Moore, Gantner provide batting punch at bottom of Brewer order
Milwaukee — All ball clubs have their ''tablesetters'' at the top of the batting order and their power hitters in the middle. The difference with the Milwaukee Brewers is that the attack doesn't stop there or even slow down; it just goes right back into high gear again with No. 8 and 9 hitters Charlie Moore and Jim Gantner.
It does give an extra dimension to our offense,'' agreed Manager Harvey Kuenn as his team prepared for Game 3 of the World Series here tonight after splitting the first two in St. Louis.
''They both have good speed and they're excellent contact hitters who can do things like hit-and-run,'' Kuenn added. ''They could obviously be the leadoff and second hitters on a lot of teams. That's quite an asset.''
Moore has been Milwaukee's most consistent batsman so far in post-season play. He was the only Brewer to hit safely in each of the five playoff games against California, leading the attack with a .462 average (6 for 13) plus a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and two sacrifices. He has continued to play his role as the ''second leadoff man'' in the Series as well, with two hits and two runs scored in the 10-0 opening game victory, then a single and an RBI double in the 5-4 second game loss.
Gantner is not exactly your typical No. 9 hitter, either. He batted a solid .295 during the regular season and has also contributed some key hits in post-season action. Indeed, it was Moore and Gantner who hit back-to-back singles to launch the pennant-winning rally in the seventh inning of the final playoff game, eventually coming around to score the tying and go-ahead runs. And Jim kept it up at the start of the World Series with two hits and two RBIs in the opener.
The presence of two such dangerous hitters at the bottom of the lineup was obviously a big factor in Milwaukee's major league-leading run production - as a glance at the statistics clearly shows. Leadoff man Paul Molitor and No. 2 hitter Robin Yount, while excelling at their primary job of getting on base in front of the big bombers, also managed to drive in 185 runs between them - a truly astounding total for those spots in the batting order. And of course it isn't very hard to figure out who was scoring a lot of those runs.
It's pretty much like having a second leadoff tandem, which is exactly how Moore and Gantner see their role.
''Paul and Robin set the table for those guys in the middle,'' says Moore. ''Then our job is to set it for them.''
Only a couple of years ago, it would have taken quite a bit of clairvoyance to predict that these two would be playing for Milwaukee in a World Series at their current positions. Moore was a journeyman catcher who had to be wondering when and if the Brewers might trade for a bigger name at that spot, while Gantner was a young backup infielder chafing on the bench behind veterans Sal Bando and Don Money at third base and budding young star Molitor at second.
''I thought I was going to have to go elsewhere to get a chance to play,'' Gantner recalls now. ''I didn't want to leave Milwaukee, but I was getting tired of sitting on the bench.''
Jim kept hitting and fielding well whenever he got a chance, though, and finally the club just had to make room for him. Thus the big switch last year, which put Molitor in center field (he has since moved again to third base) and installed Gantner at second, where in his first full season he led the league in total chances and double plays.
''He's not flashy, but he makes all the plays,'' Kuenn said. ''There's no question in my mind that he makes the double play as well as anybody, and has as much range.''
Moore caught more than 100 games in both 1979 and 1980 and hit right around . 300 each year, but when Milwaukee obtained all-star catcher Ted Simmons from St. Louis, Charlie's future didn't look too bright. He spent 1981 primarily as a backup catcher (still hitting .301), then came to spring training last March with other ideas.
''I'd hardly ever played the outfield before, even in high school,'' he says. ''We tried it a little bit here in 1977, but it didn't work out. I didn't really want to be an outfielder then. I enjoyed catching, which keeps you so much more involved in the game. So I didn't have as much motivation. But this year I knew if I wanted to play it would have to be out there, and I worked real hard.''
Kuenn agrees with that assessment.
''I knew he wasn't happy just catching a few games last year,'' Harvey said. ''We played him occasionally in the outfield and we made a combined decision that he'd try it regularly this season. I knew he could become a good right fielder eventually, but he developed even faster than I expected.''
Moore's defensive play, in fact, has been one of the big post-season eye-openers to those who hadn't followed the Brewers too closely. Actually, Charlie never had fit the standard image of the slow, plodding catcher, but such stereotypes are pretty well ingrained. Thus his speed and ability to make the big outfield plays have surprised a lot of people during the playoffs and World Series - including the Cardinals.
''We knew they had some speed, but some of those guys really impressed us with the way they ran,'' said St. Louis third baseman Ken Oberkfell. ''An example is Charlie Moore. He can flat out fly.''
Moore and Gantner are two pretty valuable cogs in the Brewer machine - both offensively and defensively. And if their names sometimes get overlooked in all the excitement about MVP candidate Yount, home run leader Gorman Thomas, and the rest of that wrecking crew at the top of the lineup, it doesn't bother them.
''I never really thought about it,'' says Moore. ''I think we do a pretty good job. Maybe it goes a bit unrecognized, but you can understand it when you think about what all the other guys have done.''
Gantner pretty much echoed these sentiments.
''I'm not interested in publicity,'' he says. ''My goal was to help this team get into the World Series, and now that we're here it's to win it.''