1 On the morning of June 10, 1982, beneath the stands of Milwaukee County Stadium, equipment manager Bob Sullivan and his assistants placed clean uniforms in the clubhouse lockers. Above each locker a shelf contained gloves, caps, spare shoes. These shelves were further individualized by other items: containers of Super Acerola, jojoba oil, mink oil, Desenex, Aqua Velva, Nivea cream; pouches of Levi Garrett and Skoal; cans of Foot Guard. Gorman Thomas, the center fielder, arrived early for the afternoon's game. Thomas was always the first one there, arriving as many as five hours before game time. On June 10, as on virtually every other game day, he sat in front of his locker drinking coffee, greeting (or pointedly not greeting) his various teammates as they wandered in. They were a reasonable cross section of professional athletes. The youngest was a lithe, 24-year- old Puerto Rican named Eddie Romero, a reserve infielder whose very membership on the team was all but unknown to any but the Brewers' most ardent fans. The eldest was a tall, elegantly mustachioed relief pitcher named Roland Glen Fingers, 35. Fingers, who was born in Ohio and raised in California, had in his thirteen seasons in the major leagues distinguished himself as had very few others in baseball's entire history. Their 23 teammates stood on a line between Romero and Fingers, spaced along it by age, talent, wealth, renown.
Somewhere near the middle of this line was Bob McClure, today's starting pitcher. McClure didn't arrive in the clubhouse beneath the stands until very late in the morning of June 10, barely two hours before game time. He had lingered over the carbohydrate-heavy breakfast he always ate before day games. Now, he spoke with his catcher, Charlie Moore, as he dressed, then quickly went out on the field. "Once I've talked to the catcher," McClure said, "once input is lodged in my melon, I have to go out on the field and be a part of what's going on. I can't stand the clubhouse. You can only sign so many autographs and read so many letters before you get bored stiff. I have to be out on the field, shagging flies, hanging around the cage, talking with the players. That's relaxing." Up in the stands, as McClure and his teammates and the members of the visiting Baltimore Orioles stretched and ran and threw and socialized and started batting practice on the field below, the day's crew of ushers waited for the gates to open. It was a lovely, sunny Thursday. The Orioles and the Brewers were scheduled to play at 1:30 in the afternoon. Allan H. Selig, the president of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Inc., arrived at his unprepossessing office in the bowels of County Stadium just before noon. By then, the rest of the front office staff had been at work for nearly three hours. In the publicity department, Tom Skibosh and Mario Ziino entered statistical data from the previous night's game into large ledger books. In the ticket office, armed guards stood by to protect the stacks of bills that would be collected in the hours leading up to game time. Bruce Manno and Dan Duquette, in the farm department, read the game reports the minor league managers had phoned in the night before. Harry Dalton, the general manager, was on the phone. At the reception desk, Betty Grant told callers that, yes, it was a day game today. The Milwaukee newspapers sat on Grant's large desk. There were no sports sections left.
Bud Selig had always loved baseball. He had been the chief executive of a major league club for thirteen years. Baseball "is not a toy," he said. "It is not a hobby. When we were starting out here, Walter O'Malley said to me - I'll never forget it - that baseball was his only business. It can't be tinkered with." By and large, Bud Selig abided by O'Malley's dictum. Although Selig was also the president of his family's auto dealership and often found himself of a morning reviewing inventory sheets and sales reports at the showroom, it wasn't auto business that had him arriving late for work on June 10. When things were going bad for the Brewers, Selig could all too easily sink into despair, chewing up his insides with as much energy as he chewed the little cigars that were usually clutched between his teeth. Things were definitely not going well for Selig's Brewers there days. In April they had been one of the favorites to win the American League's Eastern Division Championship, and now they were in fourth place. The Orioles, their primary rivals for the championship, had the night before won their third straight game in Milwaukee. Bud Selig had allocated many millions of his partners' dollars to build a contending team. He had, wisely, placed those dollars in tthe hands of Harry Dalton, a widely admired executive who had, it seemed, deployed the money well. He had seen Dalton barely a week earlier rrrrresort to the most expedient of solutions in any attempt to turn a team around: Dalton had fired the manager, Bob Rodgers, who had led the Brewers to the best record in the American League just one season earlier. For a moment, the team had appeared to come alive, winning four in a row under the new manager, Harvey Keunn. But Baltimore today stood 27 outs from a sweep of the series - a sweep in the Brewers' home park - and Bud Selig had simply stayed in bed until the last possible moment.
For his part, Bob Rodgers was in no hurry to get to work either. He had just returned home to Yorba Linda, California, having left Milwaukee after cleaning out his small apartment at the Astor Hotel. Throughout his baseball career, Rodgers had spent the off-seasons as a glue salesman, representing a firm that manufactured industrial adhesives. He said he understood why Dalton had fired him - the moment came for all managers - but he was nonetheless embittered by what he deemed the selfishness and obstinacy of some of the team's players. He was happy enough that he had his glue-selling job to turn to, but he had spent a lifetime in baseball and was now suddenly on the outside.
Rodgers was a tall man, broad in the shoulders, blessed with bright eyes and a movie star's face. He wore cowboy boots, well-cut sport coats, open-collared shirts. Expectedly, his baseball friends called him "Buck." He had chewed tobacco all of his adult life, yet always took care to use whitening drops on his teeth to combat the inevitable staining. Playgirl magazine had once featured Rodgers in an article on baseball's sexiest men. Pete Vuckovich, when he was still working for Rodgers, once noticed the older man off in the distance. Vuckovich, a pitcher, had just been making some uncomplimentary comments about Rodgers' professional capabilities. "He sure is good-looking, though," Vuckovich said.
Vuckovich, a pitcher of frightening mien, immense strength, and wildly unpredictable behavior, was rather mild in his criticism of Rodgers, complaining mostly that the manager was too quick to pull a starting pitcher from a baseball game. "He doesn't know as much about pitching as he thinks he does," Vuckovich said. "He's never been out there." Rodgers had, indeed, never been out there, out on the small rise in the middle of the baseball diamond. Rodgers was, as the spectacularly bent digits on his right hand revealed, a catcher. In fact, in a nine- year major league career, he had spent only one game at any position but catcher. He was proud of that career, even if it was more distinguished by his indefatigability - in 1962 he caught 150 games, just 5 games off the American League record - than by his offensive statistics. He was particularly proud because the career almost didn't happen. He was foundering in the Detroit Tigers' minor league system, making no progress, when he finally decided, still only 22 but a five-year veteran of professional baseball, to find another career. Then the A...