The 1981 Major League Baseball season was an unusual one because of a midsummer strike and the Red Sox finished out of the running again. After the season, construction started on a multi-year project to renovate Fenway Park's grandstand roof and install the park's first luxury boxes.
Record: 59-49, 5th in American League East
Manager: Ralph G. Houk
In 1981, Jean Yawkey established the Jean R. Yawkey Trust and transferred team ownership over to it. She also appointed John Harrington as Co-Trustee of the Yawkey Trust. Harrington had worked for Joe Cronin in the American League's office and when Cronin retired, Tom Yawkey hired him to work for the Red Sox. Though he left the club after Tom passed away in 1976, Harrington returned to help Jean oversee the franchise and had a huge impact on the club until the Yawkey Trust sold the Red Sox in 2002.
In preparation for the 1981 season, the Red Sox turned to skipper Ralph "The Major" Houk, a veteran manager who had led the New York Yankees for 11 years. His team entered the new season without Fred Lynn and Carlton Fisk following the contract snafus of the previous December. Fisk signed a deal with the Chicago White Sox in March, while Lynn had been dealt to his hometown California Angels over the winter. Opening Day against the White Sox seemed almost scripted to underscore Haywood Sullivan's postmark faux pas: Fisk hit a three-run homer in a 5-3 Chicago victory against his former Red Sox teammates.
Boston had also traded Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson to the Angels for third baseman Carney Lansford and pitcher Mark Clear during the offseason. This transaction worked out pretty well for the Red Sox, as Lansford won the 1981 AL batting title with a .336 average and Clear led Boston's pitching staff in wins in 1982.
A midseason strike wiped out the schedule from June 11 to August 10 and the season was split into two halves. The Red Sox placed fifth in the first half of the season and ranked second in the latter half, creeping to within half a game of first place on September 25.
The most remarkable game of the year was a September 3 tilt with the Mariners at Fenway Park that entered extra innings tied 7-7. The game went 10 scoreless extra frames and play was suspended until the next day, when Seattle scored the go-ahead and ultimate winning run in the top of the 20th.
In 1981, Fenway Park began undergoing a major renovation project to its roof that was completed in two major phases, one from 1981 to 1982 and the other from 1982 to 1983. The first phase focused on the right field roof, where the construction of 21 luxury boxes began after the 1981 season.
Snapping the Cape Cod Baseball League All-Stars' three-game winning streak at Fenway Park, the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball All-Stars wound up tying the Cape team, 4-4, at Fenway Park on July 20, 1981.
|1981 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park|
|July 20||Cape Cod Baseball League 4, Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League 4 (Tie)*|
* From 1975 to 1987, on a biennial basis, Fenway Park hosted an all-star game between the Cape Code Baseball League and the Atlantic Collegiate League. The all-star game alternated between Fenway Park and sites closer to the ACL's teams, such as Yankee Stadium and Veterans Stadium. In 1988, the Cape Cod Baseball League returned to an intra-league format for their annual all-star game and in 2009, Cape Code League All-Stars returned to Fenway Park for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, which was played again in 2010.