Golden Baseball Magazine
Baseball's Memorable Games
The articles in this series focus on interesting games from baseball's rich history.
A game may be interesting because of its importance (for example, World Series Game 7s
or the last game of a pennant race), because of the individual achievements involved
(for example, a no-hitter or a four-homer game), or because of the wacky events that
occurred during the contest.
1981 ALDS - Game 5: Brewers @ Yankees
Almost every year was tumultuous for the New York Yankees when George Steinbrenner was owner, but 1981 reached new heights (or depths). Read A Bizarre Year - 1 and A Bizarre Year - 2.

The 1981 baseball season was rocked by a players' strike that began June 12 and forced the cancellation of 713 games (38% of the major league schedule).

  • When a settlement between the Players Association and owners was reached July 31, the season resumed. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced that the season would be split into two halves.
  • The winners of the two halves in each division of each league would meet in a best-of-five divisional series.
  • The rest of the playoffs would then proceed as in previous years with the East and West winners of each league meeting in another best-of-five series for a berth in the World Series.

A five-game winning streak right before the strike made the Yankees the first-half champions of the AL East.

  • The flaw in Kuhn's system was that the first half winners had no incentive to win the second half. If the same team won both halves of a division, they would have to play a wild card team from their division in the first round.
  • After going 34-22 in the first half, the Yankees sank to 25-26 in the second half to finish sixth.
  • With the uninspired Yankees just 14-12 part way through the second half of the season, manager Gene Michael, annoyed by Steinbrenner's constant interference, challenged the owner to fire him, which he did, replacing Gene with Bob Lemon, who had been NY manager in 1978 and '79. In one of his many unorthodox moves, George offered Gene the GM job, which he had held during the 1980 season.
    When George told Michael he regarded him as a "son," Gene replied that he was a good manager. "Sure you are," said Steinbrenner. "But why would you want to stay manager and be second-guessed by me when you can come up into the front office and be one of the second-guessers?"
  • The Milwaukee Brewers at 31-25 finished three games behind the Yanks in the first half of the season before winning the second half with a 31-22 mark to top the second place Red Sox by a game and a half.

Thus the Yanks and Brewers met in the best-of-five AL East Division Series.

  • When New York won the first two games at Milwaukee, they seemed a shoo-in to win the series with the final three games scheduled for Yankee Stadium.
  • But the Brewers bounced back with a 5-3 win in Game 3 and a 2-1 squeaker in Game 4.
  • After Game 4, Steinbrenner stormed into the Yankee clubhouse uninvited and began unleashing his wrath. He called his team "a bunch of overpriced fat cats If we lose, I'll take the heat, but all of you will be gone. You're an embarrassment.." As if that wasn't enough, George singled out C Rick Cerone for a baserunning mistake in the 2-1 loss.
  • RF Reggie Jackson told the press after The Boss's tirade, "If we don't win Sunday (Game 5), I'm gone. Others will be gone too. My brain can't handle much more of this."
    Cerone, who had the unenviable task of replacing the beloved Thurman Munson, who had died in a plane crash during the 1979, had been one of Steinbrenner's whipping boys all year. George's enmity toward Rick may have stemmed from Cerone winning an arbitration ruling before the '81 season that awarded him a $440,000 salary, $90,000 more than the club offered. Fed up with Steinbrenner's constant criticism, Cerone let him have it in the clubhouse after Game 4. "I'm sick and tired, and I'm not gonna take it anymore. Fuck you, you fat son of a bitch. You never played the game.You don't know what you're talking about."
    Steinbrenner replied, "And you won't be playing the game as a Yankee next year." Then he added ominously, "And we'll find out what you're made of tomorrow."
    After George stalked out, teammates congratulated Cerone for saying what many of them had been thinking but were hesitant to verbalize.
    But the owner surprised everyone the next day. Apparently regretting his threat, he left a note in Cerone's locker saying the incident should be forgotten. But don't screw up on the base paths again, he warned.
    It turned out that Reggie Jackson visited Steinbrenner's office several hours before the game and convinced George that he was being too critical of Cerone. "He's a gamer," said Reggie, "and he's been playing hurt most of the year. We need him." Jackson's intervention would pay big dividends in Game 5.

The starting pitcher matchup for Game 5 favored the Yankees.

  • Milwaukee manager Buck Rodgers had to go with his third-best hurler, Moose Haas, after using his top starter, Pete Vuckovich, in win-or-go-home Game 4. Haas went 11-7 in the abbreviated season with an ERA of 4.46.
  • Lemon would start his ace, southpaw Ron Guidry, who had the most wins of any Yankee hurler, 11, against five losses. "Louisiana Lightning" registered a 2.75 ERA. He had big game experience, having pitched in the 1977 and '78 World Series and the '80 ALCS.
  • After Game 4, the Yankee skipper pooh-poohed the "momentum thing." "We had the momentum in Milwaukee, then we come here and they kicked us in the butt. I don't know. I'd say both teams have a lot of pressure on them." His main worry was his team's hitting slump. "The way we're hitting, everyone wants to get out of bed and pitch against us. I hope we get a healthy pitcher tomorrow." He was referring to Vuckovich, who missed his Game 2 start because of a 104-degree temperature and flu-like symptoms. But it turned out to be tonsilitis, and he pitched beautifully in Game 4 to keep the Brewers' hopes alive.
  • Rodgers praised his club. "We've had our backs against the wall all year. This club doesn't know how to quit. I hadn't given up, and they hadn't either. We've got too much character to quit. We may lose tomorrow, but it won't be because we quit."

A less than capacity crowd of 47,505 gathered under a full moon on a 56° Sunday evening. Yankee fans had probability on their side since no playoff series ever had the visiting team win all the games.

Starting Lineups
Batting Averages are regular season.
Milwaukee Brewers
Paul Molitor CF .313
Robin Yount SS .273
Cecil Cooper 1B .320
Ted Simmons C .216
Gorman Thomas DH .259
Ben Oglivie LF .243
Sal Bando 3B .200
Charlie Moore RF .301
Ed Romero 2B .198
New York Yankees
Jerry Mumphrey CF .307
Larry Milbourne SS ..313
Dave Winfield LF ..294
Reggie Jackson RF .237
Oscar Gamble DH .238
Graig Nettles 3B .244
Bob Watson 1B .212
Rick Cerone C .244
Willie Randolph 2B .232

1st Inning

  • Paul Molitor struck out on a hard slider that sank into the dirt.
    Robin Yount broke his bat swinging at a slider, chopping the ball toward 3B Graig Nettles, who ignored the wood flying toward him to grab the ball at the bag and throw in time to first.
    Cecil Cooper sliced a looper to LF that Dave Winfield caught on the run and continued to the dugout.
  • Moose Haas, who didn't fare well as the starter in Game 1, got off to a good start.
    Jerry Mumphrey, leading off for the first time in the series, grounded to Cooper.
    Larry Milbourne replaced injured SS Bucky Dent down the stretch and acquitted himself well. He lifted a soft liner into LCF. CF Molitor and LF Ben Oglivie converged, and the ball went off Molitor's glove as the two fielders almost collided. Larry ended up on second with a double.
    Dave Winfield was 7-for-16 in the series but had not batted in a run. He sent a grounder between first and second. Cooper dove, knocked the ball down, and threw to Haas just in time for the out.
    Reggie Jackson had not lived up to his "Mr. October" nickname, going just 3-for-16 albeit with a two-run homer in Game 2. He smashed the first pitch out to deep RCF. The crowd came to its feet, but the ball landed in the glove of RF Charlie Moore on the warning track.

2nd Inning

  • Ted Simmons, batting right-handed, flew to Jackson.
    Gorman Thomas had struggled with a injured right thumb, which was why he was DH rather than in RF. He had struck out seven times with no RBIs. It looked like strikeout #8 when Guidry got ahead 0-2. Then Ron grooved a fastball that Thomas whacked into the LF stands.
    Oglivie struck out on a 3-2 hard slider.
    Sal Bando smashed the first pitch on a line to his counterpart, Nettles.
    Brewers 1 Yankees 0
  • Oscar Gamble bounced out 4-3.
    Nettles flew to CF to make him zero for his last 15 ABs.
    Yount threw out Bob Watson.

3rd Inning

  • After Moore flew out to LF, the Brewers loaded the bases.
    Ed Romero, playing in place of the injured Jim Gantner, blooped a single into LCF.
    Molitor drew a walk.
    On a hit and run, 2B Willie Randolph broke for the bag. Yount hit a grounder into the vacated area. Willie turned and dove for the ball to keep it in the infield and prevent a run.
    Cooper hit a sacrifice fly to LF, Molitor tagging and going to third and Yount moving to second..
    Guidry, pitching without his usual sharpness but with his usual heart, got Simmons to pop out to Watson to avoid further damage.
    Brewers 2 Yankees 0
    Brewer Don Money said afterwards, "We could have used a key hit right there with the bases loaded, but we didn't get it. A hit there would have changed the complete complexion of the ballgame."
  • The fans heartily cheered Cerone, who was anxious to do well more than any other Yankee. He lined the first pitch into CF for a single.
    At 3-for-17, Randolph had been demoted to the 9th position from the leadoff spot. He popped to 1B.
    Mumphrey chopped into a 6-3 double play.
4th Inning
  • Thomas hit the ball hard again but right at Nettles, who threw him out at first.
    Oglivie doubled his hit total for the series by blooping a single into CF.
    Bando whiffed.
    Moore worked the count full, then skied to Winfield.
  • Milbourne led off with a weak grounder that got past Haas and Yount and trickled into centerfield for a single.
    Lefty Mike Caldwell began throwing in the bullpen for Milwaukee.
    Winfield punched a soft liner to Moore.
    1-for-10 with runners on base in the series, Jackson turned the game around on the first pitch by powdering a hanging forkball off the RF upper deck facade to tie the game and set off a prolonged celebration in the stands and in the Yankee dugout. Reggie watched his clout before circling the bases.
    Haas said afterwards, "Reggie beat me. After he hit it and went back into the dugout, I gave him a nod. He gave me a nod back. I was just saying, 'Hey, you beat me.'"
    Molitor on Jackson: "His dramatic trot just seemed to pump that whole ballclub up. I think that swung the momentum a little."
    Sal Bando: "I knew Reggie was going to do something special by the way he swung his first time up. He hit the ball good that first time, and I was afraid of him. Everything positive they say about Reggie Jackson is true. He's special."
    Gamble followed suit by blasting another high curve into the RCF stands.
    Caldwell came in from the bullpen and was greeted by Nettles, who knocked the first pitch between 1st and 2nd.
    Watson hit a "seeing eye" grounder between the pitcher's legs and into CF. Nettles hustled to third.
    Rodgers made another change, bringing in rookie righthander Dwight Bernard.
    Cerone again swung at the first pitch, hitting a hopper that Young snagged in the hole, then twisted and threw to second for the forceout as the fourth Yankee run scored.
    The inning finally ended when Randolph flied to RF.
    Yankees 4 Brewers 2

5th Inning

  • Bob Lemon made a surprising change on the mound. He pulled the veteran Guidry in favor of another lefty, Dave Righetti. The 22-year old had comported himself well in his first major league season: 8-4 record, 2.05 ERA in 15 games, all starts.
    Lemon was undoubtedly influenced by Righetti fashioned in Game 2 of the series when he struck out 10 in six scoreless innings.
    As Righetti warmed up, fans in RF peppered Jackson with quarters in what had become a ritual at Yankee Stadium. Reggie asked the fans to please stop.
    Righetti overpowered Romero, striking him out on three pitches.
    Molitor rolled to Randolph.
    Yount fought off an inside fast ball, hitting a slow roller to Nettles and just barely beating the throw to first.
    Righetti had given up only two extra base hits to lefthanded batters all season. Cooper fouled off several strike three pitches before grounding to Randolph who stepped on second.
  • Throwing good sliders, Bernard set the Yanks down 1-2-3.
    Mumphrey flied to Molitor.
    Milbourne popped to LF.
    Winfield bounced to second.

6th Inning

  • Righetti retired the first two batters, then got into some trouble.
    First, Milbourne threw out Simmons.
    Thomas struck out.
    But after retiring the two righthanded hitters, Dave surrendered a ground single up the middle to Oglivie.
    Bando walked on a wide 3-2 delivery.
    Righty Ron Davis and southpaw Rudy May hurriedly started throwing in the NY bullpen.
    With the tying runs on the bases, Moore hit an easy fly to Jackson.
  • Rodgers brought in southpaw Bob McClure as his fourth pitcher to face three straight lefty swingers.
    Jackson poked a single into CF.
    Gamble, 0 for 11 against lefties during the season, fouled off two bunt attempts before fanning.
    Nettles lined to McClure, who easily doubled Jackson off first.

7th Inning

  • Veteran Don Money hit for Romero and popped to Watson, who leaned far into the stands to snag the ball with the tip of his glove.
    Molitor flew to center.
    Yount boomed a triple to LCF.
    Cooper swung late on a fastball and drove it between SS and 3B to cut the Yankee lead in half.
    Lemon came out to talk to Righetti as Goose Gossage got ready in the pen.
    Simmons struck out on a high fastball.
    Yankees 4 Brewers 3
  • Jim Slaton became Milwaukee's fifth pitcher to face three righty batters.
    He started well, getting Watson to bounce to Yount.
    Then Cerone, "the tough kid from Newark," blasted a 2-0 pitch into the LF stands. The crowd roared louder than they had for the homers by Jackson and Gamble to register their approval of the player that Steinbrenner said lost "five or six games this year because of stupid plays."
    Cerone: "For one second when I got to home plate, I thought of tipping my hat in Steinbrenner's direction. But that would've been showing him up. I don't show up my pitchers, my teammates, or my boss. ... I don't think I had anything to prove. I just wanted to go out and win the ballgame, because if we lose, it may be my last game as a Yankee. I have to admit that did run through my mind a bit."
    Steinbrenner said after the game, "Cerone's a battler. That homer broke their backs."
    Money: "Cerone's home run was the back-breaker. All we had to do was get one run to tie it up. Then it's 5-3. It's a little easier job getting one run than two, especially off Gossage."
    Randolph laced a single to LF.
    But Mumphrey hit a looping liner to 2B Money, who doubled off Randolph at first.
    Yankees 5 Brewers 3

8th Inning

  • Closer Rich Gossage, with 20 saves and a day's rest, took over the mound duties and blew away the first two batters, fanning Thomas and getting Oglivie on a pop to 1B.
    But Bando drew a walk.
    Roy Howell hit for Moore. Pitching from the stretch, Goose couldn't find the plate to put the tying run on base.
    Lemon, a Hall of Fame pitcher, visited the mound for a few words with his closer.
    Money, who respected the Goose but didn't fear him, made contact with a 1-2 slider and sent the ball flying toward straight-away LF. Then the horsehide started hooking toward the corner, where the fence stands only 312' from home plate. It keep hooking but didn't travel quite far enough. Winfield calmly reached up and caught it with his back about 2' from the wall.
    Money: "I thought it might hook and have enough to get out of here, but it just wasn't to be. ... I just didn't have enough oomph behind it."
  • Milbourne hit a liner to RCF and only Molitor's quick action in cutting off the ball and throwing to second prevented a double.
    Tommy John, a starter, began throwing in the New York bullpen.
    Winfield hit the ball off the end of the bat, and Molitor again had to use his speed to grab the fly.
    Southpaw Jamie Easterly came in to face Jackson and Gamble.
    But the move backfired as Reggie swatted a single to CF sending Milbourne to third.
    Lemon pinch-hit righty Lou Piniella for Gamble. But Rodgers stuck with Easterly with disastrous consequences. Sweet Lou hit the first pitch down the RF line, easily scoring Milbourne and putting runners on second and third.
    The infield came in with Nettles at the plate, but Graig negated the strategy by hitting a sacrifice fly to CF.
    Pete Vukovich came in to get the last out and did so, inducing a fly to CF by Watson.
    Yankees 7 Brewers 3

9th Inning

  • With the crowd roaring on every pitch, Gossage set the Brewers down in order.
    Molitor flied to CF Mumphrey.
    Yount popped to Milbourne down the LF line.
    Cooper fouled out to Nettles, and Frank Sinatra's voice on the PA sang, "Start spreading the news - New York, New York!"
    With that, Gossage saved Righetti's second win of the series, and the Yankees won their five AL East title in six years.

Watch a video of Game 5.


Brewers' Clubhouse

  • In a solemn locker room, Manager Rodgers said, "They should be proud of themselves. Those were a bunch of winners out there." He added, "Reggie's an actor on a state, just like Rollie Fingers. When that spotlight goes on, some people get stage fright. Other people react. Reggie reacts to the spotlight. He does his best when the spotlight's the brighest. That's the biggest difference between a superstar and a regular player. You've got to have a little ham in you."
  • Haas agreed with his manager.. "I don't think we have anything to be ashamed about. I think the big thing was to get here. To win this would have been so-called icing on the cake. Losing the first games at home, that hurt. But we didn't quit. ... We'll definitely be back. They're going to hear from us again."
    Moose's prediction came true when the Brewers won the 1982 American League pennant.
  • Simmons expressed his disappointment. "I thought we had them on the run, that the momentum was on our side."

Yankees Clubhouse

  • George Steinbrenner was nowhere to be found in the locker room. And very few writers wanted to talk to Bob Lemon, the laid back manager who was overshadowed by the owner and several of the players.
  • Rick Cerone said he didn't expect George to come talk to him. "I know that when things are said like he said after Saturday's game that most of it's frustratoin. I love New York, and I wouldn't ever try to do anything that would hurt this team. But that's all past."
  • Oscar Gamble said the challenge Steinbrenner gave the team in his visit to the clubhouse after Game 4 had nothing to do with the victory. "This game is played between the lines. Whatever was said yesterday meant nothing once you got out there. All we knew is that we had to pull together and go out and beat a great team that never quit."
  • Reggie Jackson said he eliminated all distractions, including the fact that he is in the final year of his contract. "When you're working, all you're thinking about is the breaking ball and heater. Maybe you think a little about him (Steinbrenner) when you cross home plate, not when you're working. All we wanted to think about was what would happen if we lost three in a row and make sure it didn't happen. This one is very satisfying, especially because of the way we played Saturday. I've been privileged to wear this uniform for five years, and I wanted to put on my best show for the fans. This club has a lot of character; this club doesn't give up. We knew what we had to do."
  • Lou Piniella: "We didn't want people to remember us as a team that choked, a team that lost three in a row at home. We're too good and too proud to let that happen."

Bowie Kuhn

Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner

Gene Michael

Bob Lemon

Rick Cerone

Buck Rodgers

Moose Haas

Pete Vuckovich

Ron Guidry

Robin Yount and Paul Molitor

Cecil Cooper

Dave Winfield

Jerry Mumphrey

Larry Milbourne

Ted Simmons

Gorman Thomas

Ben Oglivie

Sal Bando

Oscar Gamble

Graig Nettles

Bob Watson

Charlie Moore

Ed Romero

Lou Piniella