California’s signing of free agent outfielder Reggie Jackson prior to the start of the 1982 season signaled the end of a tumultuous five-year period in New York for the controversial slugger. Considered by George Steinbrenner to be past his prime, Jackson left New York when the Yankee owner showed little interest in resigning him. Jackson demonstrated he still had something left by leading the American League with 39 home runs, knocking in 101 runs, and scoring 92 others. His outstanding performance helped lift the Angels to their second A.L. West title in three years. The Angels finished the regular season with a record of 93-69, three games ahead of the second-place Kansas City Royals. The Chicago White Sox finished third in the division, six games back.
A well-balanced ball club, the Angels finished second in the American League with 814 runs scored, 186 home runs, and a 3.82 team ERA. Geoff Zahn served as the ace of their pitching staff, posting a record of 18-8. Meanwhile, Jackson received a great deal of help from the other members of California’s veteran starting lineup. Rod Carew batted .319 and scored 88 runs. Brian Downing hit 28 homers, drove in 84 runs, and placed among the league leaders with 109 runs scored. Fred Lynn batted .299, hit 21 homers, knocked in 86 runs, and scored 89 others. Don Baylor hit 24 home runs and drove in 93 runs. Doug DeCinces had the finest season of his career, earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 30 homers, knocking in 97 runs, scoring 94 others, and batting .301.
Despite California’s first-place finish, the division’s two most dynamic players performed for other teams. Hal McRae had the most productive season of his career for the runner-up Royals, hitting 27 home runs, scoring 91 runs, batting .308, and leading the league with 133 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Rickey Henderson had a big year for the Oakland A’s, who finished fifth in the division, 25 games off the pace. Although Henderson batted just .267, he topped the circuit with 116 bases on balls, enabling him to compile an impressive .398 on-base percentage. He also scored 119 runs and established a new single-season major league record by stealing 130 bases.
While the Angels failed to clinch the top spot in the A.L. West until the final week of the regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers waited until the season’s final day to lay claim to the Eastern Division title. The Brewers needed to win just one of their final four games against the Orioles to eliminate Baltimore from the divisional race. However, the Birds beat Milwaukee three straight times at Memorial Stadium to earn a share of first place and set up a winner-take-all scenario for the season finale. Led by a four-hit, two-home run performance by league MVP Robin Yount, the Brewers clinched their first A.L. East title with a 10-2 victory over the Orioles. Milwaukee finished the campaign with a record of 95-67, while Baltimore finished just one game back with a mark of 94-68.
The Brewers actually started off the season slowly, posting a record of only 23-24 over their first 47 games. However, they caught fire after former A.L. batting champion Harvey Kuenn took over the managerial reins of the team, compiling a mark of 72-43 the rest of the way.
The Brewers relied heavily on their powerful lineup, which came to be known as “Harvey’s Wall-bangers” for its explosive nature. Milwaukee led the American League with 891 runs scored, 216 home runs, and a .455 slugging percentage. Ben Oglivie hit 34 homers and drove in 102 runs. Ted Simmons hit 23 home runs and knocked in 97 runs. Although he batted only .245, centerfielder Gorman Thomas drove in 112 runs and tied Reggie Jackson for the league lead with 39 home runs. Second baseman Paul Molitor batted .302 and topped the circuit with 136 runs scored. Cecil Cooper scored 104 runs and finished among the league leaders with 32 home runs, 121 runs batted in, a .313 batting average, and 205 hits. Robin Yount earned A.L. MVP honors by hitting 29 homers, driving in 114 runs, scoring 129 others, batting .331, and leading the league with 210 hits, 46 doubles, 367 total bases, and a .578 slugging average.
Milwaukee also featured A.L. Cy Young Award winner Pete Vuckovich, who finished 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA. Meanwhile, Rollie Fingers placed third in the league with 29 saves.
The Brewers subsequently put themselves in a huge hole by losing the first two games of the ALCS to the Angels. However, they rebounded to win the next three contests, clinching their first American League pennant by scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Five, en route to posting a 4-3 victory. California’s Fred Lynn earned Series MVP honors, batting .611 (11-for-18) in a losing effort.
Milwaukee got off to a fast start against the Cardinals in the World Series, winning Game One by a score of 10-0 behind five hits by Paul Molitor and another four by Robin Yount. However, St. Louis took three of the next five contests, to send the Series to a decisive Game Seven. The Brewers built an early 3-1 lead in the Series finale, but the Cardinals scored three times in the sixth inning, and they tallied another two runs in the eighth, to come away with a 6-3 victory.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• May 30 – Cal Ripken, Jr. started at third base for the Baltimore Orioles, starting his record streak of 2,632 consecutive games played.
• June 6 – While crossing a street in Arlington, Texas, umpire Lou DiMuro was struck by a car; he died early the next day. Major League Baseball later retired his uniform number 16.
• August 8 – Rollie Fingers earned the 300th save of his career, becoming in the process the first pitcher in history to achieve that mark.
• Robin Yount collected 12 hits in 29 times at-bat in a losing World Series effort, for a .414 batting average.
• Baltimore’s Cal Ripken, Jr. (28 home runs, 93 RBIs, .264 batting average), earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Milwaukee’s Paul Molitor collected a World Series record five hits in the opener.
• The A’s fired Billy Martin as manager after finishing the year with a record of 68-94.
• Baltimore's Eddie Murray earned a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 32 home runs, knocking in 110 runs, and batting .316.
• The Twins and Mariners played the first game at the Metrodome on April 6.
• Gaylord Perry won his 300th game on May 6.
• In August, Perry was ejected for the only time in his career for throwing a spitball.
• Kansas City’s John Wathan set a major league record for catchers with 36 stolen bases.
• Kansas City teammate Willie Wilson led the American League with a .332 batting average and 15 triples.
• Boston's Bob Stanley set a new American League record by pitching 168 innings in relief.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Travis Jackson, and Happy Chandler.
• Texas traded Al Oliver to Montreal for Larry Parrish and Dave Hostetler.
• Oakland dealt Tony Armas and Jeff Newman to Boston for Carney Lansford and two other players.
• Hall of Famers Lloyd Waner and Satchel Paige passed away.
• Robin Yount’s .578 slugging average and 367 total bases established new records for American League shortstops.
• Toronto's Dave Stieb led all A.L. pitchers with 288 innings pitched and 19 complete games.
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