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Harvey's Keen On His Over-The-Wall Bangers
Jim Kaplan
July 12, 1982
Since Harvey Kuenn took over as manager on June 2, Milwaukee has been blasting pitchers and busting fences around the American League
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July 12, 1982

Harvey's Keen On His Over-the-wall Bangers

Since Harvey Kuenn took over as manager on June 2, Milwaukee has been blasting pitchers and busting fences around the American League

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Molitor (.298 through Sunday) and Yount (.318) are the most productive leadoff and No. 2 hitter combo in baseball. By getting on so often, they're helping the Brewers lead both leagues in runs and runs batted in as well as homers and slugging. Furthermore, on a trip through Milwaukee's Murderers' Maze, you won't find a single player who consciously swings for homers.

Rockin' Robin—Yount, 26, is a nine-year veteran who got his 1,000th hit at about as early an age, 24 years, 11 months, as anyone in baseball history. After Sunday he had 1,246. Yount led the majors in 1980 with 49 doubles and 82 extra-base hits, and through last weekend he was among the league's top five in hits (93), total bases (164) and triples (8). Yount has a closed stance and a lumberjack-like line-drive cut, but he has also become a home-run threat the last three seasons by building massive shoulders via Nautilus workouts. "People forget that I'm at the age where I'm bound to mature physically," he says.

Easy—The balding, bearded fellow, Cooper, plays baseball as if he were a marionette. His arms hang loosely when he's in the field. At the plate he crouches at the rear inside corner of the batter's box, stance open, right foot toeing forward like a ballet dancer's, bat dangling so freely it almost rests on his back. But this is no lackadaisical player: At the week's end Cooper was in contention for the Triple Crown with a .325 average and 64 runs batted in to go with his 19 dingers. It's hard to refute Kuenn's claim that Cooper may be the best all-around hitter in the American League. Over the past three years he was the only player to rank among the top three in average (.328), hits (534) and RBIs (288).

Cooper resents the suggestion that he became an elite hitter by adopting Rod Carew's batting stance. "It's not Rod Carew, it's me," he says. "I have about half a dozen different variations. If a pitcher gets me to ground out on a breaking ball away, I might close the stance next time up. I might change the front foot, come out of the crouch. I try to flow with the game. If there's a man on second and two outs, I'll try to drive him in with a hit. If there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and we're down a run, I'll take a couple of shots at a homer."

How does a player with a line-drive swing hit so many home runs? "I have strong wrists and forearms," he says. "In the off-season I do curls and fingertip exercises for strength and hang by my arms to increase my flexibility."

A thoughtful man, Cooper coined the term Harvey's Wallbangers and writes a column, "Coop's Corner," for the Brewer fan magazine. "As individuals," he wrote in the June issue, "most professional athletes generally try to leave those thoughts of 'winning is everything' out of their minds when the game begins.... It can be extremely difficult to maintain a peak performance constantly with such desperate thoughts clouding the issue." Cooper's a winner because he doesn't press. He's Easy.

Simba—So named because he once had a shoulder-length mane, Ted Simmons came to the Brewers last year after batting .298 in 13 years in St. Louis. He proceeded to hit .216. Simmons was booed, which is rare for a hometown player in Milwaukee. He also took his lumps from Rodgers, who knocked Simmons' catching and implied that he and Pitcher Mike Caldwell were "cancers on the club." Now Simmons has begun to eat away at American League hurlers. They had been jamming him with inside pitches, but Kuenn moved Simmons back from the plate. Through Sunday, Simba had roared back with five homers and 22 RBIs.

Spidey—As muscled and sinewy as the webbed wonder, Oglivie, a lefthanded hitter, stands almost on top of the plate, furiously wagging his bat, and takes one of baseball's hardest rips. "When Benjie's swinging best, he's almost falling down," says Molitor. "I don't think power is in weight," says Oglivie. "It's in timing and speed. If I get good bat extension and make good contact, with my bat speed there's no way I won't hit it out.

"But I don't want to be known as someone who goes for homers. Do that and you get into bad habits—looking up, hitting pop-ups or slow grounders. In Boston I drove in a run with a double off the leftfield wall against a righthanded pitcher. That gave me a real high—doing what no one expected me to.

"The style is the man. When I'm up there I'm very nervous, moving around. But I'm thinking, 'Wait for the right pitch and adjust to it.' I'll also adjust to my moods. If I've had a bad game the day before, I won't give up an at bat. I'll go for the ball right away. If I've had a good game, I'll be more patient."

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