Though the 1981 baseball season was literally torn in two by the players' strike, there was still plenty to talk about. Here are some of the headlines from the 1981 baseball season:
Nolan Ryan Hurls No-No No. 5
A national television audience witnessed the highlight of Nolan Ryan's 1981 season -- and the establishment of a major league record -- as The Express hurled his fifth career no-hitter on September 26, at the Astrodome, against the Dodgers. Ryan went 11-5, leading the National League in ERA (1.69) and fewest hits per game (5.98).
Gary Gaetti Cracks Open Career
On September 20, 1981, Twins rookie Gary Gaetti homered off Charlie Hough of Texas in his first major league at-bat to signal the beginning of an All-Star career. Gaetti was 47th player in major league history to accomplish the feat. Fellow rookie teammates Kent Hrbek and Tim Laudner, who were also playing in their first major league game, homered in the same contest.
Dwight Evans Clubs 22 Homers
Dwight Evans put up impressive numbers during the strike season, as he tied for the lead in the American League in homers with 22, batted .296, drove in 71 runs, and won his fourth Gold Glove. The misunderstood right fielder gained some respectability -- and a little insurance for his future with the team -- once his offensive output began to match his superb fielding and throwing.
Bill Madlock Wins 1981 National League Bat Title
Bill Madlock won his third National League batting crown in 1981, hitting .341 in 82 games. Mad Dog won four batting titles in his career, was an All-Star three times, and spearheaded three teams into postseason action over his 15-year stint. In his spare time, Madlock was an outstanding pingpong player.
Rollie Fingers Wins the 1981 American League MVP
No reliever with the possible exception of Willie Hernandez has ever had a season like the one Rollie Fingers had in 1981. Cited by many as being the greatest all-time reliever, Fingers figured in 55 percent of all the Brewer victories during the season (hurling in 13 of the team's final 15 triumphs that year).
Fingers (6-3, 28 saves, 1.04 ERA) captured both the 1981 American League MVP Award and the Cy Young Award while leading the Brewers to their first-ever postseason appearance. In the divisional playoffs, Fingers won one game and saved another, though his team lost in five to the Yankees.
Fernando Valenzuela Is a Star
Fernando Mania swept America in 1981 as Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican rookie sensation for the Dodgers, led the National League in innings pitched (192), strikeouts (180), and complete games (11). The first rookie to win the Cy Young Award, Valenzuela compiled a 13-7 record in a strike-shortened season and won a World Series game.
Tim Raines Sets Record with 71 Swipes
It took a great player like Montreal outfielder Tim Raines to finish second in 1981 National League Rookie of the Year balloting to Fernando Valenzuela. The recruit batted .304 while stealing 71 bases (a major league rookie record). Despite his steady performance, the Expos lost the pennant to the Dodgers.
Raines would go on to become one of the most exciting players of the 1980s. He would lead the league in batting, runs, doubles, and, of course, steals.
Steve Carlton Wins 13 Games
Despite winning an equal number of games and having a better winning percentage than Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Carlton finished third in the voting for the 1981 National League Cy Young Award. His 13-4 record led the Phillies to a strike-induced first playoff round against the Expos; once there, Carlton lost two games as the Phillies fell in five.
Bill Buckner Tops in Doubles
Bill Buckner missed out on a career year in 1981 due to the strike. That is not to say that the first baseman did not have an impressive showing. Buckner batted .311, drove in 75 runs in 106 games, and topped the National League in doubles with 35. He banged out 498 two-baggers over his career, 28th on the all-time list and just eight fewer than Babe Ruth's total.
See the next page for more headlines from the 1981 baseball season.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1980 Baseball Season
- 1982 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth