Year In Review : 1981 American League

O ff 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.

I n 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).

I n 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.

A round 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.

"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

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



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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