The Milwaukee Brewers played in the American League East division from 1972-93. In 2017, the Brewers will play many of their old foes from the East in Interleague matchups. Baltimore, Boston, Toronto, and the New York Yankees are all on the schedule this season. To celebrate the glory days of the old AL East, I’ve created a “classic opponents” series of blog posts. I’ll be covering great games, opposing teams, and even individual players from the East, particularly from Milwaukee’s golden baseball era of 1978-82.
Baltimore was a mighty opponent of those classic Brewers teams, with an impressive roster of their own. The second half of 1980 Orioles were a force to be reckoned with, but just before that team went on an incredible run, the O’s met up with a Brewers pitcher they just couldn’t solve.
Just Call Him Moose
Bryan Edmund “Moose” Haas was born in Baltimore on April 22, 1956, making him 24 years old when he returned to face his hometown team in 1980. Haas said his dad thought he was going to be a big kid, so he nicknamed him “Moose” at birth.
Haas made his first appearance for the Brewers in late 1976 as a September call-up. He pitched three innings in relief of Jerry Augustine and gave up a run, but did not figure in the decision – an 8-0 loss to the New York Yankees.
When Milwaukee met Baltimore on June 3 at Memorial Stadium, it was the second of a three game series. The Brewers had already won three of four from the Orioles in Milwaukee earlier in May, and Haas picked up a 9-1 victory. But he had yet to win at Memorial Stadium – at least as an adult. Haas’ pitching helped his team win the Baltimore City Sandlot Championship held at Memorial Stadium when he was 16 years old.
This time Haas would be facing the likes of Al Bumbry, who was batting right around .350, and the always dangerous Eddie Murray. Most pitchers admit to having one guy they hate to face, and Hass said the slugging Lee May was his Baltimore nemesis.
The Brewers countered with one of their standard lineups for the time, minus Larry Hisle who had just been placed on the disabled list. Dick Davis batted cleanup in the designated hitter role in the absence of Hisle. Also missing was manager George Bamberger due to bypass surgery during spring training, although he would return to the team just a few days later. Buck Martinez got a start and caught for Haas.
Baltimore Threatens, Milwaukee Scores
The Orioles first threat came in the bottom of the first when Rich Dauer reached on an error that got him to second base. A grounder moved Dauer to third but he was stranded when Eddie Murray flew out.
Milwaukee struck first in the top of the second inning. With one out, left fielder Ben Oglivie singled. Right fielder Sixto Lezcano doubled to right field, moving Oglivie to third base. After a Gorman Thomas strikeout, Jim Gantner (playing third base that night) rapped a singled to center, scoring both runners. Milwaukee jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.
Pat Kelly walked in the bottom of the fourth and Eddie Murray singled to put runners at first and second with one out. Haas came back to get designated hitter Lee May to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Haas vs. May II
Cecil Cooper smoked his seventh homer of the year to lead off the ninth inning, giving Milwaukee a 3-0 lead. Sammy Stewart remained on the mound for Baltimore and came back to retire the next three hitters in order.
The Orioles mounted one last comeback attempt in the bottom half of the inning. After Rich Dauer grounded out to lead off, Pat Kelly walked. Eddie Murray singled to right and again runners were at first and second base. Haas responded to the uprising by striking out Lee May.
“I always have trouble with Lee May,” Haas said after the game. “He has hit five or six home runs off me. I stuck him out with a fastball and he usually hits them pretty good.”
Catcher Dan Graham represented the last hope for the O’s, but he grounded out to Paul Molitor at second base to end the game. The Brewers won 3-0 in front of 16,143 fans, 18 of which were invited by Haas. He said he had hometown guests before at Memorial Stadium before, but they unfortunately witnessed three losses.
“It was a long time coming, but it sure felt nice,” Haas said. “There’s always a lot of pressure on you pitching in your home town.”
Baltimore managed just five hits on the night and all were singles, two of those off the bat of Eddie Murray. Haas walked left fielder Pat Kelly twice, and the Brewers allowed one runner to reach via an error. The Orioles went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base. On this night, the philosophy of O’s manager Earl Weaver to “sit back and with for the three run home run” didn’t work out.
Brewers interim manager Buck Rodgers was impressed with the pitching performance by his starter. He said, “Moose really pitched well. He got ahead of every batter and that’s why he was so strong at the end. I’ll bet he threw 30 changeups.”
On the other side, Sammy Stewart also went the distance. He gave up just five hits, but three of those came in the second inning and led to Milwaukee scoring two runs. Stewart fell to 1-5 on the season.
1980 – A Look Back
The Milwaukee victory helped improve their record to 25-21, and they snapped a three game Orioles winning streak. The Brewers were 3.5 games out of first place to that point, but of course they fell way behind after that and never caught up. Milwaukee finished in a distant third place at 86-76.
Baltimore fell to 23-25 with the loss, but they were about to go on an incredible run, highlighted by a 21-8 August and 21-9 September. Baltimore put up separate winning streaks of ten and eight games in August, and even were a half game back of the New York Yankees as late as August 28. At 100 wins, they fell just short of catching the 103-win Yankees for the AL East title.
As for Moose Haas, he threw the most innings of his career in 1980 (252.1), won the most games (16), and struck out the most batters (146). He posted a 3.10 earned run average on the year. For comparison, Haas cruised to a 13-3 record with a 3.27 ERA in 1983, but those numbers came in a smaller sample size (25 starts vs. 33 in 1980).
Lee May was nearing the end of his career and he played in just 78 games for the Orioles in 1980, hitting .243 with seven homers. After the season he became a few agent and signed with the Kansas City Royals. Lee played 26 games in 1981 and 42 games in 1982 for the Royals before retiring. “The Big Bopper” picked up his 2000th hit in 1981.
The two teams played pretty even baseball in 1980, with the Orioles winning seven games and the Brewers six. Baltimore scored 51 runs in those contests and Milwaukee put up 52 runs. When these clubs met, literally anything could happen!
My book Building the Brewers: Bud Selig and the Return of Major League Baseball to Milwaukee is available to be ordered on the McFarland website.
(The story you just read is not part of the book)