On April 7, 1979 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded lefty pitcher Jerry Reuss to the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-handed pitcher Rick Rhoden. Reuss was a 29-year-old starting pitcher with ten season in the majors, five with the Pirates, at the time of the trade. He had won 48 games between 1974-76, but his last two seasons with Pittsburgh he went 10-13 in 1977 and then pitched only 82.2 innings in 1978. He had shoulder problems in 1978 and was unhappy about his role for 1979, so he asked for a trade. Rhoden was a 25-year-old, with a 42-24, 3.40 record in 118 games, 91 as a starter.

Rhoden got off to a slow start with the Pirates, needing shoulder surgery after just one start. He finally came back healthy for an entire season in 1981 and won 72 games over his six full seasons in Pittsburgh. After the 1986 season, the Pirates traded Rhoden to the Yankees in a six-player deal that brought a young Doug Drabek back to Pittsburgh. The trade worked out just as well for the Dodgers, as they got 86 wins and 1,407 innings pitched out of Reuss. During the 1981 playoffs, he made five starts, the last one being a complete game win over the Yankees during game five of the World Series.