Year In Review : 1981 National 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.

"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

Base on Balls

Philadelphia

73

Batting Average

Pittsburgh

.341

Doubles

Chicago

35

Hits

Philadelphia

140

Home Runs

Philadelphia

31

On Base Percentage

Philadelphia

.439

RBI

Philadelphia

91

Runs

Philadelphia

78

Slugging Average

Philadelphia

.644

Stolen Bases

Montreal

71

Total Bases

Philadelphia

.228

Triples

Houston

12

San Diego

1981 National League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games

Los Angeles

11

ERA

Houston

1.69

Games

San Diego

57

Saves

St. Louis

25

Shutouts

Los Angeles

8

Strikeouts

Los Angeles

180

Winning Percentage

Cincinnati

.875

Wins

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

1981 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls

San Francisco

386

Batting Average

Philadelphia

.273

Doubles

Cincinnati

190

Hits

Philadelphia

1,002

Home Runs

Los Angeles

82

On Base Percentage

Philadelphia

.344

Runs

Philadelphia

491

Slugging Average

Philadelphia

.389

Stolen Bases

Montreal

138

Triples

St. Louis

45

1981 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games

Los Angeles

26

ERA

Houston

2.67

Fewest Hits Allowed

Houston

842

Fewest Home Runs Allowed

Houston

40

Fewest Walks Allowed

Montreal

268

Saves

San Francisco

33

Shutouts

Houston

19

Los Angeles

Strikeouts

Houston

610



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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