Year In Review : 1981 American League

Off the field...

Pope John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt by Turkish-born Mehmet Ali Agca. Although wounded badly, he made a quick recovery and soon thereafter resumed his regular travel schedule. The attack gave birth to the infamous "Pope Mobile," a modified Range Rover with the back converted to a large box made of bullet-proof glass which allowed him to ride along, but also stand up and wave to the crowds.

President Ronald Reagan was also shot and gravely wounded by a lone gunman, John Hinckley who was quoted as attempting to impress the actress Jodi Foster. Although the president recovered fully, his press secretary, Jim Brady was wounded in the head and has remained partially paralyzed to this day. Hinckley remains committed to a mental institution.

Sandra Day O'Connor was sworn in as the first female judge on the Supreme Court after being nominated by President Reagan. The courts 102nd appointee served as an Arizona assistant attorney general from 1965 to 1969, when she was appointed to a vacancy in the Arizona Senate. In 1974, she ran successfully for trial judge, a position she held until she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1979.

In the American League...

In the first game of an April 19th doubleheader, the Oakland Athletics set a Major League mark for most consecutive wins at the start of the season after running their record to 11-0 with a 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners.

On Friday, May 15th, Cleveland Indians pitcher Len Barker (the 1980 American League strikeout leader) fanned eleven batters on the way to a 3-0 triumph over the Toronto Blue Jays for the ninth perfect game in 20th century history.

The Milwaukee Brewers' Rollie Fingers became the first relief pitcher ever to win the American League MVP Award, edging the Oakland A's Rickey Henderson 319-308. The lanky right-hander with the handlebar mustache went on to become one of the greatest relief artists in all of baseball, lasting seventeen years and compiling the record for most career saves (three-hundred forty-five) as well as World Series saves (seven).

In the National League...

Philadelphia ace Steve Carlton struck out the side (Tim Raines, Jerry Manuel, and Tim Wallach) in the first inning of a 6-2 Phillies victory over the Montreal Expos on April 29th to become the first lefthander in Major League history (and sixth pitcher overall) to record three-thousand career strikeouts.

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Fernando Valenzuela became the first rookie ever to win a Cy Young Award after edging the Cincinnati Reds Tom Seaver 70-67 for National League honors. He also became the first rookie since the Cleveland Indians' Herb Score in 1955 to lead his league in strikeouts with one-hundred eighty.

Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt won his second consecutive National League MVP Award, joining Ernie Banks and Joe Morgan as the only National League players to win the citation back-to-back. The perennial Philadelphia All-Star hit .316 with thirty-one home runs and added ninety-one RBIs despite the abbreviated season.

Around the league...

The Executive Board of the Players' Association voted unanimously to strike on May 29th due to the unresolved issue of free-agent compensation. The deadline was extended briefly, however, after the Players' Association's unfair labor complaint was heard by the National Labor Relations Board.

At 12:30 A.M on June 12th, union chief Marvin Miller announced the player's strike beginning the longest labor action to date in American sports history. By the time the season finally resumed on August 10th, seven-hundred six games (38 percent of the Major League schedule) had been canceled.

Due to the two-month strike, Major League owners elected to split the 1981 season into two halves, with the first-place teams from each half in each division meeting in a best-of-five divisional playoff series. As a result, the Oakland A's, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and Los Angeles Dodgers were guaranteed playoff spots as first-half league champions.

Seattle Mariners manager Maury Wills was suspended for two games after ordering the grounds crew to enlarge the batter's boxes by one foot prior to its game with the Oakland Athletics. The request was in response to the A's complaint that Seattle's Tom Paciorek frequently stepped out of the box while hitting.

Baseball Almanac Top Quote

"If Bowie Kuhn were here today, this strike never would have occurred." - Peter Gammons of the Boston Globe

1981 American League Player Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls
Boston
85
Batting Average
Boston
.336
Doubles
Milwuakee
35
Hits
Oakland
135
Home Runs
Oakland
22
Boston
California
Baltimore
On Base Percentage
Cleveland
.432
RBI
Baltimore
78
Runs
Oakland
89
Slugging Average
California
.543
Stolen Bases
Oakland
56
Total Bases
Boston
215
Triples
Minnesota
9

1981 American League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games
Oakland
18
ERA
Oakland
2.33
Games
Minnesota
54
Saves
Milwaukeee
28
Shutouts
Chicago
4
California
Texas
Oakland
Strikeouts
Cleveland
127
Winning Percentage
Milwaukee
.778
Wins
Baltimore
14
Oakland
Detroit
Milwaukee

1981 American League

Team Standings

Milwaukee Brewers Final 62 47 .569 0
1st Half 31 25 .554 3
2nd Half 31 22 .585 0
Baltimore Orioles Final 59 46 .562 1
1st Half 31 23 .574 2
2nd Half 28 23 .549 2
New York Yankees Final 59 48 .551 2
1st Half 34 22 .607 0
2nd Half 25 26 .490 5
Detroit Tigers Final 60 49 .550 2
1st Half 31 26 .544 3?
2nd Half 29 23 .558 1?
Boston Red Sox Final 59 49 .546 2?
1st Half 30 26 .536 4
2nd Half 29 23 .558 1?
Cleveland Indians Final 52 51 .505 7
1st Half 26 24 .520 5
2nd Half 26 27 .491 5
Toronto Blue Jays Final 37 69 .349 23?
1st Half 16 42 .276 19
2nd Half 21 27 .438 7?
Oakland Athletics Final 64 45 .587 0
1st Half 37 23 .617 0
2nd Half 27 22 .551 1
Texas Rangers Final 57 48 .543 5
1st Half 33 22 .600 1?
2nd Half 24 26 .480 4?
Chicago White Sox Final 54 52 .509 8?
1st Half 31 22 .585 2?
2nd Half 23 30 .434 7
Kansas City Royals Final 50 53 .485 11
1st Half 20 30 .400 12
2nd Half 30 23 .566 0
California Angels Final 51 59 .464 13?
1st Half 31 29 .517 6
2nd Half 20 30 .400 8?
Seattle Mariners Final 44 65 .404 20
1st Half 21 36 .368 14?
2nd Half 23 29 .442 6?
Minnesota Twins Final 41 68 .376 23
1st Half 17 39 .304 18
2nd Half 24 29 .453 6
American League Team Standings

1981 American League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls
Baltimore
404
Detroit
Batting Average
Boston
.275
Doubles
Texas
178
Hits
Boston
1,052
Home Runs
Oakland
104
On Base Percentage
Boston
.343
Runs
Boston
519
Slugging Average
Boston
.399
Stolen Bases
Cleveland
119
Triples
Minnesota
36

1981 American League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games
Oakland
60
ERA
New York
2.90
Fewest Hits Allowed
New York
827
Fewest Home Runs Allowed
New York
64
Fewest Walks Allowed
Kansas City
273
Saves
Milwaukee
35
Shutouts
Detroit
13
New York
Texas
Strikeouts
New York
606
Seasonal Events: All-Star Game | All-Star Game | World Series
Navigation: Year in Review Menu | Previous Season | Next Season
Miscellaneous: N.L. Leaderboard
Retirements | Rookies List
Average Salary: $185,651.00
Minimum Salary: $32,500.00
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baseball almanac fast facts

On May 15, 1981 , "Large" Len Barker of Cleveland pitched a perfect game against Toronto. Do you remember the last pitcher to toss a gem?

Did you know that on the 20th of September, 1981, the New York Yankees signed a Stanford University outfielder who hit .316 his previous season to a Minor League contract? That player was football hall of famer John Elway.

This was the year of the split season. In the East, the first-half winner was New York who finished 34-22. In the West, the first-half winner was Kansas City who finished 30-23.

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