The 1982 Brewers already were leading their division in early August, but general manager Harry Dalton knew they needed one last ingredient to get them "over the hump."
On Aug. 30, Dalton sent three players (Kevin Bass, Frank DiPino and Mike Madden) to Houston in exchange for Don Sutton.
Sutton, already on a Hall of Fame track, validated this deal with strong pitching down the stretch, including a victory in the do-or-die final game of the regular season in Baltimore.
"Don Sutton was experienced and was great in the clutch," former Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner said in a recent interview. "He gave us the extra arm on the staff to get us over the hump."
Years after making the trade, the late Dalton recalled, "Don always had been the ultimate professional and was a clutch pitcher. When the opportunity came up to acquire him, I never hesitated to go get him. I had confidence in him."
Sutton went 4-1 in the weeks following his acquisition. On Sept 19, 1982, Milwaukee scored nine runs in the eighth inning to roll over the Yankees‚ 14-1. Sutton was the victor. Gorman Thomas had a double -- his second -- and a homer in the big inning and Paul Molitor added a home run.
It looked like that victory would propel the Brewers into the playoffs, but they went into Baltimore and could not get a win. Finally, on Oct. 3, Robin Yount smacked two home runs and a triple as Milwaukee whipped Baltimore, 10-2, to win the American League East championship. Sutton was the winning pitcher. More on that game will be included in the September edition of this series on Milwaukee's baseball anniversaries.
On Oct. 8, the pitching of Sutton‚ and a two-run home run by Molitor‚ staved off elimination in the Brewers' game against California. Sutton could not boost the Brewers over the Cardinals in the World Series, however.
Sutton stayed with the Brewers until September of 1985. On June 24, 1983, Sutton struck out Alan Bannister in the 8th inning of a 3-2 win over Cleveland to become the eighth pitcher in major-league history with 3‚000 career strikeouts.
Sutton, now a TV announcer with the Washington Nationals, speaks highly of his time in Milwaukee. "That team had a great bunch of guys, and it was a wonderful opportunity to join them in the pennant drive," Sutton said years later.
"I honestly think every player should have the opportunity of playing at least one year in Milwaukee. The people there were great to me. It's a real baseball town."
Sutton's son, Daron, spent five seasons as the Brewers' TV play-by-play man before moving to a similar job with the Arizona Diamondbacks. "I just love Milwaukee," the younger Sutton emphasized when he took the job with the Brewers. "I remember how much my family enjoyed it. I have vivid memories about the people who live here and I always wanted to come back here."
Like his father, Daron eventually moved on from Milwaukee. But, the Suttons definitely has an impact on Milwaukee baseball, and the trade that brought Don to the Brewers in 1982 will always be known as a key to the championship season.