Inspired by Taylor Swift re-releasing her own songs as (Taylor’s version), Camden Chat writers will be spending the rest of 2023 re-releasing some Orioles game recaps and giving them better endings. Next up is the 1982 season finale, in which the Orioles and Brewers entered the last game of the season tied for first place, facing off for a trip to the postseason. Let’s forget about what actually happened and try this reimagined account instead.
BALTIMORE, Oct. 3, 1982 — It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that today’s showdown between the Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers was one of the most important regular season games the O’s have ever played. Heck, it was one of the most important regular season games any team has ever played.
For just the third time in major league history, two teams tied for first place played each other on the last day of the season. Win and you’re the AL East champion; lose and you go home. Two Hall of Fame-bound pitching legends, Jim Palmer and Don Sutton, squared off on the mound. Oh, and this afternoon was the final regular season game ever managed by surefire Hall of Fame Orioles manager Earl Weaver (assuming that he doesn’t, like, come back for another managing stint in a few years, but what are the odds of that?).
The fact that the O’s were even in this position was remarkable. They entered this four-game series three games behind the first-place Brewers, who needed just one victory to clinch the division. But the Birds steamrolled them in the first three — outscoring Milwaukee 26-7 — to set up this winner-take-all finale.
With so much at stake, and a raucous, sellout crowd of 51,642 on hand at Memorial Stadium, what a letdown it would have been in the O’s hadn’t finished the job. But I’m happy to report that they did. The Orioles pulled off an incredible late-inning comeback, stunning the Brewers with seven runs in the bottom of the eighth, to seal an 8-5 victory, complete the four-game sweep, and punch their ticket to the playoffs.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Orioles are the AL East champs.
What an improbable path it’s been to get here. This is an Orioles team that started the season 2-10, suffering a nine-game losing streak within the first three weeks. They stormed back into the race by summer, then seemingly torpedoed their chances again with a 7-16 spell in mid-August, only to rattle off a sensational 33-10 stretch to bring them to this afternoon’s finale.
It’s only appropriate, then, that this game was just as much of a roller coaster ride as the whole season has been to this point. The Brewers stormed out to an early lead, seemingly grabbing all the momentum onto their side, until the O’s flipped the script with their dramatic, last at-bat rally.
Palmer, who’s been no stranger to pitching huge games in his long tenure as the Orioles’ ace, didn’t really have his best stuff today and took an early exit. Milwaukee’s great shortstop Robin Yount, who’s likely on his way to AL MVP honors for this season, greeted Palmer with a first-inning homer, then swatted another solo shot in the third. The Brewers also scored a run in the second (on a Roy Howell RBI groundout) and in the sixth, which Cecil Cooper led off with a homer. Palmer walked the batter after Cooper and was pulled from the game, with a final line of four runs allowed in five innings. Reliever Tippy Martinez followed with two scoreless innings before surrendering a run of his own in the eighth.
Meanwhile, Sutton — whom the Brewers acquired from Houston at the trade deadline for occasions just like this — kept the Birds in check all day. He wasn’t exactly dominant, tossing just one clean inning, but the O’s couldn’t take advantage of their early scoring opportunities. Through seven frames, they had 10 baserunners but scored just one of them, on a Glenn Gulliver third-inning homer.
So there it was. In the bottom of the eighth, the Orioles trailed, 5-1, and seemed all but buried. And that’s when Orioles Magic took hold as the O’s pulled off an epic rally for the storybooks.
Sutton seemed to be tiring, issuing back-to-back walks, though he did manage to record a couple of outs. Then, pinch-hitter extraordinaire Terry Crowley delivered an RBI single off the bench, making it 5-2. Next, Weaver sent up another pinch-hitter, Joe Nolan, who represented the tying run.
The lefty-swinging Nolan swatted a deep fly ball into the left-field corner. Brewers outfielder Ben Oglivie raced to the wall, made a feet-first slide, and...missed the ball by just a hair. Phew! Man, if Oglivie had made that catch, it would’ve completely snuffed the O’s rally, and you’d probably hear Howard Cosell say something like, “That was as tremendous a play as you will ever see.” Instead, the ball rattled around in the corner for a double, plating both runners to make it 5-4.
The O’s could feel themselves pulling the momentum to their side, and the capacity crowd at Memorial reached deafening volume, finally having something to cheer about. Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn, sensing the game slipping away from Sutton, turned to veteran lefty Bob McClure out of the bullpen. But Weaver continued to pull every lever to gain the advantage, sending up three more pinch-hitters in a row, all right-handed. John Shelby delivered the big hit, a game-tying single, and an increasingly frazzled McClure walked both Dan Ford and Benny Ayala to load the bases.
That brought up Eddie Murray for his second at-bat of the inning. Bases loaded. Two outs. Tie game. And Eddie, as we’ve seen so many times in his O’s career and will see many times more, came up clutch. He laced a shot into the gap in left-center, prompting an eruption from the ecstatic crowd. All three runners raced home and Murray cruised into second with the go-ahead, three-run double. The Orioles led, 8-5, as chants of “Ed-DIE! Ed-DIE!” descended from the seats.
What a moment. What a scene. The Orioles’ seven-run eighth-inning had put them in the driver’s seat, and the bullpen finished things off with a scoreless top of the ninth to seal the Birds’ thrilling victory and send the Brewers home. It doesn’t get any better than that.
After the game, the crowd stayed to cheer on the Orioles and especially Weaver, though the true celebration will have to wait. Earl’s career isn’t over just yet — his team is headed to the ALCS. They’ll take on the AL West champion California Angels, whose lineup is full of ex-Orioles: Bobby Grich, Doug DeCinces, Don Baylor, and Reggie Jackson. If that series turns out anything like today’s game, it should be a barnburner.