2. Jack Morris
Jack Morris was also a major league baseball pitcher, and he played baseball from 1977 to 1994, mostly for the Detroit Tigers. Throughout his career, Morris won 254 games, and was known for pitches including his slider, fastball and forkball. He was a five-time All-Star, four of which were given in the 1980s, and played on four World Series teams. Morris also started the most games, had the most wins and pitched the most innings of all pitchers throughout the decade.
The best years for Morris in the 1980s were 1983, 1984 and 1986. He started 37 games in 1983, and he completed 20 of them. He also led the league for the year in the number of innings pitched, strikeouts and batters faced. Morris started the 1984 season with a no-hitter against the White Sox, which was the first for the Tigers since 1958. By the end of the year, he had a 3.60 ERA and helped to take the Tigers to the World Series. He was awarded the Babe Ruth Award in 1984, as well.
In 1986, Morris had 21 wins, and threw three complete game shutouts in a row, and he helped to bring the team to the playoffs again in 1987, but the Tigers lost in the first round of postseason play. After 1987, Morris’ performance started to wane, and by 1990, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins. He also played for the Blue Jays, Indians and Reds before retiring in 1994.
1. Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan was already a well-known player by the 1980s, and had already played for the Mets and Angels before coming to the Houston Astros in 1980. Ryan become a free agent in 1979, and signed a very lucrative contract with the Astro. He hit his 3,000th strikeout in his career in 1980, and Ryan went to the playoffs with the Astros in that first year. Ryan threw his fifth no-hitter in 1981, and his first with the Astros, and that no-hitter allowed his to become only the third pitcher to have a no-hitter on his record in both leagues. He also won the National League ERA title in that year with a 1.69 ERA.
By 1987, Ryan led the league in both strikeouts and ERA by the age of 40, but he finished the season with a dismal 8-16 record. In 1988, there was a contract dispute between the Astros and Ryan, and he joined the Texas Rangers. He retired from playing in 1993, and became part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
After retiring, Ryan owned two minor league teams, the Round Rock Express and the Corpus Christi Hooks, both affiliates of the Astros. Ryan became the President of the Texas Rangers in 2008, served as a spokesperson for Advil, and he wrote six books during his retirement years. Ryan also served as the CEO of the Texas Rangers until he stepped down in 2013.
Though the 1980s was not necessarily seen as a golden decade of baseball, it is certainly one that should not be overlooked. Many of the outstanding players of the 1990s got their start in the 1980s, such as Will Clark and Orel Hershiser, it was also the decade where some of the greatest names in baseball, such as Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan found their stride.
The 1980s rushed in the concept of free-agency for baseball, and unknown to most, the 1980s had a dark underbelly in the world of baseball, that included the use of steroids and betting. There were a number of scandals in the world of baseball during the 1980s, including rampant cocaine use and owners coming together and pushing players out of contracts. Many of the players on this list found themselves caught up in these scandals, whether they wanted to or not.
All in all, the legacy of 1980s baseball is that the favorite sport of Americans really underwent a makeover, and set the stage for the resurgence of its popularity in the 1990s.