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Thirty years ago, Crew closed on AL East title

MILWAUKEE -- Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of one of the great nights out in Brewers history.

Former Milwaukee slugger Gorman Thomas retold the story of the 1982 Brewers' harrowing finish this week at Miller Park. The team moved to the brink of its first division crown on Sept. 29, 1982, when backup catcher Ned Yost blasted a go-ahead home run over Boston's Green Monster that gave the Brewers a four-game lead over the Orioles in the American League East with five games to play.

For the next three nights, the Brewers were on their best behavior. This was out of character for a group famous for doing its part to keep Milwaukee's breweries in business.

"I remember we locked ourselves down for three nights, and got our butts handed to us for three straight days," Thomas said, referring to the final night in Boston and the first two at what is now the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys in Baltimore.

Said Jim Gantner, the second baseman on that team: "It was an unspoken thing, like, 'Well, we can celebrate tomorrow.'"

But the celebration remained on hold. The Brewers lost their finale in Boston, lost both ends of a doubleheader in Baltimore on Oct. 1 and then were thumped again on Oct. 2, 11-3. They fell into a tie with Baltimore with one game left to decide the division.

"The last night we said, 'Forget this, let's go out and do what we normally do,'" Thomas said. "So we did, and we came out the next day and scored 10 runs."

Against Baltimore's Jim Palmer, no less. Robin Yount homered in the first inning and again in the third, Cecil Cooper drove in three runs, Don Sutton pitched eight outstanding innings and the Brewers punched their postseason ticket with a 10-2 win.

Thirty years later, memories of that night out are fuzzy. Gantner remembers most of the team gathering in the hotel bar and talking baseball into the night.

"We had fun," Gantner said. "We were pretty good at that."