1981 American League Championship Series

The 1981 American League Championship Series was a best-of-five series between the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics.

1981 American League Championship Series
Team (Wins) Manager Season
New York Yankees (3) Bob Lemon 34–22, .607, GA: 2 (1st half)
25–26, .490, GB: 5 (2nd half)
Oakland Athletics (0) Billy Martin 37–23, .617, GA: 1½ (1st half)
27–22, .551, GB: 1 (2nd half)
DatesOctober 13–15
MVPGraig Nettles (New York)
UmpiresNick Bremigan, Russ Goetz, Jerry Neudecker, Marty Springstead, Durwood Merrill, Vic Voltaggio
KPIX (Athletics' broadcast)
WPIX (Yankees' broadcast)
TV announcersNBC: Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek
KPIX: Bill King and Wayne Walker
WPIX: Frank Messer, Phil Rizzuto, and Bill White
Radio announcersErnie Harwell and Curt Gowdy


Due to a strike-shortened season, each team had to win two playoff series to reach the World Series. Oakland had swept the Kansas City Royals three games to none and the Yankees had beaten the Milwaukee Brewers three games to two in the 1981 American League Division Series. The Yankees swept the Athletics three games to none in the Series and moved on to the 1981 World Series, where they would lose to the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees

New York won the series, 3–0.

Game Date Score Location Time Attendance 
1 October 13 Oakland Athletics – 1, New York Yankees – 3 Yankee Stadium (I) 2:52 55,740[1] 
2 October 14 Oakland Athletics – 3, New York Yankees – 13 Yankee Stadium (I) 3:08 48,497[2] 
3 October 15 New York Yankees – 4, Oakland Athletics – 0 Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 3:19 47,302[3]

Game summaries

Game 1

Tuesday, October 13, 1981, at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 6 1
New York 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 X 3 7 1
WP: Tommy John (1–0)   LP: Mike Norris (0–1)   Sv: Goose Gossage (1)

In Billy Martin's return to Yankee Stadium (for the first time since the Yankees fired him in 1979), the Yankees drew first blood in front of their old skipper. Graig Nettles' three-run bases-loaded double in the first inning was all the run support that Tommy John needed.

John gave way to Ron Davis after six innings. Davis had an easy seventh, but the A's mounted a threat in the eighth where Martin tried some of his "Billyball" tactics. After Dwayne Murphy walked with one out, Davis ran up a 1–2 count on the next batter, Cliff Johnson. During the at-bat, Johnson stepped in and out of the batter's box (on Martin's orders) on each pitch to break Davis' rhythm. After fouling off a pitch, Johnson showed his bat to plate umpire Nick Bremigan and asked to get a new one. Johnson walked slowly to and from the A's dugout in the process, and Bremigan ordered him to get back to the plate more quickly. Subsequently, when Davis tried to compose himself on the mound, Bremigan ordered him to pitch immediately, and Davis began to loudly complain that he should have been granted time to re-warm up, since Johnson took so long to get back to the plate. Both Graig Nettles and Yankee manager Bob Lemon, coming out of the dugout, tried to calm Davis down. Bremigan then exacerbated the situation by charging Lemon with a mound visit. A clearly rattled Davis threw three straight balls well out of the strike zone to walk Johnson. Lemon then went to the mound and removed Davis (as MLB rules require on a second mound visit in an inning) and brought in closer Goose Gossage earlier than expected to face Tony Armas. Armas was the tying run at that point and was also the A's leading home run and RBI man. Gossage retired Armas and Wayne Gross to end the inning and closed out the win the rest of the way.

Game 2

Wednesday, October 14, 1981, at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 11 1
New York 1 0 0 7 0 1 4 0 X 13 19 0
WP: George Frazier (1–0)   LP: Steve McCatty (0–1)
Home runs:
OAK: None
NYY: Lou Piniella (1), Graig Nettles (1)

The Yankees struck first in Game 2 on Reggie Jackson's RBI groundout in the bottom of the first with runners on first and second off of ican League ERA leader Steve McCatty, but Oakland tied the score in the third when Rick Bosetti hit a leadoff double and scored on Rickey Henderson's one-out triple. Next inning, three consecutive one-out singles put Oakland up 2–1 and knock Yankees' starter Rudy May out of the game. George Frazier intentionally walked Keith Drumright before Fred Stanley's RBI single made it 3–1 Oakland, who were poised to tie the series going home. It could have been worse, but Dave Winfield made a leaping catch in the second to rob Tony Armas of a homer.

But, Graig Nettles led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and Rick Cerone was hit by a McCatty pitch with one out. After Willie Randolph singled in Nettles, Jerry Mumphrey walked. Dave Beard came on in relief and proceeded to give up an RBI single to Larry Milbourne, a two-run double to Winfield, and a three-run homer to Lou Piniella. Beard gave up two more hits and loaded the bases after that, but Cerone flied out to end the disastrous inning. The Yankees now led 8–3.

In the sixth, the Yankees added another run on an RBI single by Bob Watson off of Jeff Jones after a walk and hit-by-pitch. Next inning, they loaded the bases on three singles with one out off of Brian Kingman. Oscar Gamble's sacrifice fly scored a run off of Bob Owchinko before Graig Nettles capped the scoring with a three-run home run to make it 13–3 Yankees. Frazier pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief to earn the win as the Yankees took a 2–0 series lead.

Game 3

Thursday, October 15, 1981, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 4 10 0
Oakland 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 2
WP: Dave Righetti (1–0)   LP: Matt Keough (0–1)
Home runs:
NYY: Willie Randolph (1)
OAK: None

Prior to the game, Bob Lemon inexplicably dropped Willie Randolph from the leadoff spot in the batting order to ninth. Randolph kept any ill feelings to himself and broke a scoreless pitching duel between Dave Righetti and Matt Keough with a homer in the sixth. That run would be all Righetti would need through six innings. Series MVP Graig Nettles plated three more runs in the ninth with a bases-loaded double resulting when A's center fielder Rick Bosetti turned the wrong way on his fly ball.

Dave Righetti pitched six shutout innings and Ron Davis pitched two scoreless innings before giving way to Goose Gossage, who retired the side in the ninth to clinch the pennant.

The most widely accepted debut of "the wave" occurred during Game 3, led by Krazy George Henderson.

Composite box

1981 ALCS (3–0): New York Yankees over Oakland Athletics

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York Yankees 4 0 0 7 0 2 4 0 3 20 36 1
Oakland Athletics 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 22 4
Total attendance: 151,539   Average attendance: 50,513


  1. ^ "1981 ALCS Game 1 - Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "1981 ALCS Game 2 - Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
  3. ^ "1981 ALCS Game 3 - New York Yankees vs. Oakland Athletics". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.

External links

1981 Oakland Athletics season

The Oakland Athletics' 1981 season saw the A's finish with an overall record of 64 wins and 45 losses. They finished the season with the best record in the American League (and second best in all of baseball). Due to the infamous 1981 players strike, the league resorted to a split-season format; this new format saw the winners of both halves of the season playing in the first divisional playoff in MLB history. The A's qualified by posting the AL West's best record in the first half of the season. While they swept the Kansas City Royals in the AL West playoff, they were themselves swept by the New York Yankees in the 1981 American League Championship Series.

The Athletics' 1981 season ranks among the organization's most interesting. The A's, only two years removed from a disastrous 54-108 finish, won their first AL West crown since 1975 under second-year manager Billy Martin. The "Billyball" A's began the season with a then-AL record 11 consecutive wins (this record was later broken by the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, who raced out to a 13-0 start). The squad followed its first loss of the season, a tough 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, with six more victories. Their 17-1 start (through 18 games) remains unmatched. The A's starting rotation (consisting of Rick Langford, Matt Keough, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris, and Brian Kingman) received national attention during the torrid start; the unit was collectively featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated's April 27, 1981, edition. The periodic heroics of Tony Armas and Rickey Henderson also drew notice.

The Athletics, however, slumped badly following the 17-1 start. While they regained some of their swagger during the season's second half, they ultimately played .500 baseball for the rest of the season. Even still, the A's won the AL West's first half with a 37-23 mark; they also led the division in total wins despite losing the second half to the Royals. The A's swept these 50-53 Royals in the ALDS. The A's themselves were humbled in the ALCS, as the Yankees outscored Oakland 20-4 in a humiliating three-game rout. The 1981 ALCS is perhaps best remembered as the purported birthplace of "the wave"; while the phenomenon's origin is disputed, it is most commonly attributed to Krazy George Henderson, who introduced it to the Athletics' crowd during the series' final game.

Despite high expectations, the A's collapsed in 1982. A rash of injuries, among other factors, saw the team plummet to an abysmal 68-94 record. The firing of Billy Martin at seasons' end brought a swift and unceremonious end to the "Billyball" era. All told, the A's would have to wait until 1988 for their next postseason appearance. Only one member of the 1981 team (Rich Bordi) also played on the 1988 team.

Billy Martin

Alfred Manuel Martin Jr. (May 16, 1928 – December 25, 1989), commonly called "Billy", was an American Major League Baseball second baseman and manager who, in addition to leading other teams, was five times the manager of the New York Yankees. First known as a scrappy infielder who made considerable contributions to the championship Yankee teams of the 1950s, he then built a reputation as a manager who would initially make bad teams good, before ultimately being fired amid dysfunction. In each of his stints with the Yankees he managed them to winning records before being fired by team owner George Steinbrenner or resigning under fire, usually amid a well-publicized scandal such as Martin's involvement in an alcohol-fueled fight.

Martin was born in a working-class section of Berkeley, California. His skill as a baseball player gave him a route out of his home town. Signed by the Pacific Coast League Oakland Oaks, Martin learned much from Casey Stengel, the man who would manage him both in Oakland and in New York, and enjoyed a close relationship with him. Martin's spectacular catch of a wind-blown Jackie Robinson popup late in Game Seven of the 1952 World Series saved that series for the Yankees, and he was the hitting star of the 1953 World Series, earning the Most Valuable Player award in the Yankee victory. He missed most of two seasons, 1954 and 1955, after being drafted into the Army, and his abilities never fully returned; the Yankees traded him after a brawl at the Copacabana club in New York during the 1957 season. Martin bitterly resented being traded, and did not speak to Stengel for years, a time during which Martin completed his playing career, appearing with a series of also-ran baseball teams.

The last team for whom Martin played, the Minnesota Twins, gave him a job as a scout, and he spent most of the 1960s with them, becoming a coach in 1965. After a successful managerial debut with the Twins' top minor league affiliate, the Denver Bears, Martin was made Twins manager in 1969. He led the club to the American League West title, but was fired after the season. He then was hired by a declining Detroit Tigers franchise in 1971, and led the team to an American League East title in 1972 before being fired by the Tigers late in the 1973 season. He was quickly hired by the Texas Rangers, and turned them for a season (1974) into a winning team, but was fired amid conflict with ownership in 1975. He was almost immediately hired by the Yankees.

As Yankee manager, Martin led the team to consecutive American League pennants in 1976 and 1977; the Yankees were swept in the 1976 World Series by the Cincinnati Reds but triumphed over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the 1977 World Series. The 1977 season saw season-long conflict between Martin and Steinbrenner, as well as between the manager and Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson, including a near brawl between the two in the dugout on national television, but culminated in Martin's only world championship as a manager. He was forced to resign midway through the 1978 season after saying of Jackson and Steinbrenner, "one's a born liar, and the other's convicted"; less than a week later, the news that he would return as manager in a future season was announced to a huge ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. He returned in 1979, but was fired at season's end by Steinbrenner. From 1980 to 1982, he managed the Oakland Athletics, earning a division title with an aggressive style of play known as "Billyball", but he was fired after the 1982 season. He was rehired by the Yankees, whom he managed three more times, each for a season or less and each ending in his firing by Steinbrenner. Martin died in an automobile accident in upstate New York on Christmas night, 1989, and is fondly remembered by many Yankee fans.

Dave Revering

David Alvin Revering (born February 12, 1953), is an American former professional baseball player. He played as a first baseman in Major League Baseball from 1978 to 1982.

Mike Heath

Michael Thomas Heath (born February 5, 1955) is an American former professional baseball catcher. He played fourteen seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the New York Yankees (1978), Oakland Athletics (1979–1985), St. Louis Cardinals (1986), Detroit Tigers (1986–1990), and Atlanta Braves (1991).

While Heath played most of his games as a catcher, he started his professional baseball career as a shortstop and played every position except pitcher during his major league career. He played 1,083 games at catcher, 142 games in right field, 79 games in left field, 39 games as a DH, 38 games at third base, four games each at first base and shortstop, and one game each at second base and center field.

Drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1973 Major League Baseball draft, Heath made his major league debut with the New York Yankees on June 3, 1978 at the age of 23. He hit .228 in 33 games with the 1978 Yankees and appeared in one game of the 1978 World Series.

On November 10, 1978, Heath went to the Oakland A's in a ten-player trade that sent Dave Righetti to the Yankees. Heath got substantial playing time in seven seasons with the A's. Heath hit .333 for the A's in the 1981 American League Championship Series.

While with the A's, Heath caught Mike Warren's no-hitter on September 29, 1983.Heath was known for his strong throwing arm. In 1989, playing with the Detroit Tigers, Heath led the AL's catchers with 66 assists and 10 double plays.

Heath singled in his last plate appearance vs. the Cincinnati Reds in July 1991.

Mitchell Page

Mitchell Otis Page (October 15, 1951 – March 12, 2011) was a Major League Baseball player. He finished second to Hall of Famer Eddie Murray in American League Rookie of the Year balloting when he came up with the Oakland Athletics in 1977.

Page played the role of the California Angels first baseman, "Abascal," in the 1994 Disney movie Angels in the Outfield.

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