaped, and hauled in the drive, interrupting the enthusiasm of the crowd.

In the top of the second, George Hendrick reached first in a strange way. He hit a chopper that came down behind third base. As Molitor fielded the ball, third-base umpire Jim Evans threw his hands in the air before bringing them down toward fair territory. The signal confused everyone. First-base umpire Dave Phillips, thinking Evans had called the ball foul, put up his arms as Molitor sailed a throw to first. Cecil Cooper stretched for the throw and may have come off the bag.

Evans and Phillips huddled with plate umpire John Kibler and ruled Hendrick safe, bringing Kuenn out of the dugout. After being told that Cooper had been pulled off the base by the throw, Kuenn asked his first baseman if that was true.

Cooper said he didn’t know but added, “He said ‘foul ball’ over there,” pointing to Evans. Hendrick, standing on first base, lightened the mood by saying, “It was [my] blazing speed that did it, I tell you.” 

Kuenn replied, “Hey, George, I know better than that.”3

The official scoring panel credited Hendrick with a single, which was the only St. Louis hit until the fifth, when Lonnie Smith doubled.4 After Dane Iorg reached on an error, McGee homered to right to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead.

The Cardinals added another run in the seventh when McGee came up again, this time with a man on third. He dealt with some chin music from Pete Vuckovich but hung in and hit the next pitch over the fence in right to make the score 5-0.

McGee, who hit only four home runs during the regular season, had upped his postseason total to three. He had homered during the National League Championship Series and also had a triple that could have been an inside-the-park home run had he been watching third-base coach Chuck Hiller and seen Hiller waving him home.

On the mound, the Cardinals’ Joaquin Andujar was cruising. He had given up only two hits and a walk entering the last of the seventh. With one out Ted Simmons hit a hard one-hopper that smashed into Andujar’s right knee. The pitcher fell to the ground in pain and had to be carried off the field.

The injury didn’t affect the outcome of this game but may have had an impact on subsequent games. Jim Kaat relieved and got an out before giving up a single. Doug Bair came in and walked pinch-hitter Don Money. This caused St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog to call for fireman Bruce Sutter, who had also entered the previous game in the seventh inning.

Sutter got the final out of the inning but in the eighth gave up a two-run homer to Cooper.

St. Louis added a run for a 6-2 lead in the top of the ninth, but in the bottom of the inning Ben Oglivie led off by reaching base on an error. Gorman Thomas then sent a fly to deep center. McGee raced back, jumped, and made a backhanded catch, probably robbing Thomas of a two-run homer.

Willie McGee, the sensational rookie, had done it all – leaping catches in the first and last innings and two home runs in between – to put the Cardinals back in front in the World Series, two games to one. McGee didn’t go long again, but by the time the Series was over, he had hit more home runs in the postseason than the rest of his teammates combined.

 

This article appears in “From the Braves to the Brewers: Great Games and Exciting History at Milwaukee’s County Stadium” (SABR, 2016), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. To read more stories from this book at the SABR Games Project, click here.

 

Notes

1 “Game 3 Notes,” The Sporting News, October 25, 1982, 19.

2 Haller made his comments while speaking at the convention of the Society for American Baseball Research in St. Louis on July 28, 2007. He also said, “You should never read the paper when you’re in the crapper,” although it wasn’t clear what point he was trying to make with this observation.

3 1982 Milwaukee-St. Louis World Series highlights, produced by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.

4 The official scorers were Jack Herman of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Dave Nightingale of The Sporting News, and Dick Young of the New York Post. Sources: The Sporting News Official Baseball Guide, 1983, and Bill Shannon, Official Scoring in the Big Leagues: A Primer for Baseball Fans  (New York: Sports Museum Press, 2005), 40.

Additional Stats

St. Louis Cardinals 6
Milwaukee Brewers 2
Game 3, WS


County Stadium
Milwaukee, WI

 

Box Score + PBP:

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