what team is this?: this is the 1981 milwaukee brewers, who won the american league east in the 'second half' of the season.
why this team?: this is the first milwaukee brewer team to reach the postseason. they wound up with the second best overall record in the american league in 1981 (62-47) behind the oakland a's, but lost to the yankees in the divisional playoff round in 5 games. i will still categorize them as division champions, just so i don't have to go and create some special label.
which players are featured?: cecil cooper, gorman thomas, paul molitor, robin yount, rollie fingers, and don money.
why these players?: this is a pretty good representation of the 1981 brewers squad, for the most part. let's break it down.
cecil cooper led the brew crew with a .320 batting average in 1981, good for 4th in the league. the first baseman also led the league in doubles (35), won the silver slugger award, and finished 8th in the league mvp voting. in the playoffs against the yankees, cooper hit .222 with 3 rbi.
gorman thomas, usually the brewers' center fielder, split the 1981 season between center and right field. he hit 21 home runs (5th in the league) and drove in 65 (8th) in 103 games. he made the all-star team for the first (and only) time, but was 0-1 in the game with a pinch hit pop out. in the postseason, thomas hit a home run in the brewers' decisive game 5 loss, but managed just one other hit during the series.
hall of famer paul molitor moved from the infield to the outfield in 1981, spending most of his time in center field for the brewers that year. unfortunately, he appeared in only 64 games during the regular season and hit only .267. molly hit just .250 in the alds, but had a big solo home run in the 8th inning of game 4 to break a 3-3 tie and force the series to a fifth game.
robin yount was the only brewer regular to hit over .300 in the postseason. he hit .316 over the five games, but had only one extra base hit and one rbi in doing so. he had hit .273 during the regular season with 30 extra base hits and 49 rbi - a down year for sure. he bounced back in a big way in 1982, however, as we will see in a few posts down the line.
rollie fingers had been traded from the padres to the cardinals after the 1980 season, and four days after that trade was completed, he was shipped to the brewers. the hall of famer did well during his first season in milwaukee, winning the cy young award thanks to a 1.04 era, 6-3 record, and 28 saves in 47 appearances. not only that, but fingers also won the mvp award, becoming the first american league reliever to have done so. the future hall of famer appeared in three of the five alds games, earning the win in game 3 and a save in game 4.
don money is the one player who probably doesn't fit here. he had played in only 60 games during the regular season, and hit just .216 as the brewers' primary third baseman. in the postseason, the former all-star saw action in two of the games, going 0 for 3 at the plate.
the stadium on the back is...?: milwaukee county stadium, home to the brewers from 1970 through 2000. it had hosted the milwaukee braves prior to that, from 1953 through 1965 after which the braves left for atlanta. county stadium even hosted a handful of white sox games in 1968 and 1969.
did upper deck get it right?: there are no issues with featuring this team since it was the first brewer team to reach the postseason, and it featured a lot of good players. and, upper deck did well with the player selection outside of don money. ted simmons, jim gantner, ben oglivie, or pete vuckovich would have been better choices based on their 1981 seasons. sal bando (who was already on the set checklist) would have even made more sense, as he was the team's third baseman in the playoffs, and his .294 average in the series was second to only yount's .316.
as for the photos, they all look about right for the period (based on the uniforms, hats, and thomas' batting helmet), but i would say that money's photo is from the mid 1970's. overall, not a bad effort by the folks in carlsbad.
is this team timeless?: i would say no. it is overshadowed by the 1982 brewer team that made it to the world series and included basically the same players.