They Bled Blue
Fernandomania, Strike-Season Mayhem, and the Weirdest Championship Baseball Had Ever Seen: The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers
by Jason Turbow
Pub Date 04 Jun 2019
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In the Halberstam tradition of capturing a season through its unforgettable figures, They Bled Blue is a sprawling, mad tale of excess and exuberance, the likes of which could only have occurred in that place, at that time.
That it culminated in an unlikely World Series win—during a campaign split by the longest player strike in baseball history—is not even the most interesting thing about this team. The Dodgers were led by the garrulous Tommy Lasorda—part manager, part cheerleader—who unyieldingly proclaimed devotion to the franchise through monologues about bleeding Dodger blue and worshiping the “Big Dodger in the Sky,” and whose office hosted a regular stream of Hollywood celebrities. Steve Garvey, the All-American, All-Star first baseman, had anchored the most durable infield in major league history, and, along with Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey, was glaringly aware that 1981 would represent the end of their run together. The season’s real story, however, was one that nobody expected at the outset: a chubby lefthander nearly straight out of Mexico, twenty years old with a wild delivery and a screwball as his flippin’ out pitch. The Dodgers had been trying for decades to find a Hispanic star to activate the local Mexican population; Fernando Valenzuela was the first to succeed, and it didn’t take long for Fernandomania to sweep far beyond the boundaries of Chavez Ravine.
They Bled Blue is the rollicking yarn of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ crazy 1981 season.