Copy of a delivered Sports Illustrated cover of the starting rotation of the 1981 Oakland A’s pitching staff top left to right, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Brian Kingman, bottom Matt Keough (left) and Mike Norris (right)
Memory Lane: The 1981 Oakland Athletics
That’s Amaury News Commentary
By Amaury Pi-González
This current 60-game abbreviated season and the strike-abbreviated season of 1981 have many similarities. For the Oakland A’s 1981 was a bittersweet year. The A’s went far in the postseason, but felt short of the World Series. Some of us remember that year, in my case it was another crazy baseball season. The 1981 season and strike lasted from June 12 until July 31. It was all about arguing for free-agent compensation, in case anybody forgot. About one-third of the regular season was cancelled that year.
The 1981 season was actually split in half and there was quite a controversy because some teams missed out the postseason. The strike lasted a total of 50 days. All Star Game was postponed and then played August 9 in Cleveland, the second time an ASG was played in the month of August. Seems were settled and owners gave teams that won their divisions the right to advance to the Postseason.
The Oakland Athletics won the west that year with a record of 64-45 and got the right to travel to Kansas City for the best of five Divisional Series vs. the Royals. My broadcast partner, Julio González (RIP) and yours truly traveled to Kansas City for the first two games. The A’S won their two games in Kansas City and then returned to Oakland, were they finished the Royals via sweep.
While in Kansas City I wanted to visit the Harry Truman Library, in Independence, Missouri, not far from Kansas City, I convinced Julio we should visit. As somebody who likes history, I thought that would have been a good time to visit the former President hometown and library, but time was of an essence and we never visited. We were not more than 12 miles or so away, since we were staying at the hotel just outside Kaufman Stadium across the freeway, a big Marriott Hotel.
The next stop for the Athletics was New York. Yankee Stadium as we traveled for the American League Championship Series and a win would find us in the World Series. The first two games where in New York, I remember we took the team bus and I was wearing an A’s warm-up jacket (I should have known better, I lived in NY in the late 60’s) as we came out of the bus, some kids where throwing pebbles and stuff at all of us, players and alike as we came out of the bus right in front the stadium. Not a good omen.
The Yankees took the first two games in New York, and ultimately they also beat the A’s on the game at the Oakland Coliseum. We were done for the season. A crazy strike-year, A’s swept the Royals, and then got swept by the Yankees.
In 1981 Julio and yours truly were doing the games for KIQI 1010AM when the owner was Cuban-born Rene DeLa Rosa, a lifelong baseball aficionado, who just a couple of years’ before bought the station from Bay Area communications magnate James Gabbert.
Today and during the last few years the A’s broadcast Spanish station are aired on that same frequency 1010AM/990AM although with new management, studios, but still in San Francisco. The 1981 World Series matched the New York Yankees against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I covered the games in LA for the radio station with interviews and pre-post game reports, Fernando Valenzuela who was the man for the Dodgers and one of the most popular players in all of baseball sat down with me for a one-on-one, among other players, also colleague friend and Dodger Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, with whom I would be working a few years later during playoffs for the US and Latin-American Radio networks.
At the end, the Los Angeles Dodgers won in six games and their celebration took place inside their dressing room at Yankee Stadium, as they took that game six in the Bronx.
My memories of the 1981 season are still there, and it reminded me of the current 2020 season. We all know the reasons this season was “delayed” and we know a player strike also reduced 1981 which ended with a bi-coastal World Series between the Yankees and the Dodgers, the TV network dream. Ironically, today 39 years later, the two favorite teams to meet in the World Series in this 60-game season are, the Yankees and the Dodgers. Stay well and stay tuned.
Catch Amaury Pi Gonzalez and Manolo Hernandez-Douen for all of the Oakland A’s Spanish play by play on 1010 KIQI Le Grande San Francisco and Amaury does News and Commentary at http://www.sportsradioservice.com