Dodgers fans and baseball fans alike are heartbroken right now. And understandably so, sports have the potential to bring so much joy into the lives of spectators. While regular-season games have not been canceled yet, the start to the season was pushed back. But some older fans might remember one of the last time games were canceled in Los Angeles, things went very well that season.
The year was 1981, and Major League Baseball found itself on strike right in the middle of a season. The issue was, of course, ownership-driven, with teams wanting to be compensated for losing a free agent. The result was a lapse in games that last for nearly two months. The Dodgers were a half-game up on the Cincinnati Reds in the Western Division with a 36-21 record when the strike started.
Once games resumed, the Dodgers limped to a 63-47 record, good for second place in the west and a playoff birth. Los Angeles was anchored in their starting rotation by three incredible starting pitchers. Fernando Valenzuela, Jerry Reuss, and Burt Hooton all pitched to an ERA below 2.50 and tallied a total of 34 wins together in a shortened season.
This was also the year that “Fernandomania” came to be. The rookie sensation came out to pitch an Opening Day shutout for the Dodgers, and it just got crazier from there. Valenzuela went on to win the Rookie of the Year award as well as the Cy Young.
The Dodgers took down the Houston Astros in the first playoff series, beating them three games to two. The Dodgers fell behind two games to start, but came back to win three-straight and take the division series. Los Angeles pitching allowed just six runs to come across in the five games.
In the Championship Series, the Dodgers faced off against the Montreal Expos and again took the series three games to two. Burt Hooton took home the NLCS MVP award after tossing 14.2 innings and not allowing an earned run en route to winning two games in the series.
The World Series was a classic matchup, the Dodgers of the west versus the Yankees of the east. Los Angeles had just lost the 1977 and 1978 World Series to New York, dropping both series four games to two. But 1981 had a different feel. The Yankees took a quick two-game lead in the series when Los Angeles struggled to manufacture runs.
The Dodgers exploded for 24 runs over the next four games, sweeping the remainder of the series. Los Angeles’ third baseman Ron Cey took home MVP honors slashing 350/458/958 and knocking in six runs in the series.
So yes Dodgers fans, while games have not been canceled yet, never forget the shortened season magic. Could this finally be the year a title comes home to Los Angeles?