1981 National League Championship Series
|Dates:||October 13 – 19|
|MVP:||Burt Hooton (Los Angeles)|
|TV announcers:|| Dick Enberg and Tom Seaver (NBC)|
Dave Van Horne and Duke Snider (CBC)
|Radio announcers:||Jack Buck and Jerry Coleman|
|Umpires:||Paul Pryor, Eric Gregg, Paul Runge, Dutch Rennert, Harry Wendelstedt, Joe West|
|NLDS:||Los Angeles Dodgers over Houston Astros (3–2)|
|Montreal Expos over Philadelphia Phillies (3–2)|
|1981 World Series|
The 1981 National League Championship Series was a best-of-five series between the first-half West Division champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the second-half East Division champion Montreal Expos. The Dodgers won the NLCS three games to two over the Expos, thanks to a ninth-inning home run in Game 5 by Rick Monday in what has ever since been referred to as Blue Monday by Expos fans. It was the first postseason appearance for the Expos, and their only appearance during their time in Montreal (the team moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005, becoming the Washington Nationals).
Due to the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, a team had to win two postseason series in order to go to the World Series. Teams that finished first in their division in the first and second halves of the season advanced to the postseason. This was the first year the baseball postseason had three rounds, an arrangement that would become permanent beginning with the 1995 season. The Expos advanced to the NLCS after defeating the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NL Division Series three games to two, and the Dodgers made their way to the NLCS after beating the Houston Astros three games to two in the NLDS.
This was also only the third NLCS that did not feature either the Phillies or their cross-state rival Pittsburgh Pirates, the other two being 1973 and 1969. In both of those years the Phillies rival New York Mets won the NL East and the pennant, beating the Baltimore Orioles in the '69 World Series and losing to the Oakland A's in '73.
Montreal Expos vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles won the series, 3–2.
|1||October 13||Montreal Expos – 1, Los Angeles Dodgers – 5||Dodger Stadium||2:47||51,273|
|2||October 14||Montreal Expos – 3, Los Angeles Dodgers – 0||Dodger Stadium||2:48||53,463|
|3||October 16||Los Angeles Dodgers – 1, Montreal Expos – 4||Olympic Stadium||2:27||54,372|
|4||October 17||Los Angeles Dodgers – 7, Montreal Expos – 1||Olympic Stadium||3:14||54,499|
|5||October 19||Los Angeles Dodgers – 2, Montreal Expos – 1||Olympic Stadium||2:41||36,491|
| WP: Burt Hooton (1–0) LP: Bill Gullickson (0–1)|
LAD: Pedro Guerrero (1), Mike Scioscia (1)
The Dodgers took the first game of the series behind the strong pitching of starter Burt Hooton. For the first seven innings the game stayed close, with the only scoring coming in the second inning when the Dodgers got two runs on an RBI double by Ron Cey and a squeeze bunt by Bill Russell. Hooton and reliever Bob Welch made the 2–0 lead stand up until the eighth when the Dodgers broke the game open with three more runs on back-to-back homers by Pedro Guerrero and Mike Scioscia. The Expos got one run back in the ninth when Larry Parrish doubled home Gary Carter. But reliever Steve Howe came on for the Dodgers and got the final three outs to preserve Los Angeles' victory.
|WP: Ray Burris (1–0) LP: Fernando Valenzuela (0–1)|
Montreal's Ray Burris almost single-handedly evened the series with a masterful complete game shutout in Game 2. The Dodgers managed only five singles against Burris, and their only real threats, in the sixth and ninth, were foiled by double plays. Typically in what would be a very low-scoring series, the Expos didn't do much more hitting against Dodger starter Fernando Valenzuela. But Montreal did manage to push across two runs in the second on RBI hits by Warren Cromartie and Tim Raines. Montreal added another run in the sixth, aided by Dusty Baker's error in left. Burris did the rest to notch his 3–0 victory.
| WP: Steve Rogers (1–0) LP: Jerry Reuss (0–1)|
MON: Jerry White (1)
Montreal got another superb pitching performance in Game 3, this time from Steve Rogers, to take a 2–1 lead in the series. Rogers allowed only a single run on a Ron Cey groundout after singles by Dusty Baker and Steve Garvey in the fourth. For a while it looked like Dodger starter Jerry Reuss might make that 1–0 score hold up. But Montreal finally rallied for four runs in the sixth on a run-scoring single by Larry Parrish and a three-run homer by Jerry White. Rogers easily preserved the 4–1 lead over the final three innings, and Montreal was now only one victory away from the World Series.
| WP: Burt Hooton (2–0) LP: Bill Gullickson (0–2)|
LAD: Steve Garvey (1)
For the first seven innings Game 4 followed the usual pattern of the series, with dominant performances from both starting pitchers. Montreal's Bill Gullickson allowed an unearned run in the third, after Bill Russell reached on Larry Parrish's error and scored on Dusty Baker's double. Los Angeles' Burt Hooton gave up the game-tying run in the fourth on another unearned tally, when Gary Carter reached on Ron Cey's error and scored on a single by Warren Cromartie. The starters yielded nothing more until the eighth, when Steve Garvey's two-run homer put the Dodgers up 3–1 and chased Gullickson. The Dodgers blew the game open with four more runs in the ninth, highlighted by Baker's two-run single. Hooton finally tired in the eighth but the Dodger bullpen got the last five outs and the series was even.
| WP: Fernando Valenzuela (1–1) LP: Steve Rogers (1–1) Sv: Bob Welch (1)|
LAD: Rick Monday (1)
After a rainout (actually a snow/cold out) on Sunday, October 18, the Montreal ballpark was only two-thirds full for Game 5 on a cold and drizzly Monday afternoon, which turned out to be the series' most dramatic contest. As usual in the series, the starting pitchers dominated, with the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela and the Expos' Ray Burris matching zeros for most of the game. Montreal broke on top with a single run in the first when Tim Raines led off with a double and eventually scored on a double play. The 1–0 lead held until the fifth when the Dodgers tied the game after Rick Monday singled, went to third on a Pedro Guerrero single, and scored on a groundout. Burris finally left the game in the eighth when the Expos pinch-hit for him. Montreal brought on their ace Steve Rogers to pitch the ninth, and with two out in the inning, he gave up a solo homer to Monday on a 3–1 count to put the Dodgers up 2–1. The Expos got a couple of two-out walks in the bottom of the ninth off Valenzuela, but Bob Welch came on to get the final out and send the Dodgers to the World Series. It would take another 31 seasons until the Expos returned to the postseason again as the Washington Nationals.
The date came to be known as Blue Monday by Expos fans. Dave Van Horne described it as the low point for the team.
|Los Angeles Dodgers||0||2||1||1||1||0||0||5||5||15||38||2|
|Total attendance: 250,098 Average attendance: 50,020|
This would be the Expos' only postseason appearance—in a coincidental twist, their best subsequent opportunity prior to the team moving to Washington, D.C. was also during a strike-shortened season: when the 1994 season prematurely ended, the Expos had the best record in baseball.
- "1981 NLCS Game 1 – Montreal Expos vs. Los Angeles Dodgers". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1981 NLCS Game 2 – Montreal Expos vs. Los Angeles Dodgers". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1981 NLCS Game 3 – Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Montreal Expos". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1981 NLCS Game 4 – Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Montreal Expos". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1981 NLCS Game 5 – Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Montreal Expos". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- CBC: 2004
- NBC: 2004. Monday, October 19, 1981. It was cold, it was damp — and it was the end of the Expos’ most successful season. In Montreal, everybody just calls it Blue Monday.
- Cowan: 2011. "Everybody who followed the Expos will remember the National League Championship Series of 1981 when they lost out on Blue Monday to the Los Angeles Dodgers," Van Horne said. "That was a low point for all of us because the team had reached an elevated stature within the National League and we were within one game of going to the World Series."
- Baseball-Reference.com – 1981 NLCS
- "Top 10 Expos moments". CBCSports.ca. CBC Sports Online. September 29, 2004. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
- "Expos will always remember Blue Monday". NBC Sports, NBC Universal. Associated Press. October 7, 2004. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
- Cowan, Stu (October 19, 2011). "30th anniversary of Blue Monday". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved March 3, 2012.