1981 Oakland Athletics
American League West Champions
LeagueAmerican League
DivisionWest
BallparkOakland–Alameda County Coliseum
CityOakland, California
Record64–45 (.587)
Divisional place1st
OwnersWalter A. Haas, Jr.
General managersBilly Martin
ManagersBilly Martin
TelevisionKPIX-TV
(Bill King, Harmon Killebrew)
RadioKSFO
(Bill King, Lon Simmons, Wayne Hagin)
KIQI
(Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, Julio Gonzalez)
← 1980 Seasons 1982 →
The Oakland Athletics playing host to the Texas Rangers at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum during a 1981 home game.

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 American League West's best record in the first half of the season. While they swept the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS, they were themselves swept by the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

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.

Offseason

Ownership

Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley's wife sought a divorce and would not accept part of a baseball team in a property settlement. With most of his money tied up in the A's or his insurance empire, Finley had to sell the team. Though Finley found a buyer in businessman Marvin Davis, who would have moved the Athletics to Denver, the tentative deal hit a snag when the Raiders announced their move to Los Angeles. Oakland and Alameda County officials, not wanting to be held responsible for losing Oakland's status as a big-league city in its own right, refused to let Finley break the lease with the Coliseum. Finley then looked to local buyers, selling the A's to San Francisco clothing manufacturer Walter A. Haas, Jr., president of Levi Strauss & Co. prior to the 1981 season.

Haas restored the official name of the club to "Athletics" in 1981, but retained the nickname "A's" for marketing purposes. At first, the word "Athletics" was restored only to the club's logo, underneath the much larger stylized-"A" that had come to represent the team since the early days. Former owner Charlie Finley banned the word "Athletics" from the club's name because he felt that name was too closely associated with former Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack.

During the Finley era, average home attendance from 1968–1980 was 777,000 per season, with 1,075,518 in 1975 being the highest attendance for a Finley-owned team. In marked contrast, during the first year of Haas' ownership, the Athletics drew 1,304,052—in a season shortened by a player strike. Were it not for the strike, the A's were on a pace to draw over 2.2 million in 1981. The A's finished with the second-best overall record in baseball, and the best record in the American League.

Spring training

The Oakland Athletics held spring training at Rendezvous Park in Mesa, Arizona.

Regular season

Game log

First half

1981 Regular Season Game Log First Half (37–23) (Home: 22–11; Road: 15–12)
April (18–3) (Home: 7–3; Road: 11–0)
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Record Report
1 April 9 @ Twins
2 April 10 @ Twins
3 April 11 @ Twins
4 April 12 @ Twins
5 April 13 @ Angels
6 April 14 @ Angels
7 April 15 @ Angels
8 April 16 @ Angels
9 April 17 Mariners
10 April 18 Mariners
11 April 19 Mariners
12 April 19 Mariners
13 April 20 Twins
14 April 21 Twins
15 April 22 Twins
16 April 24 @ Mariners
17 April 25 @ Mariners
18 April 26 @ Mariners
19 April 27 Angels
20 April 28 Angels
21 April 29 Angels
May (13–17) (Home: 11–6; Road: 2–11)
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Record Report
22 May 1 Yankees
23 May 2 Yankees
24 May 3 Yankees
25 May 3 Yankees
26 May 5 Tigers
27 May 6 Tigers
28 May 7 Tigers
29 May 8 Brewers
30 May 9 Brewers
31 May 10 Brewers
32 May 12 @ Yankees
33 May 13 @ Yankees
34 May 14 @ Yankees
35 May 15 @ Brewers
36 May 16 @ Brewers
37 May 17 @ Brewers
38 May 18 @ Orioles
39 May 19 @ Orioles
40 May 20 @ Red Sox
41 May 21 @ Red Sox
42 May 22 Blue Jays
43 May 23 Blue Jays
44 May 24 Blue Jays
45 May 24 Blue Jays
46 May 25 White Sox
47 May 26 White Sox
48 May 27 White Sox
49 May 29 @ Blue Jays
50 May 30 @ Blue Jays
51 May 31 @ Blue Jays
June (6–3) (Home: 4–2; Road: 2–1)
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Record Report
52 June 2 @ White Sox
53 June 3 @ White Sox
54 June 4 @ White Sox
55 June 5 Red Sox
56 June 6 Red Sox
57 June 7 Red Sox
58 June 9 Orioles
59 June 9 Orioles
60 June 10 Orioles

Second half

1981 Regular Season Game Log Second Half (27–22) (Home: 12–11; Road: 15–12)
August (10–9) (Home: 7–4; Road: 3–5)
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Record Report
All-Star Break: NL def. AL at Cleveland Stadium, 5–4
61 August 10 @ Twins
62 August 11 @ Twins
63 August 12 @ Twins
64 August 14 Angels
65 August 15 Angels
66 August 16 Angels
67 August 18 Red Sox
68 August 19 Red Sox
69 August 20 Red Sox
70 August 21 Orioles
71 August 22 Orioles
72 August 23 Orioles
73 August 24 Indians
74 August 25 Indians
75 August 27 @ Red Sox
76 August 28 @ Red Sox
77 August 29 @ Red Sox
78 August 30 @ Red Sox
79 August 31 @ Indians
September (15–12) (Home: 5–6; Road: 10–6)
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Record Report
80 September 2 @ Indians
81 September 2 @ Indians
82 September 3 @ Orioles
83 September 4 @ Orioles
84 September 5 @ Orioles
85 September 6 @ Orioles
86 September 7 Rangers
87 September 8 Rangers
88 September 9 Rangers
89 September 11 Royals
90 September 12 Royals
91 September 13 Royals
92 September 14 @ Rangers
93 September 15 @ Rangers
94 September 16 @ Rangers
95 September 18 @ White Sox
96 September 19 @ White Sox
97 September 20 @ White Sox
98 September 22 @ Blue Jays
99 September 22 @ Blue Jays
100 September 23 @ Blue Jays
101 September 25 White Sox
102 September 26 White Sox
103 September 27 White Sox
104 September 27 White Sox
105 September 29 Blue Jays
106 September 30 Blue Jays
October (2–1) (Road: 2–1)
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Record Report
107 October 2 @ Royals
108 October 3 @ Royals
109 October 4 @ Royals
Legend
Athletics win Athletics loss All-Star Game Game postponed

Season standings

AL West W L Pct. GB Home Road
Oakland Athletics 64 45 0.587 35–21 29–24
Texas Rangers 57 48 0.543 5 32–24 25–24
Chicago White Sox 54 52 0.509 25–24 29–28
Kansas City Royals 50 53 0.485 11 19–28 31–25
California Angels 51 59 0.464 13½ 26–28 25–31
Seattle Mariners 44 65 0.404 20 20–37 24–28
Minnesota Twins 41 68 0.376 23 24–36 17–32
AL West
First Half Standings
W L Pct. GB
Oakland Athletics 37 23 .617
Texas Rangers 33 22 .600 1+12
Chicago White Sox 31 22 .585 2+12
California Angels 31 29 .517 6
Kansas City Royals 20 30 .400 12
Seattle Mariners 21 36 .368 14+12
Minnesota Twins 17 39 .304 18
AL West
Second Half Standings
W L Pct. GB
Kansas City Royals 30 23 .566
Oakland Athletics 27 22 .551 1
Texas Rangers 24 26 .480 4+12
Minnesota Twins 24 29 .453 6
Seattle Mariners 23 29 .442 6+12
Chicago White Sox 23 30 .434 7
California Angels 20 30 .400 8+12

Record vs. opponents


Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]
Team BAL BOS CAL CWS CLE DET KC MIL MIN NYY OAK SEA TEX TOR
Baltimore 2–2 6–6 3–6 4–2 6–7 5–3 2–4 6–0 7–6 7–5 4–2 2–1 5–2
Boston 2–2 2–4 5–4 7–6 6–1 3–3 6–7 2–5 3–3 7–5 9–3 3–6 4–0
California 6–6 4–2 6–7 7–5 3–3 0–6 4–3 3–3 2–2 2–8 6–4 2–4 6–6
Chicago 6–3 4–5 7–6 2–5 3–3 2–0 4–1 2–4 5–7 7–6 3–3 2–4 7–5
Cleveland 2–4 6–7 5–7 5–2 1–5 4–4 3–6 2–1 7–5 3–2 8–4 2–2 4–2
Detroit 7–6 1–6 3–3 3–3 5–1 3–2 5–8 9–3 3–7 1–2 5–1 9–3 6–4
Kansas City 3–5 3–3 6–0 0–2 4–4 2–3 4–5 9–4 2–10 3–3 6–7 3–4 5–3
Milwaukee 4–2 7–6 3–4 1–4 6–3 8–5 5–4 9–3 3–3 4–2 2–2 4–5 6–4
Minnesota 0–6 5–2 3–3 4–2 1–2 3–9 4–9 3–9 3–3 2–8 3–6–1 5–8 5–1
New York 6–7 3–3 2–2 7–5 5–7 7–3 10–2 3–3 3–3 4–3 2–3 5–4 2–3
Oakland 5–7 5–7 8–2 6–7 2–3 2–1 3–3 2–4 8–2 3–4 6–1 4–2 10–2
Seattle 2–4 3–9 4–6 3–3 4–8 1–5 7–6 2–2 6–3–1 3–2 1–6 5–8 3–3
Texas 1–2 6–3 4–2 4–2 2–2 3–9 4–3 5–4 8–5 4–5 2–4 8–5 6–2
Toronto 2–5 0–4 6–6 5–7 2–4 4–6 3–5 4–6 1–5 3–2 2–10 3–3 2–6


Notable transactions

Draft picks

Billyball, year two

Following the team's surprising success in 1980, manager Billy Martin was given the additional title of general manager in 1981. The team won the division title for the first time since 1975, winning the first half of the split season, then defeating the Royals in the divisional playoffs before losing to the Yankees in the ALCS.

While the team was successful, it came at a high price, both for the team and for the pitching staff. Following a season in which the team led the league in complete games with 94—an astonishing number for the time—the Athletics again led the league with 60 complete games out of 109 total games in the strike-shortened season. For the second time, the pitching staff completed more than half their total number of games and more than double the number of the team with the second-highest total (The Indians and Tigers each had 33). The workload of the pitchers over the two seasons was blamed by the team's ownership for the team's fall to fifth place in 1982, which led to Martin's firing from both positions. Many of the pitchers suffered injuries, and none of the four main starting pitchers (Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris, Matt Keough) ever duplicated their success of 1980–81.

Roster

1981 Oakland Athletics
Roster
Pitchers Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders

Other batters

Manager

Coaches

Player stats

Batting

= Indicates team leader

Starters by position

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos. Player G AB R H Avg. HR RBI SB
C Mike Heath 84 301 26 71 .236 8 30 3
1B Jim Spencer 54 171 14 35 .205 2 9 1
2B Shooty Babitt 54 156 10 40 .256 0 14 5
3B Wayne Gross 82 243 29 50 .206 10 31 2
SS Rob Picciolo 82 179 23 48 .268 4 13 0
LF Rickey Henderson 108 423 89 135 .319 6 35 56
CF Dwayne Murphy 107 390 58 98 .251 15 60 10
RF Tony Armas 109 440 51 115 .261 22 76 5
DH Cliff Johnson 84 273 40 71 .260 17 59 5

[21]

Other batters

Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Dave McKay 79 224 59 .263 4 21
Jeff Newman 68 216 50 .231 3 15
Fred Stanley 66 145 28 .193 0 7
Mitchell Page 34 92 13 .141 4 13
Dave Revering 31 87 20 .230 2 10
Keith Drumright 31 86 25 .291 0 11
Kelvin Moore 14 47 12 .255 1 3
Mickey Klutts 15 46 17 .370 5 11
Brian Doyle 17 40 5 .125 0 3
Mark Budaska 9 32 5 .156 0 2
Mike Patterson 12 23 8 .348 0 1
Tim Hosley 18 21 2 .095 1 5
Mike Davis 17 20 1 .050 0 0
Rick Bosetti 9 19 2 .105 0 1
Jimmy Sexton 7 3 0 .000 0 0
Jeff Cox 2 0 0 ---- 0 0
Bob Kearney 1 0 0 ---- 0 0
Jim Nettles 1 0 0 ---- 0 0

Pitching

Starting pitchers

Note: G = Games played; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Rick Langford 24 195.1 12 10 2.99 84
Mike Norris 23 172.2 12 9 3.75 78
Steve McCatty 22 185.2 14 7 2.33 91
Matt Keough 19 140.1 10 6 3.40 60
Brian Kingman 18 100.1 3 6 3.95 52

Other pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Tom Underwood 16 51.0 3 2 3.18 46
Ed Figueroa 2 8.1 0 0 5.40 1

Relief pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G W L SV ERA SO
Jeff Jones 33 4 1 3 3.39 43
Bob Owchinko 29 4 3 2 3.20 26
Bo McLaughlin 11 0 0 1 11.57 3
Dave Beard 8 1 1 3 2.77 15
Craig Minetto 8 0 0 0 2.70 4
Dave Heaverlo 6 1 0 0 1.59 2
Rich Bordi 2 0 0 0 0.00 0

Postseason

ALDS

Main article: 1981 American League Division Series

Oakland wins series, 3-0.

Game Score Date Location Attendance
1 Oakland 4, Kansas City 0 October 6 Royals Stadium 40,592
2 Oakland 2, Kansas City 1 October 7 Royals Stadium 40,274
3 Oakland 4, Kansas City 1 October 9 Oakland Coliseum 40,002

ALCS

Main article: 1981 American League Championship Series

Yankees win the Series, 3-0

Game Score Date Location Attendance
1 Oakland – 1, New York – 3 October 13 Yankee Stadium 55,740
2 Oakland – 3, New York – 13 October 14 Yankee Stadium 48,497
3 New York – 4, Oakland – 0 October 15 Oakland Coliseum 47,302

Game log

1981 Playoff Game Log
1981 American League Western Division Series vs. Kansas City Royals – Oakland wins series 3–0
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Series Report
Game 1 October 6 @ Royals
Game 2 October 7 @ Royals
Game 3 October 9 Royals
1981 American League Championship Series vs. New York Yankees – New York Yankees wins series 3–0
# Date Opponent Score Win Loss Save Attendance Series Report
Game 1 October 13 @ Yankees
Game 2 October 14 @ Yankees
Game 3 October 15 Yankees
Legend
Athletics win Athletics loss

Awards and honors

Farm system

See also: Minor League Baseball

Level Team League Manager
AAA Tacoma Tigers Pacific Coast League Ed Nottle
AA West Haven A's Eastern League Bob Didier
A Modesto A's California League Keith Lieppman
A-Short Season Medford A's Northwest League Brad Fischer

LEAGUE CHAMPIONS: Medford

References

  1. ^ Randy Elliott at Baseball Reference
  2. ^ Brian Doyle at Baseball Reference
  3. ^ "DeWayne Buice Stats - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  4. ^ Keith Drumright at Baseball Reference
  5. ^ Steve Kiefer at Baseball Reference
  6. ^ Rick Lysander at Baseball Reference
  7. ^ Tony Phillips at Baseball Reference
  8. ^ Alan Wirth at Baseball Reference
  9. ^ a b "ESPN.com - Page2 - Biggest cheaters in baseball". espn.go.com.
  10. ^ Ernie Camacho at Baseball Reference
  11. ^ Dave Heaverlo at Baseball Reference
  12. ^ Gorman Heimueller at Baseball Reference
  13. ^ Chris Codiroli at Baseball Reference
  14. ^ "Chuck Hensley Stats - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
  15. ^ Dave Revering at Baseball Reference
  16. ^ Rick Bosetti at Baseball Reference
  17. ^ Tim Hosley at Baseball Reference
  18. ^ Mike Gallego at Baseball Reference
  19. ^ Rick Rodriguez at Baseball Reference
  20. ^ Mickey Tettleton at Baseball Reference
  21. ^ "1981 Oakland Athletics Statistics and Roster - Baseball-Reference.com". Archived from the original on February 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  22. ^ Baseball's Top 100: The Game's Greatest Records, p. 52, Kerry Banks, 2010, Greystone Books, Vancouver, BC, ISBN 978-1-55365-507-7