As the MLB lockout continues and trades aren’t able to be made, let’s look back on one of the most important trades in Brewers franchise history, which happened 41 years ago today on December 12th, 1980.
Many Brewers fans know exactly the trade of which I speak. If you thought the January 25th, 2018 acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain on the same day were huge, they still don’t even compare to the blockbuster deal that went down in 1980.
Then in the AL and not division rivals with St. Louis, the Milwaukee Brewers struck a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, one that would alter the Brewers franchise’s direction and put them on the path to the World Series.
On this day in Brewers history, Brewers GM Harry Dalton completed a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals that brought two future Hall of Famers to Milwaukee.
This trade would give the Brewers back-to-back Cy Young winners, with Fingers winning the award in 1981 and Vuckovich claiming the title in 1982. They were the only Cy Young winners in Brewers franchise history until Corbin Burnes won it this year.
Fingers also won AL MVP in 1981, as a reliever. Do you realize how impossible that is? To win Cy Young and MVP as a relief pitcher? He pitched in 47 games, threw 78 innings, and allowed just nine earned runs all season for a 1.04 ERA. He led the league in saves with 28.
Vuckovich, meanwhile, only led baseball in wins that season and led the league in winning percentage while finishing a solid 4th in Cy Young voting in 1981 as well.
These two star pitchers, along with Ted Simmons, one of the greatest switch hitting catchers of all time, immediately turned the Brewers into an AL powerhouse. They won the division and made the playoffs for the first time in 1981 and then made it all the way to the World Series in 1982, where they would face off against the team they made this trade with: The St. Louis Cardinals.
We know how that series ended.
If Rollie Fingers hadn’t been hurt that postseason, things likely would’ve gone differently. But he was hurt, and then he missed the entire 1983 season before playing two more years in 1984 and 1985. Vuckovich pitched in just 3 games in 1983 and then missed all of the 1984 season as well and he was never really the same after that.
Simmons had good seasons in 1982 and 1983, while also putting up good numbers in 1985. But he couldn’t get this team back to where it wanted to be on his own, and without Fingers and Vuckovich dominating on that staff, they just didn’t have enough pitching to get it done.
This trade, however, gave the Brewers their first two postseason appearances as a franchise, their first and, to this date, only World Series appearance. It would’ve given them a World Series victory had an injury not struck one of these players in this trade.
Regardless of how 1982 turned out, this was one of the best trades in Brewers franchise history. The Brewers acquired two future Hall of Famers and another Cy Young winner for zero future Hall of Famers and zero future Cy Young winners. This trade gave the Brewers what they desperately needed, a balanced team and some postseason success.
This trade altered the course of the Brewers franchise, and did so for the better. And it happened 41 years ago today. Time flies, doesn’t it?