Rollie Fingers had the handlebar mustache and Pete Vuckovich had the Fu Manchu. Both Brewers icons played important roles in bring the team to post-season competition in the early 80s. In this edition of Brewers Past and Present, we will take a look at the career and legacy of the man known as “Vuck.”
Pete Vuckovich was drafted in the third round of the 1974 amateur draft by the Chicago White Sox. He pitched in parts of two season with the Sox, going 7-5 with a 5.83 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. In 1976, he was selected in the expansion draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, where he pitched for the 1977 season. Vuck went 7-7 in 53 games, eight of which were starts. Of those eight starts, three of them were complete games and one was a shutout. In addition, he also saved eight games that year. He finished the ’77 campaign with a 3.47 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.
Career as a Card
In December of 1977, Vuck was traded by the Blue Jays to the St. Louis Cardinals for Victor Cruz and Tom Underwood (and a player to be named later). It was in St. Louis that the towering figure of Pete Vuckovich began to carve his niche into the baseball world.
In 1978, Vuck pitched in 45 games, 23 of them starts. He threw six complete games and two shutouts that season to go along with a 12-12 record, 2.54 ERA, and 1.24 WHIP. His massive improvement led to his becoming a full-time starter in 1979 and 1980. In three seasons with the Cardinals, Vuck had a 39-31 record, 3.21 ERA, and 1.23 WHIP. In addition, he threw 22 complete games and five shutouts.
Moved to Milwaukee
On December 12, 1980, Vuck became a part of one of the most important trades in Brewers history. The Brewers sent David Green, David LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano, and Lary Sorensen to the Cardinals. In exchange, the Brewers received Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers, and Pete Vuckovich.
Vuck’s first season with the Brewers, 1981, was a short season due to the strike. However, Vuck still managed to lead the AL in wins (14) and winning percentage (.778). In addition, Vuck finished fourth in the Cy Young race that year, losing to teammate Rollie Fingers, who took home by the Cy Young and MVP.
1982, the season all fans know as the only World Series appearance for the Brewers, was a magical season for Vuck. He went 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, completing nine games and tossing one shutout. Vuck was awarded the AL Cy Young in 1982, but struggled in the post-season. He won one game of the ALCS against the Angels, but was unable to record a win in either of the two games he started against the Cardinals in the World Series.
Unfortunately for Vuck and the Brewers, 1982 was his last good year in baseball. A torn rotator cuff landed him on the disabled list early into the 1983 season. Vuck missed the entire 1984 season while he recovered from the injury. Vuck was only able to make 28 starts combined in 1985 and 1986, going 8-14 in those seasons. He retired early in the 1986 seasons and accepted a job within the Brewers organization.
Though Vuck was not able to have a longer career with the Brewers, he provided the team and its fans with many long-lasting memories. His dominance in 1981 and 1982 are still talked about, as is his intimidating presence on the mound.
Vuckovich returned to the diamond in 1989, but this time as an actor. In the 1989 comedy Major League, Vuck played the mean Yankees slugger Haywood. His addition to the cast of the movie was just another link to baseball in Milwaukee. The movie was famously filmed at County Stadium in Milwaukee and also co-starred Hall of Fame broadcaster, Bob Ueker.
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