Lost Legacies: Joaquin Andjuar Should Have Been The 1982 World Series MVP

When you go through as many past sports seasons and championship events as I have in researching and writing the historical archive of TheSportsNotebook, you find more than your share of questionable awards, whether it’s MVP of a season or a single postseason series. And one of the things I enjoy the most is going back and setting the record straight. Today we’re going to do that on behalf of the late Joaquin Andujar, who should have been the 1982 World Series MVP.

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The ‘82 Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers (an American League team prior to 1998) is an underrated historical gem in of itself. It didn’t have some of the made-for-TV moments that other Series of this decade had, like the Buckner error, the Denkinger missed call or the Gibson walkoff. But start to finish, Cards-Brewers was as good as it gets. St. Louis ultimately won in seven games. And no one was more instrumental in that than Joaquin Andujar. Here’s why…

*He started Games 3 & 7 and won both.
*He pitched a combined 13 innings in these games and gave up just two runs.
*No position player on the Cardinals had a dominant offensive Series.

Honestly, we could stop right here and I think the case would be made. A starting pitcher who wins two games in a best-of-seven series has to be given a big leg up in the voting simply based on that. Presuming of course, that they were legitimately his wins, and not a case of the bats bailing him out. Andjuar was excellent in both games.

The context of those games makes the case even stronger. The fact one of them was a Game 7 speaks for itself. His victory in Game 3 came with the Series tied 1-1 and was on the road in Milwaukee, thus ensuring his team would make it back home to Busch Stadium (where they would need to win both Games 6 & 7) to ultimately take the Series. Andjuar beat the Brewers’ ace, Pete Vuckovich, who would win the AL Cy Young Award in 1982 for both victories.

Thus, we’re looking at a pitcher who disarmed the best offense of the early 1980s two different nights, got his team half of the wins they needed, knocked out the opposing ace in both circumstances, with one of those being a Game 7. He also took a hard line drive off the shin towards the end of Game 3 and was still bothered by it in the seventh game. So his decisive game heroics came while landing on a sore leg each time he threw the baseball. It’s not Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, but it’s still a nice little human interest angle that should seal the deal.

So, who did win the 1982 World Series MVP if it wasn’t Joaquin Andujar, you ask? Surely this individual must have had a tremendous showing offensively to trump everything Joaquin did. You would think so, but no.

Darrell Porter, the Cardinal catcher, won the honor. His batting average for the Series was .286. His on-base percentage was .310. That’s barely even good, much less MVP-worthy.

To be fair to Porter, some additional context strengthens his case. The Cardinals faced a 4-2 deficit in the sixth inning of Game 2 and were in danger of losing the first two games at home. Porter ripped an opposite-field double into the leftfield corner that tied that game. He got a base hit that was a part of a later rally for the lead run. He sealed the 5-4 win in the ninth when he threw out the Brewers’ future Hall of Fame infielder, Paul Molitor, on a stolen base attempt. And the human interest angle was a powerful one here, with Porter working on recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.

All of that makes Porter’s personal comeback very cool and his Series more noteworthy than the otherwise pedestrian numbers would suggest. It doesn’t make him the MVP.

Joaquin Andujar had a nice career in the major leagues, with the 1982-85 stretch being the high point. He won 15 games in this ‘82 regular season and was a 20-game winner in both 1984 and 1985, finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting each time. He’s been inducted in the St. Louis Cardinals’ team Hall of Fame. It’s time to set the record straight and add MVP of the 1982 World Series to that list of achievements.

The Dominican-born Andujar’s biggest legacy to baseball was a famous quote, where he said “There is one word in America that says it all and that one word is ‘You never know.’” It sounds like something Frank Drepin the Leslie Nielsen character in the old Naked Gun movies might have said. Or to use a more current cultural reference, something Michael Scott in The Office would have said, as Jim Halpert flashed a “Huh”? look to the camera.

But there is something we do know about Joaquin Andjuar’s career and it’s that the legacy is missing his rightful honor as the 1982 World Series MVP. Let the record be set straight.