Perhaps more than any other, two trades have predicated the Milwaukee Brewers’ two greatest eras of contention in their 50 years of baseball.
One was in January of 2018, the Christian Yelich trade that made the Brewers an instant contender and made his former team, the Miami Marlins a pretender.
The other was in December of 1980. It didn’t make the trading partner a pretender, but it powered the Brewers’ surge to greatness.
The Brewers made a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for two future Hall of Famers and a powerhouse starting pitcher.
Milwaukee gave up David Green, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Lary Sorensen in the trade. None of them became stars in their new locale seven hours southwest of the Brew city.
All three Brewers certainly panned out.
Rollie Fingers, a three-time World Series winner with the Oakland A’s, was only a Cardinal for four days before becoming a Brewer. He earned the 1981 American League Most Valuable Player award and that year’s Cy Young award for his 6-3 record, 1.04 ERA and 28 saves in just 47 appearances during the strike-shortened campaign.
Ted Simmons, a perennial All-Star with the Cardinals, became the same with the Brewers as he entered the home stretch of a Hall of Fame career.
Pete Vukovich became Milwaukee’s stopper on the mound. He led the American League in winning percentage in both 1981 (14-4) and 1982 (18-6) and earned the 1982 American League Cy Young Award winner.
Fingers and Simmons are now enshrined in Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The three of them combined with 1982 AL MVP Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper and others to lead the Brewers to their first two playoff appearances in franchise history (1981-82) and came within one win of their first-ever World Series championship in 1982.
Whom did they lose to?
The Cardinals. With assistance from Green and LaPoint.
But the Brewers would never have made it there without a masterful trade by GM Harry Dalton that made the Brewers a championship contender.