Year In Review : 1980 American League
Off the field...
Former Beatle John Lennon was shot dead by Mark David Chapman who opened fire outside the musician's New York City apartment. The forty-year-old was hit several times as he entered the Dakota, his luxury apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side, opposite Central Park. He was later rushed in a police car to St Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he died of four gunshot wounds to the back. Chapman, a disturbed individual who identified with Holden Caulfield, the irked hero of J.D. Salinger's cult novel "Catcher in the Rye" still remains in jail to this day.
Eighty-seven million American TV viewers wondered "Who Shot J.R.?" as America's hottest prime-time series, a slick soap opera depicting the private lives and public connivances of the somewhat dysfunctional, oil-rich Ewing family ended with one of the most shocking season finales ever produced on television. Eight months later the show earned the second largest audience share in television history with a record 53.3 rating. The final tally: forty-one million of the nearly seventy-eight million households in the U.S. tuned in and the answer was...
A failed U.S. military rescue mission called "Operation Desert One" was attempted several months after Shiite Muslim militants had attacked and seized the Embassy in Teheran, taking fifty-two Americans hostage. The attack upon the American Embassy occurred after the Shah of Iran was overthrown and power was seized by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The American hostages were subjected to four-hundred forty-four days of brutal conditions including mock executions and unfortunately their rescue attempt (ordered by President Jimmy Carter) failed miserably in the Iranian desert resulting in the deaths of eight Americans.
In the American League...
Both Dwayne Murphy and Rickey Henderson stole home in the first inning of an Oakland 'A's 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals to tie a Major League record originally set in the American League by the Minnesota Twins (1969) and in the National League by St. Louis Cardinals (1925).
The Cleveland Indians tied a Major League record on June 1st after hitting four sacrifice flies in a single game thanks to Ron Hassey, Dave Rosello, Gary Alexander, and Dell Alston. Despite their selfless efforts, the Indians went on to lose 8-7 to the Seattle Mariners.
Despite missing forty-five games with injuries, George Brett was named the American League's Most Valuable Player. The twenty-seven year-old third baseman's .390 average was the highest in the Major Leagues since the Boston Red Sox's Ted Williams' .406 in 1941. He also added twenty-four home runs and one-hundred eighteen RBIs to lead the Kansas City Royals to their first American League pennant.
In the National League...
The Cincinnati Reds' Cesar Geronimo experienced déjà vu at the plate, as he became the three-thousandth career strikeout of the Houston Astros' Nolan Ryan. Ironically, he was also Bob Gibson's three-thousandth career strikeout victim six seasons earlier.
Pitcher Steve Carlton, then with the Philadelphia Phillies, fanned 7 St. Louis Cardinals in a July 6th, 8-3 win, crowning him as the major leagues' left-handed strikeout king with 2,836 K's.
Ron LeFlore, of the Montreal Expos, stole his sixty-second base on July 28th, during the seveth inning of a 5-4 win against the Cincinnati Reds, but was tagged out after stepping off the bag while trying to read the scoreboard that was noting the first stolen base occurrence one-hundred fifteen years earlier.
Around the league...
Henry Aaron refused an award from Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn honoring him for hitting his 715th home run in protest of Major League Baseball's treatment of retired black ballplayers.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the umpires' union after they demanded that the National League release its umpire evaluations, particularly those of the replacement officials who were retained after filling in for striking umps in 1979.
On May 23rd, five hours after the midnight deadline passed, the players and owners averted a strike by announcing a new four-year basic agreement. The new deal raised the minimum player's salary from $21,000 to $30,000 and increased the clubs' contributions to the players' pension fund.
On August 20th, Pittsburgh Pirate centerfielder Omar Moreno stole his seventieth base of the season off the Houston Astros, becoming the first player in the 20th century with three consecutive seventy-steal seasons. Moreno swiped seventy-one in 1978, seventy-seven in 1979, and finished 1980 with a career-high ninety-six.