Below are more headlines from the 1981 baseball season, including Pete Rose's career hits record and the amazing rookie season of Fernando Valenzuela.
Tom Seaver Racks Up 14 Wins
Tom Seaver had a superb season in 1981, silencing critics who said the righty was nearing the end of the road. Seaver finished second to Fernando Valenzuela in balloting for the 1981 Cy Young Award, as he led the National League with 14 wins against two defeats and posted a 2.55 ERA.
Dave Winfield: 13 HRs, 68 RBI
Dave Winfield's 1981 performance justified his expensive free agent contract -- a minimum of $23 million for ten years. The Yankee outfielder batted .294 with 13 homers and 68 RBI in 105 games in 1981. For most of the 1980s, Winfield was one of the top ten players in the game. He could run, field, throw, and hit for both average and power.
Pete Rose Breaks Hit Record
Pete Rose topped the National League in hits with 140 in 1981. Tied with Stan Musial for the loop's all-time mark with 3,630 hits when the players' strike began in June, Rose finally broke the record on August 10, the night after the strike ended. At age 40, Charlie Hustle had his last .300 season, batting .325.
Bobby Grich Slugs Way to Top
Bobby Grich made the most of the strike-shortened 1981 season, batting a career-high .304 and topping the American League in slugging average at .543. He also placed himself in a four-way tie for the lead in the American League in homers (22). Also a Gold Glover at second base, Grich was ranked as one of the 40 greatest players ever by Total Baseball.
Billy Martin Wins with Billy Ball
Billy Martin traveled to his fifth major league managerial stop in 1980 when he took over the A's. In 1981, his charges took the West Division Championship only to fall to Martin's previous employers, the Yankees, in three straight in the American League Championship Series. The A's won with a style known as "Billy Ball," which included bunting, stealing, and hit-and-running.
Fernando Valenzuela Is a Sensation
Fernando Valenzuela's game-three victory in the 1981 World Series gave the Dodgers their first win in the six-game affair. The pitching virtuosity and incredible farm-to-baseball-field story of the Dodger rookie piqued the interest of a nation. Valenzuela was the 1981 Sporting News Player of the Year.
Jack Morris Wins 14 Games
With a bag of tricks that included a fastball, slider, and split-finger fastball, Jack Morris became the winningest pitcher of the 1980s. In 1981, Morris tied for the American League-lead in victories with 14, pitched two shutout innings in the 1981 All-Star Game, and was named Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in the junior circuit.
Pedro Guerrero Ties for 1981 World Series MVP Honors
Playing in his first full season for the Dodgers, Pedro Guerrero batted an even .300 (and hit 12 homers) in 1981. An outstanding contributor in that fall's World Series, he batted .333, smacking two homers and leading the ballclub with seven RBI. Giving the performance of his life in the final contest of that six-game 1981 World Series, he batted in five runs. For his efforts, Guerrero was named co-MVP of the Series along with Steve Yeager and Ron Cey.
Dave Winfield Ends with a Dive
Although Dave Winfield had much to do with helping the Yankees make it to the 1981 World Series, the outfielder suffered through a terrible slump once he got there. Batting just .045 in the fall classic, Winfield posted one hit and one RBI over the six-game tournament. His Series performance left New Yorkers expecting more.
Bob Welch Bombs in 1981 World Series
Bob Welch compiled a record of 9-5 during the 1981 season, tallying a 3.45 ERA. In that year's postseason play, the righty suffered a disastrous start in game four of the World Series, where he surrendered a triple, a double, a walk, and a single to the first four Yankee batters he faced before being pulled from action.
Find more highlights from the 1981 baseball season on the next page.
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