YEAR IN REVIEW : 1981 National 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

"He (Bob Gibson) told me to get back behind the batter (at the catcher's position). That the only thing I knew about pitching was that it was hard to hit." - Teammate / Catcher Tim McCarver at Bob Gibson's HOF Induction on August 2, 1981

1981 National League Player Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Philadelphia
73
Pittsburgh
.341
Chicago
35
Philadelphia
140
Philadelphia
31
Philadelphia
.439
Philadelphia
91
Philadelphia
78
Philadelphia
.644
Montreal
71
Philadelphia
.228
Houston
12
San Diego

1981 National League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Los Angeles
11
Houston
1.69
San Diego
57
St. Louis
25
Los Angeles
8
Los Angeles
180
Cincinnati
.875
Cincinnati
14

1981 National League

Team Standings

St. Louis Cardinals Final 59 43 .578 0
1st Half 30 20 .600
2nd Half 29 23 .558 ½
Montreal Expos Final 60 48 .556 2
1st Half 30 25 .545 4
2nd Half 30 23 .566 0
Philadelphia Phillies Final 59 48 .551
1st Half 34 21 .618 0
2nd Half 25 27 .481
Pittsburgh Pirates Final 46 56 .451 13
1st Half 25 23 .521
2nd Half 21 33 .389
New York Mets Final 41 62 .398 18½
1st Half 17 34 .333 15
2nd Half 24 28 .462
Chicago Cubs Final 38 65 .369 21½
1st Half 15 37 .288 17½
2nd Half 23 28 .451 6
Cincinnati Reds Final 66 42 .611 0
1st Half 35 21 .632 ½
2nd Half 31 21 .596
Los Angeles Dodgers Final 63 47 .573 4
1st Half 36 21 .632 0
2nd Half 27 26 .509 6
Houston Astros Final 61 49 .555 6
1st Half 28 29 .491 8
2nd Half 33 20 .623 0
San Francisco Giants Final 56 55 .505 11½
1st Half 27 32 .458 10
2nd Half 29 23 .558
Atlanta Braves Final 50 56 .472 15
1st Half 25 29 .463
2nd Half 25 27 .481
San Diego Padres Final 41 69 .373 26
1st Half 23 33 .458 10
2nd Half 18 36 .333 15½
National League Team Standings

1981 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

San Francisco
386
Philadelphia
.273
Cincinnati
190
Philadelphia
1,002
Los Angeles
82
Philadelphia
.344
Philadelphia
491
Philadelphia
.389
Montreal
138
St. Louis
45

1981 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Los Angeles
26
Houston
2.67
Fewest Hits Allowed
Houston
842
Fewest Home Runs Allowed
Houston
40
Fewest Walks Allowed
Montreal
268
San Francisco
33
Houston
19
Los Angeles
Houston
610
Seasonal Events: All-Star Game | All-Star Game | World Series
Navigation: Year in Review Menu | Previous Season | Next Season
Miscellaneous: A.L. Leaderboard
Retirements | Rookies List
Average Salary: $185,651.00
Minimum Salary: $32,500.00
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baseball almanac fast facts

On January 14, 1981, Frank Robinson became the first black manager in Major League history with the San Francisco Giants named him as their new manager.

On April 29, 1981, Phillies' ace Steve Carlton became the first left-handed pitcher to join the elite 3,000 Strikeouts Club when he fanned Tim Wallach of Montreal during the 1st inning.

Did you know that the first pitcher born in France to throw a no-hitter was Charlie Lea of the Montreal Expos? Lea struck out eight Giants, issued four bases on balls, and won 4-0 on May 10, 1981.

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