By Drew Olson Special to Published Aug 13, 2007 at 5:30 AM

Because he didn't begin covering baseball in Milwaukee until 1985, Tom Haudricourt didn't get to experience the hysteria of Harvey's Wallbangers as a first-hand observer.

But, he had a great time chronicling it as a historian.

In his role as baseball writer for the Journal Sentinel (and it's predecessor, the Sentinel), Haudricourt crossed paths with most of the key members of the Brewers' 1982 American League Championship Team at one time or another. Earlier this year, Haudricourt sought out each member of that memorable outfit -- from Robin Yount to Randy Lerch -- and conducted in-depth interviews about that unforgettable season.

The book that resulted from that work "Where Have You Gone, '82 Brewers? Catching up with Robin, Vuke, Coop and the rest of Harvey's Wallbangers," hits shelves this week just as the members of that team assemble for a 25th anniversary celebration that will feature a golf tournament and a pre-game ceremony on Tuesday night at Miller Park.

"It's the first-ever compilation of interviews with all the players from that year," Haudricourt said of the hardcover book, which retails for $19.99. "That team was full of great characters and they told some incredible stories.

"I know it sounds self-serving, but I'm pretty sure that anybody who reads this book will learn something about these guys that they did not know. I've been around some of these guys a lot over the years and there were stories that I had never heard.

"It was really just a matter of getting a hold of everyone, turning on a tape recorder and asking them to tell their story."

Published by KCI Sports, the Stevens Point-based publisher that released recent books by Packers president Bob Harlan and University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, Haudricourt's book is broken into 33 individual chapters. Twenty-nine of them deal with individual players, while the others are devoted to team owner Bud Selig, general manager Harry Dalton, manager Harvey Kuenn and the four players (Bob Skube, Doug Jones, Chuck Porter and Kevin Bass) who were with the club briefly that season.

"When I talked to the publisher, Peter Clark, about the book, we agreed that we didn't want to put out a 200-page novel that you have to read from beginning to end," Haudricourt said.

"We're dealing with something that happened 25 years ago and everybody already knows what happened to that team; how they beat Baltimore on the last day of the season, came back to beat California in the ALCS and lost the World Series to St. Louis in seven games.

"We wanted it to be a series of vignettes, because that format has worked in so many other sports books."

Once the decision was made to write a chapter on each player, Haudricourt knew his mission was clear.

"I knew I needed two things: stories that nobody has heard before and information on what the players have been up to in the 25 years since that season," Haudricourt said.

It's the behind-the-scenes stories that will make Haudricourt's book a hit with diehard Brewers fans. Paul Molitor revealed how the crowd noise at Busch Stadium may have played a pivotal role in a key World Series moment.

"As a third baseman, Paul could not see the signs from the catcher," said Haudricourt, who covered Games 6 and 7 of the '82 World Series for his former paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"Robin Yount could, so they worked out a system. When a pitcher was going to throw a breaking ball to a right-handed batter, Robin would whistle so that Paul could move a step or two closer to the line.

"In the din of Busch Stadium, Molitor didn't hear Robin whistle. He didn't move over and Lonnie Smith hit a double down the line. Paul still wonders if he could have stopped the ball if he had moved over a few steps."

Other secrets are revealed throughout the book. For example:

Do you know what movie Selig watched -- twice -- during a sleepless night befor the season finale in Baltimore?

Do you know who interrupted Don Sutton's breakfast hours before he pitched that pivotal game?

Do you know whose bat Ned Yost borrowed to hit a pivotal home run in Boston? Or, which Brewers pitcher was obsessed with a favorite condiment and carried it around in a briefcase?

You will if you read the book.  "Some of the stuff is pretty amazing," Haudricourt said.

As he collected the interviews, Haudricourt was struck by how close the '82 team was both on and off the field.

"The book is full of stories of these guys messing with each other," he said. "It was an amazing clubhouse. They were constantly pulling pranks and verbally abusing their teammates."

Closer Rollie Fingers, whose injury in the final month may have cost the team a championship, was a favorite target.

"I guess Rollie didn't handle it very well," Haudricourt said. "He got mad when they did things to him and that made him a target. One of the things they would do was steal his car keys at the start of the game, put a pencil through the ring and suspend the pencil over a cup of water so that the keys would dangle in the liquid. Then,, they'd put the cup in the freezer for a few hours.

"When Rollie tried to leave after the game, he'd have to chip his keys out of the ice. The other guys would be laughing and he'd be swearing at them. They did a lot of things like that."

Because of the way the book is presented, there is some repetition of detail. Haudricourt said that was unavoidable because of the format.

"There are certain facts that have to be in there to support the narrative of each player," he said. "I couldn't just leave out the fact that the Brewers beat the Angels in five games, because people might be reading the chapters out of order. Some facts are repeated in different chapters, but they are repeated in a way that relates to the individual player."

Because he only had a few months to submit his manuscript, Haudricourt did not have time to include a chapter on the Brewers coaches or Kuenn's predecessor, Buck Rodgers, who was fired in early June.

"I kind of regret that," Haudricourt said. "We were a bit pressed for time and now I kind of wish that I had included a chapter on the coaches and talked to Buck to get his take on what happened that season.

"Overall, though, I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I think that Brewers fans are going to enjoy this book because there were so many great characters on that team and the stories they tell are amazing."

Haudricourt dedicated the book to his wife, Trish, and enlisted longtime Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker to write the forward.

"I made sure that Uecker's name would be bigger than mine on the cover," Haudricourt said. "I'm no dummy. That was my idea. I showed it to Ueck and said 'Look, Bob, your name is bigger,' and he looked at it and said 'As it should be.'" 

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.