During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Nolan supplanted Hall of FamerJohnny Bench as the Reds' regular catcher. Bench, then 33, had played 13 consecutive years as Cincinnati's starting backstop, but he shifted to first base in 1981 and only caught in seven games that season. (Bench would catch in only six more games in 1982–1983 as his career wound down.) Nolan started 62 games behind the plate in 1981 (the Reds played in 108 games total), and appeared in 81 games as a receiver. He batted a career-high .309 with 73 hits. The following spring, he was traded to the Orioles, where he played 3½ seasons and finished his pro career.