1981 World Series – Dodgers and Yankees


The sensation of the 1981 strike shortened season was the Dodgers’ FernandoValenzuela a 21 year old lefthander who with a 13-7 record, 2.48 ERA and who struck out 180 hitters in 192 innings won the NL Cy Young Award as well as the NL MVP.

Tommy Lasorda was still the Los Angeles managerand behind Fernando he had Jerry Ruess 10-4, Burt Hooten 11-6 and Bob Welch 9-5. In the bullpen he had left-handedcloserSteve Howe with a 2.50 ERA and two pitchers who later developedinto stars in Dave Stewart and Rick Sutcliffe.

Dusty Baker led the team in batting average with .320 and Ron Cey in home runs with 13. Pedro Guerrero added 12HR/.300 BA and Steve Garvey led in RBI’s with 64.

The Yankees were againmanaged by Bob Lemon who had taken over for Gene Micheal in mid-season and were led by Craig Nettles 15HR/46RBI, Reggie Jackson 15HR/54 RBI and Dave Winfield 13HR/68RBI who had been acquired via free agency.

Their pitching staff was still anchored by Ron Guidry 11-5/.276 ERA, Tommy John 9-8/.268 ERA and Dave Righetti who would later go on to be an effective closer 8-4/2.5 ERA. Rich Gossage was still in the bullpen with 20 saves and a 0.77 ERA.

The seriesopened in the new Yankee Stadium with the lefthanders Ruess and Guidry opposing each other. Ruesshada rough first inning giving up a three run homer to Bob Watson and lasting only 2 2/3 innings while Guidry allowed one run in seven innings and Goose Gossage got a two inning save for a 5-3 win and the Yankees go up 1-0.

Game two was somewhat of a repeat for the Yankees as lefthander Tommy John obtained in free agency from the Dodgers allowed only three hits in seven innings and Gossageagain got a two inning save for 3-0 win to go two games to none.

Two more lefthanders Righetti and Valenzeula started game three in Chavez Ravine in LA. Ron Cey homered off of Righetti in the first inning with two on to give the Dodgers a boost and in spite of Yankee homers by Bob Watson and Rick Cerone, Valenzeula held on for a complete game 5-4 win to bring the series to 2-1.

Game four featured two right-handers in Bob Welch and Rick Reuschel neither of which lasted past the third inning. The Yankees held a 6-3 lead going into the sixth but the Dodgers tied it up in the bottom of the sixth and added two more in the seventh with Davey Lopes singling in the winning run for an 8-7 victory.

Reggie Jackson and Willie Randolph homered for New York while Jay Johnstone added one for LA as the series was tied 2-2.

With the 2-2 tie the fifth game is very important as whoever wins is only one game away from winning the series. The game one starters Guidry and Ruess were backin a closely pitched game.

Guidry seemed in control as he had a 1-0 lead and had allowed only twohits after six innings but in the bottom of the seventh allowed consecutive solo home runs to Pedro Guerrero and Dayton native Steve Yeager and Ruess was able keep the Yanksscorelessin the eighth and ninth innings with a complete game 2-1 victory to put New York on the verge of elimination.

That was tough for the Yankees as the Dodgers had beaten their best pitcher who had pitched a good game.

Tommy John faced Burt Hooten in game six back in New York and both pitcherswerepitchingwell with the game tied 1-1 after four innings but Bob Lemon supposedly on orders from team owner George Steinbrenner went to the bullpen even though John was pitching well.

Rarely does it turn out well when an owner meddles in the day to day operations of his team.

The move backfired as the Dodgers broke the game open with three runs in the fifth and four in the sixth for an 8-2 lead for an eventual 9-2 win and the Dodgers third World Seriesvictory over the Yankees in their ten meetings since 1947.

Cey, Yeager and Guerrero were selected as co-MVPs and the Los Angeles would be back in 1988 while the Yankees would not return untilthe Joe Torre era in 1998.


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing Columnist

Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate

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