1980 baseball season in review

20 07 2010

After getting through most of the 1980 set, and now being ready to move on to 1981, I thought I’d give a quick run down of the 1980 season. So in my hypothetical situation – an intelligent, baseball loving kid new-born kid buying a 1980 set – here’s what I would have been paying attention to that summer:

Highlights and Events:

In the offseason, a group led by Fred Wilpon bought the New York Mets for a record $21 million. The Oakland Coliseum refused to let the A’s out of their lease, which effectively blocked a sale of the team from Charlie O. Finley to investors planning to move the team to Denver. Free agent signings had playoff impacts – Nolan Ryan returned to Texas to sign with the Houston Astros along with former Big Red Machiner Joe Morgan.

The season saw a number of pitching milestones. Ferguson Jenkins won his 250th game on May 23rd, throwing a complete game against the A’s. On July 4th, Ryan struck out Cesar Geronimo to become the fourth MLB pitcher with 3,000 career strikeouts.  Steve Carlton threw over 300 innings – the last pitcher to do so. Jerry Reuss no-hit the Giants in Candlestick on June 20th; the only baserunner reached on a first inning error.

The end of the season also saw an MLB first.  Maury Wills had been hired mid-season as the manager for the Seattle Mariners, and when Texas came to town on September 25th, his son Bump Wills was in the lineup for the Rangers.  This marked the first time in history that a son played against a team managed by his father.

The National League won the All-Star game 4-2; Ken Griffey (yes, the senior guy) of the Reds was the game’s MVP after breaking up a no-hitter with a homer in the 5th. However, tragedy hit one of the game’s current stars; only a few days after being the N.L. Starter in the All-Star Game J.R. Richard suffered a life-threatening, career-ending stroke due to blood clots in his arm.

Two teams that had been recent Championship Series bridesmaids rode exceptional performances to make the World Series. Kansas City’s MVP George Brett gave legitimate chase to become the first player in 39 years, since Ted Williams, .400, finishing at .390 and garnering 118 RBI in 117 games. Brett was under .300 on May 30th, then missed a month to injury. He came back on a tear, and was at .400 as late as September 19th. He was the first player since 1950 to have 1 RBI per game. Brett’s teammate Willie Wilson had a phenomenal season and became the first player to notch 700 at bats.

Phillies MVP Mike Schmidt hit 48 homers, a record for third baseman, and clinched the division with an extra-inning homer off the Montreal Expos. The LA Dodgers swept the Astros in the season finale to tie for the West division lead, only to lose in a one-game playoff to the domers’ Joe Niekro. The Yankees took the East with 103 wins, the best record in baseball.

The Royals finally beat the Yankees after losing to the Bombers in the ALCS 3 times during the previous 4 years. The NLCS featured an incredible matchup, with the final 4 games going extra innings. The Phillies came back from 3 runs down during game 5 to win on a Gary Maddox 10th inning double. The Phillies would go on to win their first World Series in 6 games, becoming the last of the original 16 franchises to do so. Mike Schmidt followed his MVP season with the WS MVP, becoming only the 5th (and the most recent) to do so. But the lasting images were Pete Rose backing up a Bob Boone muffed foul ball, and Tug McGraw earning a save after loading the bases in the 9th.

The title of “best player in baseball” at this point was definitely a third baseman, and the two MVPs only enhanced that in 1980 as both had the best season of their careers. It was probably Schmidt by a nose over Brett.

The best pitcher in baseball was probably Steve Carlton at this point, though there is an argument that an aging (41 in 1980) Phil “Knucksy” Niekro was the best pitcher in the majors prior to 1980.

************

Reds season

Team MVP: Ken Griffey (.294/13/85)

Best Pitcher: Mario Soto (10-8/3.87/182)

Awards:

Griffey, AS MVP

All-Stars:

Johnny Bench (starter)

Griffey (MVP)

Dave Concepcion

Ray Knight

The remnants of my hometown Big Red Machine were slowly leaving the team; Morgan left the team via free agency prior to the season and Rose had gone to Philly via the same route the year before. Sparky had been fired the same year Rose left, and “Big Dog” Tony Perez was the first to go – he was traded to the Expos in 1976 (Bob Howsam’s biggest mistake). As a Reds fan – there is some of “what might have been” with that. The Reds were still respectable, but it would have been something to see what all those guys could have done as Griffey, Concepcion and Foster became stars in their own right. Rose and Sparky would both win World Series titles with different teams.

The team was still very good, though; under John McNamara, they finished 89-73, only 3 games back of the division leading Astros and Dodgers. They were in a tie for first as late as August 16th and had 4 All-Stars, including the game’s MVP Griffey. Bench’s knees were getting worse and worse and Cesar Geronimo was no longer good enough to be a full-time starter. Ken Griffey was the team’s best player, batting .294 with 85 RB, 89 runs and 23 steals. Foster hit 25 HR  with 93 RBI while Bench knocked out 24 was also excellent. Dave Collins stole 79 bases, one short of the team’s single season record. The pitching had no stand-outs; Tom Hume was a solid closer saving 25 games, and Frank Pastore paced the team with 13 wins.

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