This isn’t the first time Cecil Cooper has taken part in the celebration of the 40th anniversary of a team that failed at the World Championships. In 2015, Cooper returned with the Red Sox, to commemorate the runner-up in the 1975 World Championships.
Surrounded by my fellow Milwaukee Brewers, Cooper said Friday, the only team in franchise history to make it to the World Series — and the team that meets regularly to celebrate anniversaries on the American Family Field.
The 1975 World Series is most remembered by the dramatic Homer Carlton Fisk, strongly suggesting that the ball stays fair and force a seventh game against the Cincinnati Reds. Seven years later, ‘Coop’ provided his signature moment for the 1982 Brewers postseason with a green light song against the California Angels in Game 5 of the ALCS, this time noting that the ball was “going down.”
“I guess that’s kind of what made me do it,” Cooper said, pointing to Fisk’s fabled arm waves. “The back of my head, probably.
“I’m surprised and happy to see so many players,” Cooper added. “There are still quite a few guys out there that are still around. A lot of these guys were still in baseball until the last few years.”
Cooper was among them, most recently as manager of the Houston Astros until 2009. Prior to that, his coaching career included a stint as a coach for the Pool Brewers.
Among those returning Friday were other former Brewers coaches, including bowler Mike Caldwell, Hall of Famer Ted Simmons and Robin Yount, second baseman Jim Gantner and reserve angler Ned Yost, whose career included an unforgettable run of his own in Boston during this period of time. The home extension of the 1982 season and management assignment that ended in 2008 – the year the Brewers returned to post-season for the first time since the 1982 season.
Cooper and Caldwell, along with Charlie Moore and franchise all-time leader Jim Slaton, took part in “Tap Takeover,” serving drinks to American Family Field sponsors ahead of Friday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. All the members of the 1982 team in attendance rode classic cars along the warning track and then gathered behind the house panel for a presentation by TV presenter Brian Anderson and radio legend Bob Ocker.
The team’s four live Hall of Famers – Yount, Simmons, Molitor and Rollie Fingers – threw the ceremonial first pitches.
“I think we celebrate this team not just because of what happened in 1982 but the people who were on the team and the characters and the relationship they created with the city,” said Brewers current manager Craig Counsell, the 12-year-old son of a Brewers employee who remembers finding on “lucky places” around County Stadium in his quest to conjure up the Brewers’ rounds during ALCS vs. Angels.
“They’re just a unique group of players, as a fan you bond with one of them, they’re your favorites… and that’s what always makes them. They’ve been a great baseball team also for a number of years.”
Former defensive player Ben Ogilvy said the players are keeping in touch, but he hopes the gathering will inspire more communication.
“We need to do a better job, talk and communicate instead of waiting now,” he said. “That’s a lot of years, five years (when the Brewers next honor the team). We might not get a chance to come back, so it’s better to make a call. The ball is in my corner too, not me, I have to start a call.”
Oglivie fondly recalled his legendary Baltimore sliding catch in the 1982 regular season finale, when the Baltimore and Brewers went to the season finale and tied in the Eastern Conference.
Not unlike the current Brewers, who have watched three-game lead in the division fade in the span of several days, the Brewers went to Baltimore needing one win in four attempts to snatch a trip to the ALCS. The first three, as most people remember, went to Baltimore in a convincing fashion.
Joe Nolan led 5-2 to eighth with two riders, and Joe Nolan’s shot to the left corner disappeared into the sliding Ogilvy glove.
“It was just instinctive hunting,” he recalls. “I would be afraid to see what would happen if the ball hit the ground. It would have been ugly. In that last game, I saw a lot of brooms (in the stands), playing in your head a little bit.”
Milwaukee climbed five runs into a ninth-place top and eventually won convincingly, 10-2, followed by a thrilling five-game win over the Angels and a seven-game loss to St. Louis. Ogilvy tripled among his six songs at the World Championships.
“I thought we were the better team,” Ogilvy said. “But you can’t just have the best team.”