1981 Remembered

Last Saturday we had a reunion of the 1981 World Champion Dodgers.  Below is an Press_conference_1 article I wrote remembering that season and the special guys who made up the team.  It is in the current issue of the Dodgers magazine.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed living it!

For three years I would lay my head on the pillow and pray to God, and say, ?Dear Lord, if you see it clear to let the Dodger play in another World Series, please, let it be against the Yankees.? 

I wanted to beat the Yankees so badly that my hate for those pinstripes was palpable.  They had beaten us in the 1977 World Series, and again in 1978, and all I could think about was having one more chance to beat them. 

While they were hoisting trophies and taking champagne showers, we were grimacing with the thought that we were better. 

While they were getting fitted for rings, we were getting suited for revenge.

But while they were partying, we were working hard to get better.  While they were on the links, we were in the batting cages taking swing after swing after swing trying to wipe away the pain of Mr. October hitting three home runs to win the last game of the 1977 Fall Classic.  And the pain of watching that same villainous Hall of Famer stick his hip out to obstruct a double play throw in the ?78 Classic that would give the Yankees the game.  And the pain of knowing we were up two games to none just to have them win four straight.

So in 1981, my prayers were answered. As fate would have it, we found ourselves matched up against the Yankees in the World Series, and as fate would have it, we won that World Series. 

How sweet it is. The fruits of victory!

This victory meant more than being the champions of the world, which is hard to do.  This was a culmination of winters of hard work and summers of glory, vigorous competition coupled with bitter defeat, childhood dreams and the hopes and prayers of grown men playing a boy?s game. 

My Yankee odyssey started when I was a young boy. Growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, when the Yankees would come to town to play the Philadelphia Athletics my four brothers and I, along with every other kid in our neighborhood, would cram against an old fence at Shibe Park and peer through a hole to catch a glimpse of the Yankees.  My heroes were all Yankees. I wanted to play the game with the same determination and grit as guys like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and, of course, the Babe. 

I eventually played at Yankee Stadium with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 and ?55 as a pitcher, and came out of the bullpen to face guys like Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. 

When I returned to Yankee Stadium in October 1977, I returned in style.  It was my first season managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the two biggest teams in the history of baseball would meet in the Fall Classic.  We lost that series, and lost again to the Yankees in 1978.  I was heartbroken each time, but proud of my guys.

My 1981 Dodgers were an exciting team.  They played baseball the way it should be played, with passion, hustle desire and determination.  Of course, those values were instilled into them as they developed in our farm system.  Twenty one of the 25 guys on our roster were Dodger products.  I managed them in the minors when they were youngsters right out of high school.  I was there when Garvey made the transition from third to first, when Lopes changed from an outfielder to a second baseman, when I put Joe Ferguson behind the dish for the first time. 

By 1981 these guys had been together for years, had lived together for years, had played together for years, had won together, and had by now lost to the Yankees together in two World Series. As the old baseball metaphor goes, three strikes and you?re out.

The Series was electric. We dropped the first two games but came back to win the next four in a row.  In Game 3 Fernando was in trouble in the fifth inning he was in a jam with the bases loaded. Everybody thought I was going to take him out. I went out to the mound and in my very best Spanish I said, ?

Oye Fernando, escuchame. Si tu no le das a este equipo no mas carreras nosotros vamos ganar este juego 8-4.? In English it said, ?Listen Fernando. If you don?t give up any more runs to this team we?re going to win this game 8-4.?

Fernando looked at me and said in perfect English, ?Are you sure??

We did end up winning, though 5-4.

The pitching was tremendous, and so were the position players, as we had an unprecedented tri-MVP award handed out to Steve Yeager, Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero for their outstanding, unselfish performances.  The team was more than a collection of ballplayers, it was a group of brothers.

There is a saying around baseball: It?s great to be a Yankee.  But Branch Rickey indoctrinated us with our own saying: I?m proud to be a Dodger. Every day managing the Dodgers I tried to instill that pride in my players, and that pride shined bright during those six games in the fall of 1981. I couldn?t have been any happier for our success, or any prouder of the tremendous effort given by each player who wore a Dodger uniform that season.  They earned the title Champion, and they earned it as a team. 

7 Comments

So when are you going to go down to the clubhouse and light a fire under this team? The middle relief can not continue to give up so many runs if you expect to experience the fruits of victory this year.

Tommy, that was a great win in ’81. Those losses in 77 and 78 were so bitter. But, in ’81 they couldn’t deny the addition of Fernando and Pedro. That was the beginning of a 15 year yankee slump. It was a superb win. Thanks Tommy for not letting down and keeping it going.

what’s wrong with Sax in the back ground.

The 1981 LA Dodgers by jamestowncalif.com

One of the Greatest Teams of all of baseball, the 81 LA Dodgers. It was a unique time, and baseball may not have had a team with overall character and charisma as this 81 LA Dodgers. The NLCS, that game against the Montreal Expos set the stage for the team, the World Series as Rick Monday takes a pitch deep in the rightcenter field seats giving LA the lead in the top of the last inning against the Expos, and the Dodgers held on to win. I remember that game like Yesterday in grade school, our teacher would have a little TV for us to watch the games towards the end of the season. Everyone followed the Dodgers that Year, and that year the fans hadnt experienced such a good team.It all started with the manager, and Tommy Lasorda that year pushed that team hard, and it was successful. Hed oftentimes come out to the mound just to give the umpire a piece of his mind, and those days, it was funny. You had Steve Garvey at First. Dave Lopez at 2nd, and you had rookie sensation Steve Sax.Bill Russell at short Stop. Ron Cey, the Penguin, at 3rd base. Steve Sax was a great baseball player. In the outfield, you had Pedro Guerrerro who was new to the league, and a very great baseball player. In Center , Ken Landreaux, and he was the outfielder that made the last catch against the New York Yankees game 6 for the World Series. In Right, you had Dusty Baker. All these players made huge hits allthroughout the 81 season, NLCS, and the World Series. The Dodgers had 2 catchers, Steve Yeagar and Mike Schocia whom now is the manager of the Angels of Anaheim , the 2002 World Series Champions. The Pitching staff, it started with Rookie Sensation, Fernando Valenzuela number 34. He came in the league, and took over baseball at the time winning 9 in row. He had a screw ball that sank, and not a hitter at the time was able to hit off him. He also had a good fastball. A true Lefthander, perhaps one of the best pitchers of all time. It was Fernando Valenzuelas performance on a Friday Night pitching Dou winning for the Dodgers in a tight game as LA was down 0-2 going to LA for 3. Huge win for the Dodgers, and Valenzuela was a huge part of that win in the world series. Being down 0-2, the Dodgers needed a pitching performance like that one.( I saw all the world series games). The style, the pressure of the moment that game was big. Saturday, the teams came out early on a sunny day. The craziest game of the series as the lead changed all throught the game. Reggie Jackson was unable to make a routine catch on fly ball due to the sun, and he couldnt come up with it. Dave Winfield for the Yankees was their New AROD coming from the Padres, and He couldnt hit the whole series, and the LA pitching staff shut Winfield down all series. It was funny watching how Winfield was the only Yankee who just couldnt get a hit. And then that game Sunday, Rich Gossage, the Goose, or Goose Goosage. At the time, the Yankee reliever was at the top of the game, and he would come in and throw some heat, 100 mph pitches blowing hitters away. Some Key HRs by Pedro, Steve Yeagar, and in close game the Dodgers win to go ahead in the series 3-2. In that game Sunday, Ron Cey is at bat, and Rich Gossage throws a pitch as fast as a lightning bolt that sailed, and hit Ron Cey in the Head. Cey was down, and all the fans, viewers were all watching to see. After the game, their was an incident between Yankees owner, and some others as the Yankees came in 2-0 are now going back 2-3. And the Next game, it was all Dodgers winning big, with some Homeruns from Cey, Guerrero, and Yeagar. and the Yankees were never in that one. At the time, the Yankees and the Dodgers players didnt like one another, and this was a grudeworldseries more than anything. Everything was laid out on the line on the field that series. It was redemption for the Dodgers after losing to the Yankees in the 78 World Series, now to win in the 81 World Series, it was the sweatest win in the LA franchise at the time. One of the greatest teams of all times, the 81 Dodgers from the owner , to the manager, to the team, and of course Vin Scully as the Broadcaster along with Ross Porter. The best headline for that World Series, The LA Dodgers Smoke the New York Yankees 4 Straight games to Win the 1981 World Series. It was a great time for LA. I would like to thank you by jamestowncalif.com

You look back, and how important the managers starting pitching rotation was. Bob Welch, Burt Hooton lost at New York in the first two games. Having Valenzuela start in LA game 3 rather than in New York Won the series, and His pitching Game 3 turned the series around. Tom Lasorda had a good pitching staff at the time. Jerry Reuss and Steve Howe also were keys to the success of the team in 81.

ref from story

Memories of the ’81 team 25 years later

Dodgers to hold reunion for World Series champs on Saturday

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

Thanks for beating those Yankees Tommy!

Tommy:

I just want to say “Thank You” for making me the Happiest 11 Year Old the night the Dodgers won the World Series. What a Magical year 1981 won and yes it was even more special beating the Yankees in the World Series.

Thx,

Dodger Tom

P.S. I would love if I can could a transcript of your HOF Induction Speech. The bit about blowing out the candle Reds Manager Johnny McNamara lit in church one Sunday is one for the Ages!

I own a 1981 Dodger team ball signed on a 1981 World Series ball I purchased from Reggie Jackson.com. I value that ball so much because everytime I look at it, it takes me back to those magical days when we beat those nasty Yankees.
I also own a 2001 Diamondback team baseball on a World Series baseball, when they beat the YANKEES. Now living in Arizona, that high after that magical game 7 comes pretty close to the 1981 Dodger victory.

These balls mean so much to me…..!

Jaime Quintero

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