Cat and Emma… this one’s for you : )
It’s October 28,1981… Game 6 of the World Series is played in the Bronx between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. LA had lost the first two games of the Series in the same ballpark and fell behind the powerful Yankees 0-2 before traveling back to the West Coast.
The friendly confines of Dodger Stadium were just what LA needed.
But, hold on a second.. a little history about this whacky season for Major League Baseball.
The 1981 season was marred by a strike.
The season was broken into two halves of approximately 50 games each. The strike began in June and ended in August. MLB commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, made the decision to crown the playoff teams as those who had won “the first half” and “the second half” in each Division.
The problem with that skewed thinking is that it left out the two best teams! The Cincinnati Reds had the overall best record in baseball at 66-42. They were left out of the playofffs because they did not win either “half” of the season. The same went for the St. Louis Cardinals who had the best overall record in the NL East, but failed to capture either one of the two “halves”. So, to put it mildly, the Playoffs and the Series were not representative of the best baseball had to offer in 1981.
However, it did feature the hottest commodity in baseball – Fernandomania!
Fernando Valenzuela’s rookie year with the LA Dodgers was nothing less than spectacular. He won his first 8 games (5 by shutout) and gave LA a force on the mound. He joined Jerry Reuss and Burt Hooton on the bump.
The Dodgers had their steady eddie infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey and were Skippered by Tommy Lasorda.
The Yankees featured sluggers Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield. Their pitching staff was loaded with Dave Righetti, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and Tommy John (who started Game 6).
With John on the mound in Game 6, the Yankees rode the unexpected power of Willie Randolph to an early lead. Willie clubbed his second HR of the Series (a solo shot) in the bottom of the 3rd inning. The Bombers had the lead 1-0.
LA’s offense had been pretty hot in 2 of the last 3 games and they came right back to tie the game 1-1 on catcher Steve Yeager’s RBI single.
In the bottom of the 4th… the game began. This is where the blogging would go crazy (if they had such a thing in 1981).
Hooton gave up a leadoff double to Graig Nettles before settling down and getting two quick
outs. Since the game had no Designated Hitter at the time, Hooton intentionally walked Larry Milbourne to get to Tommy John’s spot in the order.
Buoyed by the controversy in the Yankee dugout, the Dodgers struck in the 5th. The Penguin (Ron Cey) knocked in a run to give LA a 2-1 advantage. Then Pedro Guerrero tripled home two more and LA had New York by the throat.
They piled on again in the 6th when Yankee pitching committed the cardinal sin of walking the opposing pitcher with one out. If there were such a thing as a Rally Monkey… it would have been jumping in the Dodger dugout.
Davey Lopes followed with another walk before Bill Russell singled home Hooton to give LA a 5-1 lead. Unfortunately for the Yankees… they were not done scoring. After the 6th run came home on an error, Pedro Guerrero stepped up and delivered another 2 RBIs on a 2 out single.
Pedro would go on to Homer in the 8th and ended Game 6 with an incredible 5 RBIs. Pedro, Ron Cey and Steve Yeager shared the first ever Co-MVP award in the World Series.
And why not? There had already been so many firsts for baseball in 1981 – capped by the LA Dodgers being the first (and only) team to have ever lost the first two games on the road and wind up as the World Champs.
Congratulations to Pedro Guerrero – You are Yesterday’s Hitter!