By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Oct 09, 2011 at 9:01 AM Photography: David Bernacchi

Go anywhere in Milwaukee and there is no escaping it ... 1982 is everywhere.

The current Milwaukee Brewers team is reminded of the franchise's greatest accomplishment to date on a regular basis. Members of that team still hang around the ballpark. Fans still speak about that team in near mythical reverence. The Brewers even wear jerseys based upon those worn by the '82 team.

To their credit, the Brewers of today have plenty of respect and admiration for what Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers and the rest of those Brewers did during that magical season. But at the same time, they've made it know that they'd like to write their own chapter in the franchise's annals.

Any hope of extinguishing talk of 1982, though, is out of the question this week. The Brewers open the National League Championship Series today at Miller Park against the St. Louis Cardinals – Milwaukee's opponent in the 1982 World Series.

Almost immediately, the comparisons started popping up.

The '82 team featured big-game pitchers like Don Sutton, Mike Caldwell and Pete Vukovich. As today's Brewers have a lockdown closer in John Axford, Rollie Fingers was automatic as it gets in '82. The Brewers' lineup of sluggers then, which included Gorman Thomas (throwing out the first pitch today), Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie and Robin Yount is as fearsome as today's version, which is anchored by Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks.

"That team is something to be proud of," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "That was an awesome team. Some of those guys, they're friends of mine, personally. They still come around. I think it's awesome that they come out here and support us. We want to make those guys proud."

Today's Brewers, though, are quite adamant about being remembered for their own accomplishments, and taking the step the '82 team couldn't.

"We hear so much about the 1982 team," said outfielder Ryan Braun. "We want to have our own legacy, we want to be a team that the city of Milwaukee can be proud of.

"The fact that we've at least made it to the National League Championship Series accomplishes that. Winning the division wouldn't have been enough.

"Hopefully we'll continue to have some success we'll be another team that everybody can be proud of and can look back on and in the year 2050, somebody gets sick of talking about the 2011 Brewers."

Cardinals are rolling

To get back to the Fall Classic, the Brewers will face a tough test. The Cardinals come into the series on a roll, having won 20 of their last 28 games to clinch the National League wild card on the final day of the season before forcing the Phillies, the best team in baseball in 2011, to five games in the NLDS.

St. Louis' hot streak started right here in Milwaukee, of all places. The Cardinals were off on Monday, Sept. 29 and in the standings, were 10.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. The next day, the two teams opened a three-game set at Miller Park and the Cardinals took all three, cutting the lead to 7.5.

A week later, the teams met again in St. Louis. The Cardinals dropped Game 1, 4-1, but took the next two, kicking off a stretch of 12 victories in 14 games. Just like that, the Cardinals had put the pressure on both Milwaukee, and in the wild card race, Atlanta.

Game 1 starter Jamie Garcia thinks the "must-win" mentality of September has paid dividends so far in the postseason, and will be a big factor in the Cardinals' performance in the NLCS.

"For us the whole month of September it was like playoffs," Garcia said. "We had to win every single game and not worry about what the other teams were doing. That got us ready for the playoffs. Then facing the best team in baseball, we were taking it the same way we were taking the games before."

The two teams split 18 regular season games, with each side winning nine times, five at home and four on the road. The familiarity means there are few secrets left to divulge so it all comes down to execution.

"You saw in the last series the games that we pitched well we come out and all of a sudden we don't pitch well a couple of games," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "If you do not pitch well against the Cardinals, they're going to hammer the ball. They're going to score a lot of runs. We've got to pitch them well.

"On the same end, we've got to keep coming through with some big hits, keep getting people on base, putting pressure on them. But knowing them gives you -- doesn't give you necessarily an advantage, but what it does is it let's you know that if you execute what you need to do that you can get them out."

Brewing rivalry

The '82 meeting was dubbed the "Suds Series" due to the large brewing industries in Milwaukee and St. Louis. Sure, beer is still a big part of each city's legacy, but on the field, a heated rivalry has been brewing between the two teams.

The Cardinals have long been the alpha dog in the NL Central, with the Brewers rebuilding themselves into a legitimate challenger. Along the way, feathers have been ruffled on both sides.

There was the infamous bean ball war at the end of the 2007 season. A year later, en route to an NL wild card berth, the Brewers drew the ire of the Cardinals by untucking their jerseys after victories. This year, there were allegations from the St. Louis side that the LED ribbon board was adjusted by the inning to give the Brewers an advantage; suggestions that signs were being stolen and to top it off, a fracas between St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter and Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan.

The animosity was turned up a notch Saturday, when Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke said many of the Brewers "don't like" Carpenter very much.

"They think his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude," Greinke said. "But ... and then he yells at people. He just stares people down and stuff. And most pitchers just don't do that.

"And when guys do, I guess some hitters get mad. Some hitters do it to pitchers. But when you do that some people will get made. There's other pitchers in the league that do it, but I don't know, a lot of guys on our team don't like Carpenter."

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, sure to hear plenty of boos from the Milwaukee crowds this weekend, had this to offer:

"I think the Brewers should take care of their players and their comments and not be concerned about other players' comments," La Russa said. "If they had Chris Carpenter, they would be cheering for him and believing in him and they would not be allowing somebody who was a teammate to make a crack like that."

Often times, teams will downplay the suggestion of a rivalry, choosing to publicly offer kudos, compliments and respect. There's no sugar coating the situation between the Brewers and Cardinals, though.

"It's definitely a rivalry," Braun said. "For us, for the fan bases ... the fact that we're in such close proximity, St. Louis isn't very far from Milwaukee, it's a rivalry for sure."

All the other nonsense – '82, the rivalry, St. Louis' hot streak – is put aside though today when the series gets under way. Yes, the Brewers know there are plenty of story lines but there is one goal in mind.

"We're excited to be here, we're excited that we have an opportunity to compete for a chance to go to the World Series," Braun said. "Regardless of who we're playing, the object for us is to win."