18 July 2012

they were not champions - the 1978 topps dodgers who were somewhere else in 1981

al campanis was busy breaking up that team of mine, the 1977 and 1978 dodgers who were featured as dodgers in the 1978 topps set.  here's a rundown on who was gone, and thus did not win a ring in 1981.

charlie hough
in 1981, and for the last time in his career, charlie hough was used primarily out of the bullpen.  he started 5 of the 21 games in which he pitched, and finished the season with a 4-1 record with a save and a 2.96 era for the rangers.  hough's move to the starting rotation came in september, when he pitched into the 8th inning against the a's in his first start of the season.  although he lost that game, he won each of his final 4 starts, including two by complete games.  after that run to end the season, hough would only pitch in relief once more during his 11-year tenure with the rangers.

tommy john
after winning at least 21 games in each of his first two seasons with the yankees, tommy john was held to just 9 victories in 1981.  obviously the strike had a lot to do with that as he made only 20 starts all season, but given his 2.63 era, it would seem that his record should have been better than 9-8.  in fact, in 5 of his 8 losses, the yankees scored 1 run or less. john threw 7 complete games during the regular season, and made 5 appearances in the postseason. 

his lone alds start against the brewers resulted in a loss, but he later won game 1 of the alcs against the a's.  he was also victorious in game 2 of the world series against the dodgers, pitching 7 shutout innings en route to a 3-0 yankee victory.  a few days later, in game 4 of the series, john was called in from the bullpen, and while he did not allow any runs of his own, he did allow two inherited runners to score, including the eventual game winning run in the dodgers' 8-7 victory. 

john's last start of the series came in the decisive game 6.  he had allowed one run through 4 innings, but with two on and two out in a game tied at one run apiece, manager bob lemon chose to pinch hit for john.  burt hooton got bobby murcer to fly out to right, and the dodgers went on to score 3 runs off of reliever george frazier in the top of the 5th, essentially clinching their first world series championship since 1965.  it was a good example of the difference between managing in the american league versus the national league where you have to consider the pitcher's spot.  so, i guess i am thankful of the rules back then that alternated the dh rule by year, not by stadium. 

lee lacy
lee lacy split most of his playing time for the pirates in 1981 between left and right field, although he did make single game appearances at both third base and in center field that year.  he hit .268 with a pair of home runs and 10 rbi.  he did have 24 steals (in 27 tries!), good enough for 8th in the national league during the strike-shortened season.

johnny oates
johnny oates returned to the yankees in 1981.  he appeared in only 10 games, however, and hit just .192 with 5 hits (one double) in 26 official at bats.  his final game came on may 24th against the indians.  in that game, oates started behind the plate for the yankees.  in his first at bat, he reached on an error and scored a run.  his next time up, he walked and scored another run.  then, in the 6th inning, he singled in what would be his final big league plate appearance.  he was replaced in the game by rick cerone the following inning and he announced his retirement shortly thereafter.

doug rau
doug rau was released by the dodgers at the onset of spring training in 1981.  he was attempting to return to the major leagues after missing most of 1979 and all of 1980 due to injury.  in late april, the california angels signed the southpaw, and he wound up making three starts for them - enough to earn spot in topps' traded set issued later that year. 
rau was rusty in his first start, allowing 6 earned runs in 3+ innings at detroit, but 5 days later he threw 5 shutout innings at baltimore to earn his final big league victory.  his last career start came at home against the blue jays on normal 4-days' rest.  he lasted 2.1 innings and allowed 4 earned runs.

unfortunately for dougie, the last pitch he threw as a major leaguer was hit by barry bonnell for a three-run homer.  it's pretty fortuitous that topps got a photo of rau in an angels uniform, given that he didn't sign with them until after the season had started, and he was only on their active roster for a month or so.

rick rhoden
rick rhoden's numbers for the pirates in 1981 were pretty similar to those he put up in 1980.  he was 9-4 (7-5 in 1980), with a 3.89 era (3.84) in 21 (20) games with 76 (70) strikeouts.  one place where he wasn't as consistent, however, was at the plate.  you might recall that rhoden hit .375 in 1980, with 3 doubles and a home run in 40 at bats.  in 1981, he hit just .188 with 2 doubles in 48 at bats.  he did, however, throw two shutouts in the strike-shortened season, 2 more than he had spun the year before. 

rhoden had his worst outing of the season on august 26 against the dodgers, when he was tagged for 11 runs in 5+ innings of work.  in that game, rhoden only allowed three extra base hits (all doubles), but gave up 12 hits and 3 walks overall.  i must point out that steve garvey drove in 5 runs that day - the first time that had happened since 1977.

elias sosa
1981 was elias sosa's final year in montreal.  he appeared in 32 games, and had a 1-2 record with a 3.66 era and 3 saves. during the regular season, sosa pitched against the dodgers twice.  he allowed no runs and struck out 3 in a total of 2.2 innings of work.  in the postseason, sosa pitched in 2 games agains the phillies before facing the dodgers in the nlcs.  he appeared in one game (game 4) and got steve garvey to fly out before giving up an rbi single to ron cey and then walking ken landreaux.

and, finally, i am sad to report, that don sutton was not able to enjoy the fruits of victory with the dodgers in 1981.
after leading the national league in era in 1980, and earning a spot on a league leader card
in the process, sutton signed a free agent deal with the astros.  we were all rewarded with a 1981 topps traded card with sutton wearing one of the more subdued astros' uniforms.
and don't worry, i'll address sutton's preference for the kneeling pose in a future post.  anyway, sutton made 23 starts for houston in 1981.  he went 11-9 with a 2.61 era, good for 9th in the league.  he did lead nl pitchers in whip for a second straight season and the fourth time in his career, however.  sutton completed 6 of his starts, and three of those were shutouts.  

sutton's first start as an astro came against, who else, the dodgers.  and, while he lost that start and his next start against the blue, he twirled a 2-hitter against them in september, winning 4-1 while striking out 9.   one of those two hits was steve sax's second career homer, and the other was a 7th inning single by ken landreaux to break up sutton's bid for a no-hitter.  unfortunately for the astros, sutton didn't get a chance to face the dodgers in the postseason, as an injury suffered near the end of the regular season prevented him from pitching in the nlds.

next up, the guys who finally beat the yankees.

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