By Doug Russell Special to Published Sep 06, 2011 at 3:33 PM

How many Brewers fans does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: 10. One to actually do the work, and nine to stand around and complain about how much better light bulbs were in 1982.

The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers were almost a mythical team, steeped in the ancient lore of an overall unsuccessful franchise (13 winning seasons with three playoff berths and no championships in 43 years qualifies as "unsuccessful").

That squad has both been what every Brewers team has to be compared to, as well as a thorn in the side of the current squad, anxious to get out from underneath the shadow of a club that played before most of them were born.

To older Brewers fans, 1982 is the sacred cow of the franchise, spoken of in only the most reverent of terms. To younger Brewers fans, 1982 is only something they have heard and read about, many wondering why a team that lost the World Series is still celebrated to this day.

Today, as the Brewers begin to look ahead to the postseason with the division title well in their grasp, comparisons and debates are taking place in taverns and water coolers all around Wisconsin.

So which team is better – 1982 or 2011? Let's look at it position-by-position. The only disclaimer is that the 2011 statistics are in games through Labor Day, which is taken into consideration in the final verdict.

Let's begin with the everyday lineup:

First base

1982: Cecil Cooper – .313, 32 HR, 121 RBI, .528 SLG

2011: Prince Fielder – .293, 31 HR, 107 RBI, .544 SLG

The toughest one to call. Fielder has been an MVP candidate all season long, but sometimes Brewers fans, especially younger ones, forget how great a player Cooper was from 1978 to 1983. Cooper placed in the top 10 in MVP balloting each year from 1980 to 1983, but was often overshadowed by his Hall of Fame teammates. Offensively a draw, but Cooper's gold-glove caliber play gives him the slight edge in the end. Verdict: 1982

Second base

1982: Jim Gantner – .295, 4 HR, 43 RBI, .369 SLG

2011: Rickie Weeks: – .272, 19 HR, 43 RBI, .478 SLG

What hurts Weeks here is his durability. Injuries have hampered him not only this season, but throughout his career. Gantner's steady glove earns him points, but not enough to make up for Weeks' live bat when he does return to the lineup. Even with injuries, Weeks gets the slight nod. Verdict: 2011


1982: Robin Yount – .331, 29 HR, 114 RBI, .578 SLG

2011: Yuniesky Betancourt – .254, 10 HR, 56 RBI, .378 SLG

Not even Yuni's mother would give him the nod in this match-up. Verdict: 1982, in a landslide.

Third base

1982: Paul Molitor – .302, 19 HR, 71 RBI, .450 SLG

2011: Casey McGehee – .239, 21 HR, 65 RBI, .364 SLG

Not even Yuni's mother would give Casey the nod in this matchup. Verdict: 1982, in a landslide


1982: Ted Simmons – .269, 23 HR, 97 RBI, .451 SLG

2011: Jonathan Lucroy – .275, 11 HR, 55 RBI, .405 SLG

Lucroy is a steady up-and-comer, and the Brewers are quite happy he is theirs. However, Simmons probably should be enshrined in Cooperstown when you compare his numbers to the other catchers of his era. Simmons is one of the great underrated players of his time. Verdict: 1982

Left field

1982: Ben Oglivie – .244, 34 HR, 102 RBI, .453 SLG

2011: Ryan Braun – .335, 27 HR, 95 RBI, .595 SLG

Oglivie was a very good power hitter for several years and played a solid left field, but this is no contest. Braun might wind up holding almost all of the Brewers offensive records by the time he is done. Verdict: 2011, easily

Center field

1982: Gorman Thomas – .245, 39 HR, 112 RBI, .506 SLG

2011: Nyjer Morgan – .308, 4 HR, 33 RBI, .436 SLG

In 2011, Morgan has had the most number of starts in center field, so I'll use his offensive numbers. Carlos Gomez is a defensive wizard, but he has not shown any ability to hit major league pitching. Thomas and Morgan are both fan favorites, but for very different reasons. This one is closer than I thought it would be upon first glance. Verdict: 1982

Right field

1982: Charlie Moore: .254, 6 HR, 45 RBI, .360 SLG

2011: Corey Hart: .283, 23 HR, 54 RBI, .501 SLG

Hart's continuing maturity as a ballplayer has paid high dividends for the Brewers, who rewarded him last season with a three-year, $26.5 million contract extension. While Moore was a solid defender with a rocket arm, Hart's total package makes him an easy choice. Verdict: 2011

Starting Rotation

1982: Pete Vuckovich –  18-6, 3.34; Mike Caldwell: 17-13, 3.91; Moose Haas: 11-8, 4.47; Bob McClure –  8-7, 4.22; Don Sutton –  4-1, 3.29; Randy Lerch – 8-7, 4.97.

2011: Yovani Gallardo – 15-9, 3.68; Zack Greinke – 14-5, 4.00; Shaun Marcum – 12-5, 3.11; Randy Wolf – 12-9, 3.47; Chris Narveson – 10-6, 4.26.

A very tough call. In 1982, the Brewers had the Cy Young Award winner in Vuckovich, which is tough to ignore. Also, GM Harry Dalton's addition of Sutton on August 31 propelled the Brewers into the playoffs and past the Angels in the ALCS. Yes, Sutton was awful in the World Series, but his experience and guile were enormous intangibles. In 2011, Marcum has been even better than advertised, and Greinke has yet to lose at home. Gallardo always seems to be on the cusp of superstardom, but that has eluded him thus far. Without Sutton, 2011 would have a decided edge. Verdict: Draw


1982: Rollie Fingers – 2.60, 29 saves; Pete Ladd: 4.00, 3 saves; Dwight Bernard – 3-1, 3.76; Jerry Augustine – 1-3, 5.08; Jim Slaton – 10-6, 3.29; Jamie Easterly – 0-2, 4.70.

2011: John Axford: 2.23, 41 saves; Francisco Rodriguez – 2.79 in 19.1 IP; Kameron Loe – 3-7, 3.44; LaTroy Hawkins – 1-0, 2.57; Marco Estrada – 4-8, 4.20; Tim Dillard – 1-1, 4.81; Takashi Saito – 4-1, 2.11.

No contest. The Brewers bullpen has been a savior in 2011, as well as one of the best in baseball. In 1982, Fingers was sorely missed down the stretch. Ladd filled in admirably, but it just wasn't the same. Axford rebounded from a tough April to emerge as one of the game's elite closers. Verdict: 2011

Key bench players

1982 – Roy Howell (DH), Don Money (DH), Mark Brouhard, Marshall Edwards, Ned Yost, Ed Romero and Rob Piccolo.

2011 – Mark Kotsay, George Kottaras, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Josh Wilson and Craig Counsell.

No one will ever forget Yost's huge 3-run home run over Fenway Park's Green Monster on Sept. 29, but that was Ned's lone highlight that season. Edwards was a solid glove man, but didn't offer much at the plate (.247 in 178 AB). Money's 16 home runs came mostly as the Brewers designated hitter. Meanwhile, this year's bench has played an enormous role in propelling the Brewers to the division championship. Kotsay's two walk-off hits both came in critical games, and his professionalism has been welcomed in the clubhouse. Hairston has taken over every day at second base in Weeks' absence, and Wilson's versatility in the field has made him indispensable. Counsell has been awful at the plate, but steady in the field and a tremendous leader in the clubhouse. Verdict: 2011

So there you have it. 1982 wins at first base, shortstop, third base, catcher, and center; while 2011 wins at second base, left field, right field, bullpen and bench; I rated the starting pitching a draw.

Overall, my gut tells me that 2011 is the better Brewers team, but history will likely judge them only based upon how far they go in October.

It should be a fun ride.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.