The Kansas City Royals had finally solved the Yankees in the prior October, so King George was in full swing as the '81 season began. Dick Howser had managed the Bombers to 103 victories, but fell on his sword as the Royals completed a 3 game sweep in the ALCS.
1981 would become a tumultuous season. Gene Michael would open the season as manager, but King George would bring back Bob Lemon to try to save the day again. The season would shut down in July due to a player's strike. A split season set up would be installed as well as an extra round of playoffs. But before all that BS there would be opening day.
April 9, 1981 Texas vs Yankees
With heavy traffic outside, it was the bottom of the 2nd as my Dad and I settled into our seats in left field, just moments before Bucky Dent launched a fly ball into the seats a few rows in front of us. The 3-run shot put the Yankees ahead for good 3-1.
My best memory came in the 7th though. Leading 5-3, the Yankees looked to break the game wide open. Lou Piniella had already singled in Dave Winfield to extend the lead to 6-3 and the Yankees had the bases loaded. Dennis Werth was due up, but Michael sent Bobby Murcer up to pinch-hit against Steve Comer. Bobby launched a drive to deep right center. Rangers rightfielder John Grubb got back to the wall and leaped...IT WAS GONE! The Stadium exploded as one of its favorite sons came through. I was delirious to put it mildly.
Tommy John gave up 2 earned runs in 8 innings for the victory, with Tommy Underwood finishing up in the 9th.
1981 Opening Day Lineup