October 5, 1982: Don Baylor concentrates, drives in five to lead Angels over Brewers in Game 1

This article was written by Ken Carrano

Don Baylor (THE TOPPS COMPANY)No one in baseball had a better view of Don Baylor’s 1982 season than Reggie Jackson, who usually followed Baylor in the California Angels batting order. And what he saw were a couple of different Baylor. “He can get with it in the clutch,” Jackson said. “Like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke: ‘He gets his mind right when he has to.’”1 “It’s obvious I don’t concentrate when there aren’t men on base,” Baylor said. “I am a completely different hitter with men on base. I do a lot more thinking when there are guys in scoring position. I look for pitches and I don’t go for home runs. I just try to hit the ball hard and drive it somewhere.”2

The American League Championship Series between the American League East champion Milwaukee Brewers and the West champion Angels promised to be a slugfest. “These are probably the two best offensive clubs in the American League. At least that’s what everyone said coming out of spring training. It’s pretty much held true over the course of the year,” said Brewers Game One starter Mike Caldwell.3 The numbers back this up. The Brewers and Angels were the top two teams in many AL stats, including runs per game (MIL 5.47 CAL 5.02). Jackson and the Brewers’ Gorman Thomasled the American League with 39 home runs. AL MVP Robin Yount led the league in hits, doubles (tied with Hal McRae), and slugging. But these teams could pitch as well. The Angels were second in team ERA at 3.82, with the Brewers sixth at 3.98. Dale Hoffman of the Milwaukee Sentinel said “Call this the Snow White series. Two teams are looking into a mirror this week and wondering aloud who is the fairest in the American League.”4 The Chicago Tribune’s Jerome Holtzman called the series “The battle of Muscle Beach.”5

The Brewers could be excused for trying to catch their breath going into the series. Leading the second-place Orioles by three games with four to play in Baltimore, the Brew Crew lost the first three of the series by a combined 19 runs, only to win the season final and the division crown, 10-2. The Angels run-up was calm by comparison; they clinched the division with a 6-4 win over Texas on the next-to-last day of the season. The Angels started 39-year-old veteran Tommy John to face the Brewers. John, traded from the New York Yankees at the end of August went 4-2 in September to help the Angels win the division. With this start, John would be pitching in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons, for his third team.6 

The sinkerballer did as expected in the top of the first, retiring all three Brewer hitters on infield grounders. His left-handed counterpart, Caldwell, coming off two losses to end the regular season, was not as fortunate. Brian Downing led off the Angels’ first with a single to center, and went to second on Caldwell’s error. After a wild pitch and strikeout, Baylor hit a sacrifice fly to center field, and Downing had the Angels’ first tally.

But the Brewers were not known as Harvey’s Wallbangers because of their fondness for the cocktail.7 Catcher Ted Simmons led off the second with a single to center, and Thomas hit the first home run of the series to give the Brewers a 2-1 lead. “It was kind of a sinker,” Angels catcher Bob Boone said. Not the good kind.8 John retired the Brewers in order after that, but gave up another run after consecutive singles by Paul Molitor and Yount brought up Cecil Cooper,whose fielder’s-choice grounder plated Molitor in the third. But the veteran John knew how to call on experience. “It was a typical Tommy John performance,” wrote a Los Angeles writer. “He was hit early, three runs in the first three innings, and then he shut the Brewers down the rest of the way. It’s an old story, but he’s an old pitcher.”9

Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn was surprised by the Angels lineup. Angels skipper Gene Mauch bunched four right-handed hitters at the top of the order, followed by three left-handers. “It surprised me,” admitted Kuenn. “You can do that when you’ve got left-handed hitters who can hit left-handed pitching.”10 Staked to a two-run lead, Caldwell found the difficulties that he had in his last two starts. Downing reached base to lead off the third with a walk, and Doug DeCincessingled to center, bringing up Bobby Grich, whose single scored Downing. Baylor then crushed a 386-foot triple off the right-center-field wall11 that scored DeCinces and Grich, and when Jackson’s groundout scored Baylor, the Angels had turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead. Baylor knew he had to adjust his approach against Caldwell. “I said to myself, ‘Tonight, if he pitches me outside, I’m going to the opposite field,’” said Baylor.12

Pitching again with the lead, John now settled in. “I’ll tell you, pitching against the Brewers is a chore — as you saw in the first few innings. But once we got up, it took a lot of pressure off me,’ John said after the game.13 The Brewers put two on in the top of the fourth with two out, but John induced a fielder’s-choice grounder from the ailing Jim Gantner, and the threat was ended. The Angels reduced the pressure on John further in the bottom of the fourth. A leadoff single by Boone ended Caldwell’s day, and Molitor’s error and a walk brought up Baylor again, this time with the bases loaded, facing Jim Slaton. Baylor stroked a single to left that scored Boone and DeCinces, and the lead increased to 7-3.

John was dominant the rest of the way, giving up only two-out hits in the fifth and eight innings, and hitting Charlie Moore with a pitch with two out in the ninth. “He pitched the same way tonight that he pitched six years ago,” said Simmons. As long as his bionic arm holds up, he’ll keep pitching that way.”14 John’s performance reminded Mauch of a Milwaukee legend, Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. “Once he got the humidity right and the wind right, he settled down and did the job,” Mauch said after the game15

Fred Lynn ended the scoring with a home run leading off the fifth inning. Baylor had a chance to set the record for RBIs in a game in the sixth when he came up with Grich on second after a double, but Slaton retired him when he snared a line drive at the mound before it could whiz into center field.16 “It was special for me to see Donny do well,” Grich said. We’ve played together for 14 of the past 15 years, and this might be our last week together.”17 Baylor’s contract was up at the end of the 1982 season. Baylor’s five RBIs tied the ALCS record set in 1969 by Paul Blair of the Orioles against the Minnesota Twins, and as of 2019 had been exceeded only once; by Johnny Damon of the Boston Red Sox in Game Seven of their 2004 ALCS series against the Yankees.

With the 8-3 loss, some may have wondered if the season-ending struggle the Brewers had with the Orioles may have been a contributing factor. The sentiment in the Brewers’ clubhouse was mixed, though there were some thoughts that maybe an emotional letdown was to be expected. “I think we were pretty much emotionally drained,” said Caldwell after the game. “I don’t think we were as keyed up as we could have been, but that’s no excuse” added Yount. We just didn’t play very good.18 With the ALCS a best-of-five series in 1982, the Brewers would have to play better quickly to reach their first World Series.



In addition to the sources listed in the notes, the author accessed,, SABR’s BioProject via, The Sporting News archive via Paper of Record, the New York Times archives, and the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times via


1 Malcom Moran, “Baylor Is a Success Despite Distractions,” New York Times, October 6, 1982.

2 Ibid.

3 Tom Flaherty, “This Should Be a Hitter’s Series,” Milwaukee Journal, October 5, 1982.

4 Dale Hoffman, “AL Look-Alikes Face Off Tonight,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 5, 1982.

5 Jerome Holtzman, “Don Baylor’s Five RBIs Rip Brewers,” Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1982: 69.

6 Mike Littwin, “John Is Still Up to His Old Tricks,” Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1982: 52.


8 Littwin.

9 Littwin.

10 Holtzman.

11 Holtzman.

12 Holtzman.

13 Vic Feuerherd, “Brewers Lose, 8-3, to Angels,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 6, 1982.

14 Murray Chass, “Angels Capture Opener as Baylor Bats in 5 Runs,” New York Times, October 6, 1982.

15 Holtzman.

16 Chass.

17 Chass.

18 Feuerherd, “Did Orioles Drain Brewers?” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 6, 1982.

Additional Stats

California Angels 8
Milwaukee Brewers 3 
Game 1, ALCS

Anaheim Stadium
Anaheim, CA


Box Score + PBP:

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