The 1981 Milwaukee Brewers finished with the best record in the American League East, and also managed to “win” the second half of the split season necessitated by The Strike that ripped the summer in two.

That set up a divisional series with the New York Yankees, where the Brew Crew fell in five games.

It was all just prelude, of course, to the magical 1982 run that ended in a thrilling World Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, and it also brought a splash of limelight to some of the Brewers’ budding (and established) stars.

Guys like Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Moose Haas, Pete Vuckovich, and 1981 AL Cy Young and MVP award winner Rollie Fingers.

There were other “names” on the roster, as well, and any number of them would go on to make a big impact in 1982.

And … any number of them would also have made a fitting choice as the Brewers’ representative in Donruss’ inaugural Diamond Kings subset in their 1982 set.

Looking back, maybe Yount would have been the most prescient pick, seeing as how he copped league MVP honors as the shortstop and offensive leader of the beloved Harvey’s Wallbangers club.

But Donruss went another direction, and it proved nearly as prophetic:

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Yeah, Gorman Thomas, the guy who could mash a baseball like few others, but who also struck out a lot.

Like, 175 times in 1979 and 170 times in 1980 a lot.

And,in the entirety of his 13-year career, 1981 was the only full season in which Stormin’ Gorman topped a .250 batting average — of course, “full season” was more than a little hedgy that summer.

Among all-or-nothing sluggers, though, Thomas was a bit of an anomaly, playing more games in centerfield than anywhere else on the diamond.

Oh, and there was something else — something about his homerness that Donruss captured well:

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So, not only was Thomas a league home run champion (in 1979), he was also the Brewers’ all-time leader in homers.

And, during that storybook 1982, he added to his own tale by topping the AL — again — with 39 bombs (tying with Reggie Jackson).

Thomas would hit 22 more in 1983, split between the Brewers and Indians, then embark on a three-year stint in Seattle before returning for a 44-game swan song in Milwaukee in 1986.

In between, he cranked up the powermobile one more time, crushing 32 for the Mariners in 1985.

But after hitting .187 in 101 games for the two clubs in 1986, mostly as a designated hitter, Thomas was done in the majors, at age 35.

If there was any doubt about his legacy with the Brewers, though, all you had to do was flip back in your three-ring binders a few years to read the truth — Gorman Thomas: Diamond King.

1982 Donruss 168 Pete Rose Philadelphia Phillies

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1982 Donruss MASH Complete Set 1-66

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