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Sal Bando, three-time World Series champion and former Brewers general manager, dies at 78

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Sal Bando, who spent the last five seasons of a colorful playing career with the Milwaukee Brewers and then served as the franchise’s general manager for eight more seasons, died Friday at the age of 78 in Okonomoka, Wisconsin.

His family said in a statement that Bando had been battling cancer for five years.

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The three-time World Series champion with the Oakland Athletics made four All-Star teams in his playing days with the A’s and signed a five-year, $1.5 million contract with the Brewers after the 1976 season became the first premier for free. . agency additions in the history of brewers.

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Bando hit .254 with 242 homers and 1,039 RBIs in 16 seasons with the Athletics and the Brewers. He won three straight 5 titles from 1972 to 1974.

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“Sal’s role in the history of the Brewers, both on and off the field, can never be overestimated,” said the former Brewers owner and baseball commissioner. Allan H. “Bud” Selig. “I can’t stress this enough. When he joined us as a player, it was a big day in our history. Robin Yount and Paul Molitor became stars, he really was our captain.

“More than a great player, he was an amazing person, a truly great person. And he really loved Milwaukee, choosing to stay here and raise his family, which meant so much to him. On top of all that, Sue and I and our entire family cherished our friendship with Sal. We will miss him greatly. It’s a sad day.”

First free agent Brewers

Sal Bando in 1979.
Sal Bando in 1979.

The Brewers selected third baseman Bando in the now-defunct 1976 free agent “draft”, placing them in a small group of negotiating teams. Persuading him to accept the deal marked a new era for the club.

“It has a long-term value because it proves that we can sign free agents and that will be important going forward,” Selig said at the time.

The Brewers thought they had a chance to sign Bando’s Oakland roommate, catcher/first baseman Gene Tenas, but he ultimately chose San Diego. However, the Brewers improved slightly in 1977 and then went on a streak of six consecutive winning seasons, starting with a 93-win team in 1978, the first winning club in Brewers history.

Bando played in Milwaukee from 1977 to 1981, having his best year in form with that team in 1978 when he batted .285 with 17 homers. He also played 32 games for the 1981 team, which became the first play-off player in the club’s history, serving as player-manager for the last two years.

Selig boasted that when the Brewers signed a third baseman, he got a strong recommendation from people with A’s.

“You don’t understand,” Selig said then. “The heart and soul of Oakland A’s is not Catfish Hunter or Reggie Jackson or Rollie Fingers. This is Sal Bando.”

From player to front office immediately

Brewers general manager Sal Bando with coach Phil Garner in 1992.
Brewers general manager Sal Bando with coach Phil Garner in 1992.

After ending his playing career, Bando immediately became special assistant to general manager Harry Dalton, the architect of Milwaukee’s success from the late 1970s to the 1980s. But the Brewers did not rise above third in the American League East for nine years after participating in the 1982 World Series, and after a streak of free-agent contracts for the 1991 season fell through, Selig turned to Bando just 47 years later. old as the new president of baseball operations. Dalton remained senior vice president.

“I would be less than honest if I told you that I am especially glad that I am no longer the general manager of this team, but I am very, very happy that I remained on the team,” Dalton said at the time.

Bando’s first big deal was the sacking of incumbent manager Tom Trebelhorn and he spearheaded a quest that resulted in Phil Garner as manager for the 1992 season. Bando’s only winning season during his GM tenure was that first, memorable 1992 campaign, in which the club won 92 games and finished second in the American League East behind World Series champions Toronto.

The departure of Paul Molitor

Paul Molitor had a big run with the Toronto Blue Jays after the Brewers didn't want to bring him back for the 1993 season.
Paul Molitor had a big run with the Toronto Blue Jays after the Brewers didn’t want to bring him back for the 1993 season.

The deck was stacked against Bando in the 1990s as wages skyrocketed and small market brewers couldn’t keep up until revenue sharing began in 1996. It may have played a role when Bando stood at the forefront of one of the most questionable decisions. in franchise history by not bringing franchise legend Paul Molitor back for the 1993 season.

The Brewers think tank delayed contract negotiations after the 1992 season and then infamously asked Molitor for a pay cut; instead, the Toronto Blue Jays entered the fray with a three-year, $13 million offer. The Brewers offered him a shorter, cheaper deal.

“I didn’t understand their approach to all these negotiations, and I don’t think I understood the economics of what they were going through at the time,” Molitor later said. “I just thought I didn’t have support. I thought at the time they were trying to make me look like a bad guy and they were trying to protect their image and also make amends.”

At the age of 36, Molitor appeared in the first of two consecutive All-Star seasons with the Jays, finished second in MVP voting, and was named MVP of the World Series. Molitor and Robin Yount are two Baseball Hall of Fame players who are primarily considered the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bando retired in August of the 1999 season, shortly after Garner was fired, who was replaced by interim manager Jim Lefebvre. Like his predecessor, Bando was promoted to the organization in the newly created role of Special Assistant to the Club President.

Bando, a Cleveland native who played college baseball at Arizona State, remained in touch with Milwaukee. Bando’s son, Sal Jr., was the head coach of the Marquette High School baseball team, which was the runner-up in the WIAA State Summer Baseball Tournament in 2016 and 2017.

Bando was inducted into the Brewers’ Wall of Honor as a charter member in 2014. He was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022.

J. R. Radcliffe can be contacted at (262) 361-9141 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Sal Bando, who won three World Series with the Oakland A’s, has died at the age of 78.


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