TheBaseballPage.com

Series Wrapup

Story

Sadly, the 1981 baseball season is remembered best for the 10-week players’ strike that canceled 713 games and put America through a disorientating summer.  The players’ union walked out in response to an attempt by league owners to combat rising salaries by limiting free agency.  Major league baseball eventually resumed, but under an unpopular “split-season” format that provided for multiple winners from each division.  The baseball hierarchy elected to declare those teams that stood in first place before the strike began the first-half winners of their respective divisions.  The teams that finished atop their divisions after play resumed were subsequently declared the second-half winners.  The first and second-half winners then met in the first-ever divisional playoffs.  Once the division champions were determined, they faced each other in the traditional League Championship Series.

The Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals ended up coming out of the A.L. West.  The Billy Martin-led A’s compiled the division’s best record prior to the strike, edging out the Texas Rangers by 1 ½ games and the Chicago White Sox by 2 ½ games.  Oakland also put together a solid second half, finishing just one game behind the first-place Royals.

Oakland played an aggressive brand of baseball known as “Billy-Ball” that featured speed, bunting, hitting-and-running, and base-stealing.  Leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson symbolized the ball club’s style of play.  Appearing in 108 of Oakland's 109 games, Henderson finished fourth in the league with a .319 batting average, and he topped the circuit with 89 runs scored, 135 hits, and 56 stolen bases.  Meanwhile, Tony Armas supplied much of the power in the middle of the A’s lineup, leading the league with 22 home runs and placing second with 76 runs batted in.  Steve McCatty led Oakland’s pitching staff with a record of 14-7, a 2.33 ERA, 16 complete games, and four shutouts.  

Willie Wilson, Willie Aikens, Amos Otis, and George Brett paced the Royals on offense.  Wilson batted .303, scored 54 runs, and stole 34 bases.  Aikens hit 17 homers and drove in 53 runs.  Otis led the team with 57 runs batted in.  Brett placed among the league leaders with seven triples, 27 doubles, and a .314 batting average.  Dennis Leonard and Larry Gura anchored Kansas City’s starting rotation.  Leonard posted 13 victories, compiled a 2.99 ERA, and threw 202 innings.  Gura finished 11-8 with a team-leading 2.72 ERA and 12 complete games.  Dan Quisenberry excelled out of the bullpen, saving 18 games and posting a 1.73 ERA.

The Yankees compiled the Eastern Division’s best record during the season’s first half, while the Milwaukee Brewers emerged as the second-half winner.  New York posted a record of 34-22 prior to the strike, finishing two games ahead of Baltimore and three games in front of Milwaukee.  The Brewers compiled a mark of 31-22 after the players returned to their jobs, edging out both the Red Sox and Tigers by a game-and-a-half.  

The Yankees benefited from the split-season format perhaps more than any other team since they struggled during the second half of the campaign, posting a record of only 25-26 that left them with an overall mark of just 59-48.  Dissatisfied with his ball club’s lackluster performance after play resumed, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner replaced Gene Michael at the helm with Bob Lemon.  New York fared no better under Lemon, going just 11-14 over the final 25 games.  

With many of the team’s regulars suffering through subpar seasons, New York finished just 11th in the American League in runs scored.  Only off-season acquisitions Jerry Mumphrey and Dave Winfield performed well on offense.  Mumphrey led the team with a .307 batting average and 14 stolen bases, while Winfield hit 13 home runs, batted .294, and finished first on the club with 68 runs batted in, 25 doubles, and 114 hits.

Fortunately for the Yankees, they had the American League’s best pitching staff.  With a starting rotation that included Ron Guidry, Tommy John, and A.L. Rookie of the Year Dave Righetti, New York finished first in the circuit with a 2.90 team ERA.  Guidry, John, and Righetti posted a combined record of 28-17 between them.  Righetti led the league with a 2.05 ERA, while John and Guidry compiled marks of 2.63 and 2.76, respectively.  Meanwhile, Goose Gossage had a sensational year working out of the bullpen, compiling an ERA of 0.77, finishing second in the league with 20 saves, and allowing only 22 hits in 47 innings of work, while striking out 48 batters.  

As well as Gossage pitched for New York, he had to take a backseat to Rollie Fingers, who earned A.L. Cy Young and MVP honors for Milwaukee.  Fingers finished 6-3, with a 1.04 ERA and a league-leading 28 saves.  He surrendered 55 hits in 78 innings pitched, walked only 13 batters, and struck out 61.  The Brewers also got fine seasons from Pete Vuckovich, who finished 14-4, and Cecil Cooper, who knocked in 60 runs, scored 70 others, and batted .320.  But Fingers served as the driving force behind Milwaukee’s successful run to the playoffs, having a hand in 34 of his team’s 62 victories.  

The A’s quickly disposed of the Royals in the Western Division Playoff Series, defeating them in three straight games and outscoring them by a combined margin of 10-2.  The Yankees had a far more difficult time getting past the Brewers in the Eastern Division Series, needing five games to advance to the next round, after initially jumping out to a two-games-to-none advantage.  New York then made surprisingly quick work of Oakland in the ALCS, sweeping the Series in three games by a combined score of 20-4.

However, the Yankees didn’t fare nearly as well against the Dodgers in the World Series.  After winning the first two games at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees lost four straight games to Los Angeles, with injuries to Graig Nettles and Reggie Jackson contributing significantly to the defeat.  Reliever George Frazier had a horrible Series for New York, going 0-3 with a 17.18 ERA.  Meanwhile, Dave Winfield’s 1-for-22 performance subsequently drew criticism from George Steinbrenner, who referred to his $23 million superstar as “Mr. May.”  

Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:

• February 12 - Reputedly because the Boston Red Sox mailed out his contract two days late, catcher Carlton Fisk became a free agent.  He subsequently signed with the Chicago White Sox.

• April 10 – Carlton Fisk made his debut with the White Sox, coincidentally in Fenway Park against his former team, the Boston Red Sox.  The new White Sox catcher hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning to help his team to a 5-3 win.

• May 15 – Cleveland’s Len Barker pitched a perfect game against Toronto.

• May 25 - Carl Yastrzemski played in his 3,000th major league game, joining Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, and Hank Aaron in an extremely exclusive club.

• June 12 - After meeting with major league owners for most of the previous day, players' union chief Marvin Miller announced, "We have accomplished nothing.  The strike is on."

• Boston's Carney Lansford led the American League with a .336 batting average.

• The Hall of Fame inducted Bob Gibson, Johnny Mize, and Rube Foster.

• The Yankees traded Willie McGee to St. Louis for Bob Sykes.

• Boston traded Fred Lynn and Steve Renko to California for Frank Tanana, Joe Rudi, and Jim Dorsey.

• Detroit sent Steve Kemp to the White Sox for Chet Lemon.

• Buddy Bell of Texas established a modern major league record by making 2.93 assists per game at third base.

• Baltimore’s Eddie Murray, Oakland's Tony Armas, California's Bobby Grich, and Boston's Dwight Evans all tied for the American League lead with 22 home runs.  

• Murray also topped the circuit with 78 runs batted in.

• Grich batted a career-high .304 and led the league with a .543 slugging average.

• Evans also knocked in 71 runs, batted .296, and finished second in the league with 84 runs scored.

• Cleveland's Mike Hargrove topped the circuit with a .432 on-base percentage.

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
BAL 1484 3516 429 883 408 .218 165 11 88 41 34 1334 .349 .308 .688 110 24 26
BOS 1379 3820 519 1052 492 .242 168 17 90 32 31 1524 .347 .343 .710 98 33 37
CAL 1399 3688 476 944 439 .227 134 16 97 44 33 1401 .345 .336 .698 97 30 51
CHA 1487 3615 476 982 438 .247 135 27 76 86 44 1399 .368 .333 .719 90 36 48
CLE 1400 3507 431 922 397 .232 150 21 39 119 37 1231 .338 .326 .664 91 43 46
DET 1492 3600 427 922 403 .242 148 29 65 61 37 1323 .341 .339 .681 98 37 50
KCA 1321 3560 397 952 381 .238 169 29 61 100 53 1362 .331 .335 .686 84 35 28
MIN 1462 3676 378 884 359 .220 147 36 47 34 27 1244 .298 .314 .612 95 27 36
ML4 1438 3743 493 961 475 .246 173 20 96 39 36 1462 .328 .377 .705 83 45 35
NYA 1430 3529 421 889 403 .242 148 22 100 47 30 1381 .343 .393 .736 99 27 40
OAK 1416 3677 458 910 430 .213 119 26 104 98 47 1393 .314 .318 .646 75 32 46
SEA 1594 3780 426 950 406 .206 148 13 89 100 50 1391 .320 .298 .647 70 24 41
TEX 1359 3581 452 968 418 .253 178 15 49 46 41 1323 .334 .349 .683 84 39 36
TOR 1449 3521 329 797 314 .218 137 23 61 66 57 1163 .303 .317 .621 72 18 44

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
BAL 238 59 46 940 489 347 3970 923 83 51.930 386 437 25 7 23 29 5
BOS 265 59 49 988 536 354 4213 983 90 46.200 420 481 19 4 24 18 1
CAL 265 51 59 970 426 323 4089 958 81 68.780 400 453 27 5 19 17 5
CHA 279 54 52 942 529 336 3964 891 73 62.390 366 423 20 6 23 24 6
CLE 214 52 51 929 569 311 4003 989 67 49.820 401 442 33 9 13 30 2
DET 255 60 49 970 476 373 4030 840 83 62.180 381 404 33 6 22 24 5
KCA 230 50 53 923 404 273 3878 909 75 49.550 365 405 24 4 24 13 4
MIN 275 41 68 980 500 376 4230 1021 79 91.680 433 486 13 2 22 19 14
ML4 308 62 47 985 448 352 4181 994 72 61.870 428 459 11 1 35 31 2
NYA 268 59 48 948 606 287 3872 827 64 47.350 305 343 16 0 30 25 5
OAK 221 64 45 993 505 370 4166 883 80 50.220 364 403 60 11 10 30 11
SEA 309 44 65 997 478 360 4274 1039 76 64.090 470 521 10 2 23 40 7
TEX 247 57 48 941 488 322 3909 851 67 66.410 355 389 23 10 18 18 2
TOR 295 37 69 954 451 377 4089 908 72 60.430 404 466 20 2 18 41 4

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
BAL 1858 4878 3571 1230 77 .966 11280 50 41 0 11
BOS 1674 5094 3722 1273 99 .978 11845 93 35 0 9
CAL 1751 5090 3665 1302 123 .966 11654 73 49 1.00 6
CHA 1789 4855 3510 1239 106 .953 11292 74 37 1.00 2
CLE 1693 4830 3544 1185 101 .967 11169 48 46 1.00 8
DET 1824 5018 3659 1281 78 .983 11631 58 40 0 8
KCA 1618 4847 3636 1127 84 .978 11065 72 26 0 7
MIN 1773 5132 3723 1297 112 .967 11757 65 53 1.00 3
ML4 1793 5189 3713 1381 95 .978 11834 70 40 0 9
NYA 1756 4845 3584 1171 90 .976 11376 70 35 0 5
OAK 1694 5119 3922 1102 95 .971 11916 50 45 0 2
SEA 1925 5199 3781 1311 107 .973 11966 85 35 1.00 9
TEX 1655 4923 3479 1368 76 .978 11284 50 38 0 10
TOR 1747 4982 3676 1186 120 .966 11438 55 36 0 4

West

team W L Att Rk SOP
Oakland Athletics 64 45 1304052 1 505
Texas Rangers 57 48 850076 2 488
Chicago White Sox 54 52 946651 3 529
California Angels 51 59 1441545 5 426
Kansas City Royals 50 53 1279403 4 404
Seattle Mariners 44 65 636276 6 478
Minnesota Twins 41 68 469090 7 500

Central

East

team W L Att Rk SOP
Milwaukee Brewers 62 47 874292 1 448
Detroit Tigers 60 49 1149144 3 476
Boston Red Sox 59 49 1060379 5 536
New York Yankees 59 48 1614353 4 606
Baltimore Orioles 59 46 1024247 2 489
Cleveland Indians 52 51 661395 6 569
Toronto Blue Jays 37 69 755083 7 451

More From Around the Web

This day in baseball history

September 19

  • 2007

    On September 19, 2007, New York's Andy Pettitte won his 200t ...

  • 2002

    On September 19, 2002, Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa i ...

  • 1983

    On September 19, 1983, Joe Morgan of the Philadelphia Philli ...

More Baseball History
Tagged:
1981 ALCS, 1981 ALDS1, 1981 ALDS2, 1981 World Series, American League, Amos Otis, Billy Martin, Bob Lemon, Bob Sykes, Bobby Grich, Buddy Bell, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Carney Lansford, Cecil Cooper, Chet Lemon, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Righetti, Dave Winfield, Dennis Leonard, Dwight Evans, Eddie Murray, Frank Tanana, Fred Lynn, Gene Michael, George Brett, George Frazier, George Steinbrenner, Graig Nettles, Jerry Mumphrey, Jim Dorsey, Joe Rudi, Kansas City Royals, Larry Gura, Len Barker, Marvin Miller, Mike Hargrove, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Pete Vuckovich, Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Rollie Fingers, Ron Guidry, Steve Kemp, Steve McCatty, Steve Renko, Tommy John, Tony Armas, Willie Aikens, Willie McGee, Willie Wilson

Comments

    Be respectful, keep it clean.
Login or register to post comments

Share US

Share |