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Greatest moments in Dodger history, No. 17: Rick Monday’s 1981 NLCS home run

Rick Monday's 1981 NLCS homer
Rick Monday circles the bases after his home run.

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the greatest moment countdown continues

I’m assuming everyone knows how this works by now, so I’m going to drop the explanatory introduction to these. If you need a reminder, click on any of the Nos. 20-25 greatest moments below.

Up next is one of the most important home runs in Dodger history, involving a player who was also heavily involved in the 18th greatest moment.

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No. 17: Rick Monday’s 1981 NLCS homer (13 first-place votes, 5,727 points)

Rick Monday's 1981 NLCS homer
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Watch Rick Monday’s home run by clicking here.

The pivotal game of the 1981 NLCS took place on a cold day in Montreal. Dodgers vs. Expos, winner goes to the World Series.

Game 5 (NLCS was only five games then) was a pitchers’ duel between Fernando Valenzuela and Montreal’s Ray Burris. The score was tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the eighth, when Expos Manager Jim Fanning sent Tim Wallach up to pinch-hit for Burris with one out and the bases empty.

Valenzuela retired Wallach on a grounder, and the score remained 1-1 when the inning ended.

Fanning had a decision to make going into the top of the ninth: Who to bring in to relieve? He had left-hander Woodie Fryman, who had a 1.88 ERA and seven saves during the season, and right-hander Jeff Reardon, who had a 1.30 ERA and six saves.

Who to choose?

Fanning went with Steve Rogers, the Expos’ best starting pitcher, but who hadn’t pitched in relief since 1978.

Rogers retired Steve Garvey and Ron Cey to start the inning, bringing up Rick Monday.

Monday’s eyes lit up when he saw the first pitch, a belt-high fastball, but he fouled it back.

“I said to myself, ‘You won’t get another one like that,’ ” Monday said. “But I got a better one.”

With the count 3-and-1, Rogers grooved another fastball. This time Monday launched it over the center-field fence. But Monday lost track of the ball, and didn’t immediately realize he had homered.

“I didn’t know where the heck the ball was,” Monday said. “I had to look at the outfielders to see where the ball went. I saw the two outfielders turn at the wall and then realized that it went out of the park. I almost fell down between second and third.”

Pedro Guerrero struck out to end the inning, but there was still a bottom of the ninth to be played. Valenzuela got two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth, then walked two. Tommy Lasorda bypassed his closer, Steve Howe, and brought in Bob Welch, who retired Jerry White on a grounder to second.

The Dodgers were headed to the World Series again, to face their vaunted enemy, the New York Yankees. But that’s a greatest moment for another day.

Previous greatest moments

No. 18: Rick Monday saves the flag

No. 19: Winning the 1988 World Series

No. 20: Winning the 1959 World Series

No. 21: Sandy Amorós’ catch in 1955 World Series

No. 22: Cody Bellinger’s catch in 2020 NLDS

No. 23: Justin Turner’s walkoff homer in 2017 NLCS

No. 24: Sandy Koufax strikes out 15 in 1963 World Series Game 1

No. 25: Mike Scioscia’s 1988 NLCS homer

New look for Cody Bellinger

Cody Bellinger played in his first official exhibition game on Tuesday and debuted a new batting stance (which you can see here). It is more of an open stance than previously used.

“I’ve done it in the past,” Bellinger said. “Had success with it. To be honest, ultimately, I just feel really good with it.”

Here’s a guy who won the MVP award in 2019 (though he did cool off the last couple of months that season), and decided to tinker with his batting stance in the offseason. He then got off to a miserable start in 2020, hitting .178/.245/.347 in his first 25 games, often tinkering with his stance. He raised his batting average, but hit only two homers in September. He finished at .239/.333/.455, still an above average hitter, but not nearly the slugger as the year before.

So he has tinkered with his stance again. Hopefully it works and the tinkering comes to an end.

No more Ask Ross Porter

Former Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter, who has hosted the very popular “Ask Ross Porter” segment of this newsletter for five seasons, will not be returning this season. Ross did the segment for free (such is the state of our industry) and spent countless hours researching answers to your questions. On a personal note, I consider Ross a friend (he even wrote the foreword to my Dodgers book) and can’t thank him enough for making this newsletter much better with his contribution. The good news is you will still be able to keep track of Ross. He sent this farewell note:

“For the last five years it has been my pleasure to answer questions from fans in Houston’s outstanding newsletter, Dodgers Dugout. I have recently started my new website and will now field questions on it. ... Ross Porter Sports on Facebook and rossportersports.com on the web. Please let me hear from you, and thanks to Houston for the opportunity you gave me to connect with baseball lovers.”

And finally

Pee Wee Reese‘s Hall of Fame induction speech. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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