Robin Yount was a natural athlete, excelling in any endeavor he put his mind to from a young age.
He could have done just about anything professionally, but he chose baseball.
It was a good decision, as Yount became one of the most iconic players in the 1970s and 1980s, combing his raw athleticism with an unrivaled work ethic to help drag the unsuccessful Brewers to competitive baseball.
Robin Yount was born on September 16, 1955, to parents Phil and Marion in Danville, Illinois.
The Yount family moved to the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles in 1956.
Along with his two older brothers Larry and Jim, Robin involved himself in athletic pursuits from a young age.
Football, basketball, golf, and baseball were regular activities for Yount.
A naturally gifted athlete, Yount played baseball, football, and basketball at Taft High School but soon his main interest came solely down to baseball.
When Larry Yount was drafted by the Houston Astros as a pitcher, Robin followed him to Oklahoma City in the summer of 1972 where he got his first real taste of professional baseball.
His time in Oklahoma City made him fall in love with baseball even further, and he was determined to hone his skills back home so he could be a professional like his brother.
In his senior season at Taft, Yount broke out and began attracting the attention of big league scouts.
He helped lead Taft to a league championship and was named Los Angeles City Player of the Year.
A shortstop, Yount showed impressive range and was a great offensive player, hitting over .400 in his senior year.
The Milwaukee Brewers selected Yount as the third overall pick in the 1973 amateur draft.
Yount immediately impressed all in his first professional season with the Brewers’ Single-A team, being named to the league’s All-Star team.
At just 17 years old, Robin Yount was considered one of baseball’s best overall prospects. It was widely assumed he would make it to the Major Leagues rather quickly.
He was invited to the Brewers’ spring training camp in 1974, not expected to make the team due to his age and lack of professional experience.
Despite this, Yount made the team out of spring as the starting shortstop at just 18 years old, becoming the youngest player in the big leagues at the time.
Robin Yount was drafted at 17, spent 2+ months in Low A ball, and by 18 was the starting SS for the Milwaukee Brewers pic.twitter.com/6xigXZtAp3
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) July 23, 2022
Speaking on his age at the time of his Major League debut, Yount said:
“I don’t think about how scared I should be because I’m in the major leagues at 18. I just go out and play. When I’m at bat I concentrate on hitting the ball, and when I’m in the field I concentrate on picking it up.”
Robin played in 107 of the Brewers’ games in his first year, batting .250 with a .276 on-base percentage.
He showed little power, hitting just three home runs.
Before Yount’s second year, the Brewers acquired Hank Aaron, and that took some pressure off the young shortstop.
After a hot start in April, Yount was injured on the turf in Kansas City, hindering his performance for the rest of the season.
He ended his second full season in the big leagues hitting .267 with eight home runs and 12 stolen bases.
While Yount was incredibly athletic and showed a lot of potential, his defense at shortstop was holding his game back.
It was something Yount was determined to fill this hole in his game and decided to play in the fall instructional league, focusing on defense.
Getting Better All the Time
Yount’s third season in the Major Leagues came in 1976, his best year to date.
His defense had improved as well as his durability, playing in all 162 games that year.
The young shortstop was quickly becoming one of the American League’s most exciting players and one of its best overall shortstops.
He was even better the next year in 1977, raising his batting average to almost .290 and on-base percentage to .333, both more than good for a shortstop in the 1970s.
Still just 21 years old, Young was improving in every facet of his game.
The 1978 season was an interesting one for both Yount and the Brewers.
Frustrated by the team’s consistent losing since they moved from Seattle before the 1970 season, Yount commented that he was not enjoying baseball and was contemplating retirement.
He wanted to become a professional golfer, another sport he had excelled at in his youth.
On top of this, Yount’s contract situation was unclear, and the Brewers began entertaining the idea of trading the player they viewed as the cornerstone of the franchise.
He was placed on the disabled list before the 1978 season with a foot and elbow injury that hindered his ability to play.
I didn’t know Robin Yount sat out part of the 1978 season claiming he was under appreciated and was going to become a pro golfer. #brewers pic.twitter.com/Xgcw5GhuVa
— Stirrups Now! (@uniformcritic) February 20, 2019
The team began the season without Yount, opting to start rookie Paul Molitor at shortstop instead.
When Yount returned to the Brewers in May, he reclaimed his position at shortstop and Molitor was moved to second base.
Yount had a productive year despite the controversy, batting .293 with nine home runs.
He and the Brewers were able to agree on a five-year contract extension, ending the incessant trade rumors surrounding the 22-year-old.
In 1979, Yount had somewhat of a down season, not being able to improve on his numbers of the previous years.
The Brewers’ front office believed that Yount was involved in too many activities in his free time, including auto racing, skiing, and golf.
Yount was also interested in weight training, a practice that was not too common in baseball at the time.
Molitor had taken Yount’s spot as the team’s young star, batting over .300 in 1979 for the 95-win Brewers.
They would fail to make the playoffs despite the success, with the Orioles winning more than 100 games and finishing first in the AL East.
A Star at Last
At the age of 24, 1980 was Yount’s true breakout season.
He was selected to his first ever All-Star team while hitting .293 with a career-high 23 home runs.
Yount’s strength training had drastically changed his power and approach to the game despite the doubts of the Brewers.
Yount had reclaimed the spark that was there at the start of his career, becoming one of the most celebrated players in the American League.
His 1980 season was considered one of the best seasons for a shortstop in the history of the game at that point.
The Brewers would go on to finish in third place in the AL East with 86 wins.
In 1981, Yount had a disappointing season compared to the previous year.
He hit 13 fewer home runs and batted 0.20 points less.
The Brewers made the postseason for the first time in their history, however.
They would go on to face the Yankees in the first ever AL Division Series, created due to the strike that canceled one-third of the season.
The Yankees defeated the Brewers in the series in five games, ending their odd 1981 campaign.
Yount bounced back in 1982, making his second All-Star team and hitting a career-high 29 home runs.
He drove in 114 runs, also a career-high, batted an exceptional .331 on the year, and easily won the AL MVP Award.
Dubbed “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after new manager Harvey Kuenn, the 1982 Brewers club led the league in home runs and sported a number of great offensive players including Gorman Thomas, Paul Molitor, and Yount.
Yount also impressed the league with his defense, winning the only Gold Glove Award of his career in 1982.
The Brewers won the AL pennant on the backs of their offense and got to the World Series for the first time in franchise history after defeating the California Angels in five games in the ALCS.
They would go on to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
The two teams could not have been more different in their playing styles.
The Brewers were sluggers, and the Cardinals played small ball, relying on singles, stolen bases, and bunts to put runs on the board.
In an exciting series, the Brewers found themselves up three games to two heading into St. Louis.
One win and they would win their first World Series.
The Cardinals staged a comeback in one of the most thrilling World Series in history, winning the final two games and sending the Brewers home without a championship.
Despite the loss, Yount became the first player in baseball history to record two four-hit games in a World Series.
Though not an MVP caliber one, 1983 was another good season for Yount.
He still batted over .300, but his power numbers dipped a bit to just 17 after having recorded 29 the year before.
Voters selected him for his third All-Star team, his second consecutive selection, and remained one of the premier shortstops in the American League.
The season was full of ups and downs for both Yount and the Brewers.
Yount battled nagging injuries that he was mostly able to play through but had to be slotted into the lineup in some games as a designated hitter and not as a shortstop.
The Brewers started slow, then got hot and found themselves in first place more than halfway through the season.
They ended the season terribly, though, missing the postseason and finishing in fifth place.
Just two years after going to the World Series, the 1984 Brewers were the worst team in the league.
Harvey’s Wallbangers were no more, as the team was the worst offensive club in the league.
Yount continued to be plagued by his injuries, including an arm injury that made it difficult to play shortstop effectively.
He was no doubt the best player on the team, leading the club in nearly every possible offensive category.
Despite being just 28 years old, Yount’s injuries were beginning to take a toll.
He had surgery in the offseason to repair his shoulder but still found it too painful to throw to first base.
The Rest of the ’80s
Before the 1985 season began, Yount was moved to the outfield to preserve his athleticism on the field without the need to make throws across the diamond to first base.
Splitting time between left and center, Yount eventually found his footing in center field and became one of the best defensive center fielders in the American League thanks to his speed and natural athletic ability.
His arm was still not improving, though, and he had a second shoulder surgery to strengthen his throwing arm and lessen the pain.
On the offensive side, Yount was still a productive hitter, hitting nearly 20 home runs in both 1984 and 1985.
He batted .298 and .277 in these years, but the Brewers remained one of the worst teams in baseball.
Their bad farm system, aging roster, and widespread injuries led to back-to-back sixth-place finishes for the team.
Still just 30 years old, Yount found a career resurgence in a new position.
He was still one of baseball’s best center fielders and a productive hitter despite his diminishing power.
In 1986, Yount batted .312 with an excellent .388 on-base percentage.
Yount’s best and most consistent seasons in the big leagues were 1987 through 1989, resulting in his second and final MVP Award in 1989.
He became just the third player to win an MVP at multiple positions.
The 1987 season saw a power resurgence from Yount, as he hit 21 home runs and drove in 103 runs with a .312 batting average to go along with elite defense in the outfield.
In 1988, it was more of the same. Yount played in all of the Brewers’ 162 games, hitting 13 home runs and collecting 91 RBI.
His second MVP season came the following year, a season in which he hit 21 home runs again, drove in 103 runs, and batted .318.
The Brewers were still not back to winning form, however, and continued to miss the postseason.
Yount ended the 1980s on a high note and was instantly recognized as one of the best players of the decade, getting more hits than anyone else.
Winding Down a Great Career
Coming off an MVP season, Yount was a free agent for the first time in his career and was in negotiations on a contract with multiple clubs, including the California Angels.
Yount opted to stay in Milwaukee, signing a three-year deal worth nearly $10 million.
Yount’s next and final four seasons did not live up to his heights in the late-80s, but he was an icon in Milwaukee who had helped drag the team from perennial losers to an AL Pennant in 1982.
Yount stayed healthy, averaging over 140 games in each of his final seasons, but his offense began to decline significantly.
The Brewers were also not competitive during this stretch.
In his final four seasons, Yount averaged almost 11 home runs, 70 RBI, and a .257 batting average.
Prior to the 1994 season, Yount announced his retirement from baseball.
“I was hoping this day would never come, but it’s here.”
He went on to say:
“I was always taught that if you just had to play two or three hours a day, why not give it everything you got. I’d like to believe that’s how I played.”
#OTD in #Brewers history, May 29, 1994: The Brewers retire #19 in honor of Robin Yount. During the ceremony, Yount said:
“When I look out and see my number between Rollie Fingers and Henry Aaron, I’ve accomplished something that I could never imagine could happen.” pic.twitter.com/K1Uk68HQqp
— Chris Zantow (@zantow_chris) May 29, 2019
Yount finished his Major League career with 77 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), over 3,000 hits, 251 home runs, and a .285 career batting average.
He was selected to three All-Star teams and won two American League MVPs.
Life After Baseball
Yount has spent much of his post-career coaching in the Major Leagues.
He quickly began working with the Brewers as a spring training instructor beginning in 1996.
In the early 2000s, Yount joined the Arizona Diamondbacks as their first-base coach for a couple of seasons until the firing of manager Bob Brenly.
Yount returned to the Brewers shortly after that, serving as their bench coach in two separate seasons in 2006 and 2008.
In addition to his coaching career, Yount also retains a strong interest in the passion that worried the Brewers so much: auto racing.
In 1999, Yount was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, joining Nolan Ryan and George Brett.
The group was all elected on the first ballot, something that had not happened since 1936, the inaugural Hall of Fame class.
During his speech, Yount celebrated the historic class, commenting:
“I couldn’t have handpicked a better class to go to Cooperstown with.”
Robin Yount was one of the most dynamic players of the 1970s and 1980s.
Beginning his career at just 18 years of age, the young shortstop showed incredible athleticism and raw skills on the diamond and in the batter’s box.
He made history by winning an MVP Award at two different positions, showing his dedication to doing anything to help his team win.
He is known as one of the hardest working players of the era, battling through injuries and contract disputes only to continue to produce on the field.
Spending his entire 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers, Yount remains the greatest Brewer of all time and one of the most iconic athletes in the city’s history.
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