By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Apr 02, 2007 at 5:28 AM

The season openers for the 1957 Braves and 1982 Brewers served as signs of things to come for both teams.

Warren Spahn pitched a four-hitter as the Braves beat the Cubs, 4-1, in the '57 opener at Wrigley Field.

Lew Burdette followed that up a couple days later with a six-hitter and Henry Aaron homered for the game's only run in a 1-0 victory over the Reds in the home opener at County Stadium.

"The Braves got off to a fast start that year, and most days I found myself in the middle of the action," Aaron recalled in the book, "I Had A Hammer." "I hit a home run against Hal Jeffcoat as Burdette shut out the Reds in the opener."

A crowd of 41,506 watched the start of a great season. The Braves won nine of 10 games in April, their best start since moving to Milwaukee in 1953.

"Six of those wins were against the Cincinnati Redlegs," Eddie Mathews recalled in Bob Buege's book, "Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime." "We always got into fights and rhubarbs with those guys, but we also had a lot of success against them.

"We played them in our home opener and Burdette beat them, 1-0. Throughout the whole game - in fact the whole season - the Reds were screaming and moaning about Burdette's spitter. They insisted he was juicing up the ball, which he was.

"Birdie Tebbetts was their manager, and he complained to the umpires about Burdette all the time. The Cincinnati hitters would ask the umpire time and time again to check the ball. Tebbetts even had movies taken of Lew when we were in Cincinnati, but they never figured out or proved he was throwing a wet one. I never found out either how he got his spitball going. He never would tell me. The CIA couldn't have found out. To this day, Lew won't tell me."

It was the fifth straight home opener win for the Braves. Once they lost an opener at County Stadium, a popular joke circulated: "You hear you can't drink beer at County Stadium anymore....They lost their opener."

Of course, that would have been a disaster for any self-respecting Milwaukee baseball fan if it had been true.

The 1982 Brewers clubbed the Blue Jays, 15-4, in the season opener at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. Pete Vuckovich won the slugfest and benefited from a 16-hit attack, which set a Brewers' Opening Day record.

Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie and Robin Yount had three hits each. Cooper and Oglivie drove in four runs each.

"It was contagious," Yount said of the Brewers' offensive prowess in that opener and in the '82 season overall. "You saw all these big hitters and you find you're doing it too."

The Brewers also whipped the Blue Jays, 14-5, in that opening series. They played at Cleveland before finally returning to Milwaukee to open the home season.

They did open at home on April 16 and lost in 10 innings to the Rangers. Reliever Danny Darwin, who later would become a Brewer, beat future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers in that opener. A throng of 49,887-many who had to shift "sick days" to make it to the revised home opening date - watched the contest.

Moose Haas held the Rangers to one run through eight innings of the home opener, but Fingers, who would develop arm problems as the season went on, gave up three runs on five hits in relief.

The game would be an indicator of things to come in the early months of the '82 season, as the Brewers struggled to a 23-24 record. Then, Harvey Kuenn took over as manager in June, and the team soared.

The Brewers' Opening Day lineup in Toronto included: Paul Molitor 3B, Charlie Moore C, Cecil Cooper 1B, Ben Oglivie LF, Gorman Thomas CF, Larry Hisle DH, Robin Yount SS, Mark Brouhard RF, Jim Gantner 2B, Pete Vuckovich RHP.

Of course, by the time the Brewers reached the World Series, Hisle was on the disabled list, Moore had moved to right field and Brouhard had become a part-time player who would still contribute a great deal to the team's pennant win.

More will be documented on the milestones in the Braves' and Brewers' pennant drives in future stories in this monthly series.


Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.