04 January 2010

a bittersweet end to the infield - gcrl in 1981

1981 was the year that i, as a dodger fan, had been waiting for. granted, i had really only been waiting since 1977, but still, i had waited. it was a bizarre season, with the excitement of fernandomania contrasted with the despair of the players' strike which left me with no baseball for a month and a half, and the unbridled joy of rick monday's home run tempered by the final appearance of my beloved infield.

luckily, the dodgers were in first place when the strike began, and were deemed 'first-half' champions of the nl west. that meant they got a free ride in the second half of the season, in which they were barely over .500 and finished fourth in the division. still, they made the playoffs while the team with the best overall record in the division, the cincinnati reds, got to stay home once the regular season ended.

steve garvey had a down year, and not just because of fewer games. while he played in all 110 dodger games in 1981, his batting average dropped to .283 and his ops fell to .732. he hit just 10 home runs although his 64 rbi and 63 runs scored led the team. while he kept his consecutive games streak alive, another streak ended. for the first time since 1973, garvey did not start in the all star game. although he was selected to the team, pete rose won the balloting and was named the first base starter. in the game, garvey went 1 for 2 with a double. he finished 25th in the mvp voting, which was his lowest showing since winning the award in 1974. he hit two home runs in a game just once (against the padres). in the postseason, garvey likely would have been named the mvp of the division series had such an award been given. he hit .386 with 2 home runs and an ops of 1.158 in the dodgers five game series against the astros. against the expos in the nlcs, he hit .286 with one home run and an ops of .714. garvey bounced back in the world series against the yankees, hitting .417, leading both teams with 10 hits. 9 of those hits were singles, though, and he failed to drive in a run. he did get to be the second player to reach the mound during the celebration, and so he is in the iconic 1981 world champion photo of steve yeager and steve howe. speaking of yeager, he shared the series mvp award with pedro guerrero and ron cey, although during the locker room celebration, garvey was mistakenly told that he had won the award, not yeager.

ron cey had a pretty good year in 1981, to say the least. he raised his average to .288 and hit 13 home runs to lead the dodgers. he hit 2 home runs in a game once (against the expos), and had a walk off home run against them the very next day. he hit his 200th career home run in may against mario soto and the reds. cey missed most of the final month of the season after being beaned by the giants' tom griffin (making september 9th the final regular season game for the infield), and he did not play in the nlds against the astros. he was primarily replaced at third base by pedro guerrero. anyway, the penguin returned for the nlcs, where he matched garvey's .714 ops and had 3 rbi. cey hit .350 in the series against the yankees and suffered a horrific beaning in the head by goose gossage. his 6 rbi in the series and .958 ops earned him his third of the series mvp award.

bill russell had a tough year in 1981 as he hit just .233 with no home runs and an ops of .567. in the postseason, he did better, hitting .250 in the nlds, .313 in the nlcs, and .240 in the world

davey lopes had his worst season as a dodger in 1981. in his final season in la, he hit only .206 while playing in just over half of the team's games. he hit 5 home runs (2 of which were lead off shots, and both against dave roberts of the mets), scored 35 runs, and stole 20 bases . still, he was voted to start the all star game for the third straight year, walking in his only plate appearance. in the postseason, lopes hit .200 in the nlds, with one run scored and a single stolen base. he stole 5 bases against the expos in the nlcs, and hit .278, but didn't score a run. in the world series against the yankees, he scored 6 times and stole 4 bases without being caught. his final dodger at bat came in the top of the 9th inning in game 6 of the world series against dave laroche. the dodgers were 3 outs away from winning the series, and the game was in hand, so i imagine there was a desire to just get to the bottom of the 9th. at any rate, lopes struck out on one of laroche's 'la-lob' pitches. lopes was traded to the oakland a's in february of 1982, bringing an end to the infield. he finished his dodgers career with 99 home runs and 418 stolen bases, second to only maury wills on the dodgers' all time list.

in their final game together - game 6 of the world series - the infield of garvey cey russell and lopes were placed 1 (lopes), 2 (russell), 3 (garvey) and 4 (cey) in the batting order. they went a combined 6 for 15 in the game, with 4 runs scored, 2 rbi, 2 stolen bases and a sacrifice. i suppose that if the infield were going to disband, going out like that, with a world series championship, would be the best way to go.

looking ahead to 1982, topps' production schedule means a couple more davey lopes dodger cards, including the return of multiple base cards!

1 comment:

Fite Club said...

Funny, I thought I was the only one who remembered the initial announcement that Steve Garvey was one of the tri-MVPs of the '81 Series. I remember being surprised although it seemed reasonable since Garvey had so many hits. What did I know, I was 10 and Garvey was my favorite player. The announcement was soon fixed to include Yeager instead but I didn't care, the Dodgers were champs for the first time in my baseball following life!

Those four years between the end of 77 and 81 seemed like eternity and now here were are working on 21+ years.