Today’s Random Jays game comes from August 16, 1981.
This was the second game of a double header between the teams. The Brewers won the first game 6-2.
1981 was a rather complicated season. There was a player’s strike in the middle. There was no baseball from June 12 to July 31. Teams played around 105 games. When baseball came back the powers that be decided to turn the season into two half seasons. They decided that pre-strike games would be the ‘first half’ and the post-strike games would be the second half. The winners of each half would have a five-game playoff series.
The reasoning was that a team like the Blue Jays, who finished the first half 19 games back of the Yankees, wouldn’t be able to draw fans in the second half because they would have no chance of coming back. But then....back in those days, you didn’t come out to Blue Jays games thinking they had a shot at the playoffs.
The Yankees ‘won’ the first half, in the AL East, so they had no incentive to play in the second half, because, if they finished first, the second place team would go into the playoffs. So first half Yankees went 34-22, second half 25-26.
What was the strike about? Free agent compensation. Free agency caused player salaries to to climb. Owners weren’t happy with that. They wanted to do something to slow the inflation of salaries. The owners hated Marvin Miller who led the Player’s Association. And, of course, they liked keeping all the money.
I don’t know which side won. I guess player’s salaries continued to climb, but the players lost a lot of money missing 50 days worth of pay. The owners had insurance, so they didn’t lose all that much money, but it wasn’t good for them either.
This game was game 6 of second half of the season. And it was the second game of a double-headers. In the first game the Jays lost 6-2, behind the pitching of Dave Stieb. Going into the second game, the Jays were 4-2 in the second half.
The Brewers were also 4-2 in the second half. They would go on to finish first in the AL East in the second half.
|Alfredo Griffin, SS||Thad Bosley, RF|
|Lloyd Moseby, CF||Robin Yount, SS|
|Damaso Garcia, 2B||Cecil Cooper, 1B|
|Greg Wells, 1B||Ben Oglivie, LF|
|George Bell, RF||Gorman Thomas, CF|
|Ken Macha, DH||Paul Molitor, DH|
|Al Woods, LF||Don Money, 3B|
|Buck Martinez, C||Jim Gantner, 2B|
|Danny Ainge, 3B||Charlie Moore, C|
I want to marvel at the lineup construction for a moment. Leading off is Alfredo Griffin, who was hitting .196/.238/.294. It was Alfredo’s third full season in the majors. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1979 (actually tied with John Castino). It was his best season with the Jays hitting .287/.333/.364 with 21 steals (16 times caught, meaning we would have been better off if he didn’t steal), Good for a 2.3 bWAR. In 1980 he his numbers dropped (.254/.283/.349 with 18 steals, 23 time caught (someone tie him to the bag at first)). And, of course, this season he was worse again (and again 8 steal, 12 times caught), finishing with a -2.0 bWAR (tied for worse mark in team history with Carlos Garcia in 1997). This is who we lead off?
Moesby wasn’t that much better, hitting .236/.292/.386 at that point, but Lloyd was moved up to the majors quickly (there really wasn’t anyone blocking his way) because he had potential. Batting third, Damaso Garcia, the slugger you want batting third (.303 SA up to this point).
We had some reasonable bats after that (or at least guys with potential) until you get to Danny Ainge batting ninth. Danny was hitting .188/.243/.222 in his third MLB season. After the season he decided that maybe he had a future in basketball and was drafted by the Celtics in the 1981 NBA. He played 14 seasons in the NBA.
He played basketball with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, often getting into fights. Famously he got in fight with Tree Rollins where Rollins bit his finger, leading to a headline “Tree Bits Man”. Since his playing days ended he coached for the Phoenix Suns and then became GM of the Celtics.
Not surprisingly we didn’t have much luck scoring against Brewers starter Randy Lerch, who did give up 9 hits, with 1 walk and NO STRIKEOUTS in 7.1 innings. Lerch had an 11-year MLB career. He didn’t get many strikeouts. In 1982 he averaged 2.5 strikeouts per 9 innings which, even in those days, was low. Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers got the save going 1.2 giving up a hit and getting a strikeout. Fingers also got the save in the first game of the double-header.
We had 10 hits in all. Buck Martinez and first baseman Greg Wells had 2 each. Every other starter had 1 hit, excepting Griffin.
Wells played in 32 games that season, hitting .247/.295/.315. He filling in for John Mayberry, our regular first baseman. Next season Willie Upshaw would play first and Wells would be with the Twins (only playing 15 games) and that would be his career.
Jays starter Jackson Todd (for a moment I thought he was the ‘Robin’ who was killed by the Joker, but that was Jason Todd) had a pretty good start, especially considering he was pitching against Bambi’s Bombers (named for manager George Bamberger). He went 7.2 innings, allowed 6 hits, 2 earned, 3 walks against with no strikeouts. There was only 1 strikeout all game, pinch hitter Willie Upshaw was the lone victim.
This was Todd’s third and last season with the Blue Jays. In 1979 and 1980 he started the season in the minors and was called up when there was in injury. 1981 he was with the Jays for the full season. He would finish with a 2-7 record and a 3.96 ERA in 21 games, 13 starts. He would spend the next season in Triple-A without getting a call up. I have no memory of him at all. Jerry Garvin and Roy Lee Jackson pitched the last 1.1 innings.
The Brewers got their 2 runs on a Ben Oglivie home run. Oglivie was a very good player. In 1980 hit hit .304/.362/.563 with 41 home runs. 1981 didn’t go as well, he hit .243/.310/.395 with 14 home runs.
The Brewers had a heck of a lineup with future Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor plus first baseman Cecil Cooper (who got MVP votes 5 seasons in a row) and center fielder Gorman Thomas, who hit 175 home runs in the 5 seasons from 1978-82.
But my favorite was Don Money. When I was young and, finally, had a few dollars, I bought a bat with his name on it, I still have it. It was way too heavy for me. In fact it’s still a bit too heavy for me, but it said Don Money (and it was heavy enough that if you did make contact, the ball would go a long way).
By the numbers we didn’t have a JOD but I’d give one to Todd for his 7.2 strong innings.
Suckage? Al Woods (-.204, 1 for 4) and Griffin (-.159, 0 for 4).
The Brewers would finish off the second half 31-22 first in the AL East, but they lost the AL East Division Series 3-2 to the Yankees. The series featured two Hall of Fame closers (Fingers and Rich Gossage), who had saves or wins in each of the five games.