August 10, 1981. It was the day baseball started again after a 2-month long strike. The Phillies were the defending World Series Champs and when the strike started were in first place in the East, 1.5 games over the Cardinals. The Royals, the winners of the American League Pennant in 1980, were in 5th place in the AL West, 12 games behind Oakland. Sports Illustrated did an article about this mess and featured Mike Schmidt and George Brett the MPVs of their respective leagues in 1980.I actually bought this issue on eBay over 5 years ago but just happened to come across it.
The story started with a large photo of the Dodgers, led by Fernando Valenzuela in "summer training" at Dodger Stadium. When the season restarted the Dodgers were 1/2 game ahead of the Reds for 1st place in the NL West.
Another picture of a Royal, this time Willie Aikens. Willie had had a pretty good 1980 World Series, hitting 4 HR with 8 RBIs and a .400 average.
The caption says "In L.A., Steve Garvey bent over backward to get into shape".
The caption for this photo is "Oakland Second Baseman Shooty Babitt got some pointers on infield play from Manager Billy Martin". I'm willing to bet that this is the only photo of Shooty Babitt to appear in Sports Illustrated. He played 54 games for the A's in 1981 and that was his whole career.
"In New York, happy Yankees fans weren't about to give returning hero Dave Winfield the cold shoulder." Dave appears to be wearing a short-sleeved orange jump suit and is autographing the shoulder of a young woman. Is that the Guggenheim Museum behind him?
There were also photos of Rickey Henderson (A's) and Tug McGraw (Phillies) but they were printed over the fold and didn't scan well. From the article, here are the standings on June 12th, when the strike started. So what happened? The lords of baseball decided to split the season in 2. When play resumed in August, everyone started even. The winners of the divisions for the second half of the season would play the winners of the 1st half in the first Division Series.
In the AL East, the Brewers finished the 2nd half, 31-22 and won the division. The Yankees, who were 34-22 in the first half finished the 2nd half with a 25-26 record, good for 5th place in the East. The Yankees beat the Brewers 3 games to 2 in the Division Series.
In the AL West, the Royals, 12 games out when the strike started, had an excellent 2nd half, going 30-23 and taking the division. The A's were 27-22 and finished in 2nd. The A's handled the Royals 3 games to none in the Division Series.
The Yankees and the A's therefore played for the American League Pennant. The Championship Series was also 5 games and the Yankees won 3 games to none.
The Expos, who had a pretty good 1st half, had a pretty good 2nd half, going 30-23 and winning the Division. The Phillies had a terrible time after the strike, going only 25-27. And then the Expos won the Division Series 3-2.
In the West, the Dodgers also had a bad second half, going 27-26. Meanwhile, the Astros, who had won the NL West in 1980, finished 33-20 in the second half. But the Dodgers won the Division Series 3-2.
Dodgers faced the Expos in the NLCS and managed to beat them 3-2.
So it was the Dodgers and the Yankees in the 1981 World Series. This time, the Dodgers won the World Series, 4-2.