1990 World Series
From BR Bullpen
In the 1990 World Series, the Cincinnati reds surprised the heavily favorite Oakland Athletics by getting a lead in the first inning of Game 1, and completed a stunning four-game sweep for their first title since their back-to-back titles in the days of the "Big Red Machine" in 1975 and 1976.
Fresh off a sweep of the cross-bay San Francisco Giants in the 1989 World Series, the Athletics enjoyed a fruitful 1990 regular season, winning 103 games and fighting off the Chicago White Sox to win the division. Meanwhile, the Reds had it a little easier. They didn't win as many games, but they never spent a day out of first place.
Oakland swept the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, while Cincinnati dispatched the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS, creating a rematch of the 1972 World Series. Each side had a member of its coaching staff who had participated in that Series: for Oakland, it was pitching coach Dave Duncan, a catcher for the A's in '72; for the Reds, it was Tony Perez, their first base coach who had been their first baseman during their Big Red Machine era. What's more, the Reds' bench coach was Jackie Moore, who had managed in Oakland during the mid-1980s.
The 1990 Fall Classic began where the '72 one ended, in Riverfront Stadium, a circular, three-deck multi-purpose stadium with a vast expanse of rock-hard, artificial turf. The first confrontation took place between two players who were traded for each other back in 1984: Jose Rijo and Rickey Henderson (see the history sidenote below). Rijo got the better of the meeting, punching out the speedy leadoff hitter on a called strike three, and never looked back, defeating his former ballclub, 7-0.
Game 2 was as dramatic as Game 1 was anticlimactic. Oakland had a 4-2 lead but couldn't hold it. The Reds tallied single runs in the 4th and the 8th to tie the game, which ended up going into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, the Reds put two runners on against closer Dennis Eckersley, then celebrated as Joe Oliver smashed a double past third base and down the line to push across the winning run.
The Series shifted to Oakland, which figured to boost the morale of the heavily favored, but stunned Athletics. Oakland had a 2-1 lead after two innings, but in the top of the 3rd, the Reds exploded, scoring seven runs on seven hits, an error by Mark McGwire, and a wild pitch. Needless to say, that was all they needed.
Suddenly, the Reds found themselves in the same position as the Athletics were in a year prior: up three games to none, knowing that no team had ever lost a World Series after being in such a commanding position. Rijo and the Reds would make good on it the following night, winning 2-1 to put the capper on a four-game sweep.
Historical sidenote: Rickey Henderson made a name for himself in the early 1980s as a member of the Oakland Athletics by stealing bases at a breakneck pace. He set a new record with 130 thefts in 1982. By 1984, with the A's mired in a losing funk and attendance dwindling, Henderson was traded to the New York Yankees for a package of young players, including Jose Rijo, a fireballing Dominican right-hander. He showed flashes of brilliance during his time in Oakland, but he was too often plagued by control issues. He walked 108 batters in 1986. On December 8, 1987, the Athletics traded Rijo to the Reds for veteran slugger Dave Parker, who played a huge role in the A's championship team of 1989.
- Frank Pulli (NL), Rocky Roe (AL), Jim Quick (NL), Ted Hendry (AL), Randy Marsh (NL), Larry Barnett (AL)
|Game||Score||Date||Location||Attendance||Time of Game|
|1||A's – 0, Reds – 7||October 16||Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati)||55,830||2:48|
|2||A's – 4, Reds – 5 (10 inns)||October 17||Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati)||55,832||3:31|
|3||Reds – 8, A's – 3||October 19||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland)||48,269||3:01|
|4||Reds – 2, A's – 1||October 20||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland)||48,613||2:48|
 Game 1
|W: José Rijo (1-0) L: Dave Stewart (0-1)|
|HR: CIN – Eric Davis (1)|
The Reds got out of the gate quickly with a two-run blast from Eric Davis in the bottom of the 1st off A's ace Dave Stewart. Billy Hatcher helped out offensively in a big way by starting his streak of 7 straight hits in the series (after a walk in the 1st). Jose Rijo settled in after the early lead and cruised to a surprise Cincinnati victory. The following day, the headline of the Cincinnati Post newspaper captured the city's surprise with the headline, "Davis Stuns Goliath."
 Game 2
|W: Rob Dibble (1-0) L: Dennis Eckersley (0-1)|
|HR: OAK – José Canseco (1)|
Eventual Cy Young Award winner Bob Welch opposed postseason veteran Danny Jackson in Game 2. Rickey Henderson manufactured a run for the A's in the 1st by getting a hit, stealing second, getting sacrificed to third, and scoring on a groundout. The Reds came right back in the bottom of the 1st. Barry Larkin and Billy Hatcher hit consecutive opposite field doubles and Hatcher scored on Davis's groundout.
In the 3rd the A's got the lead back. José Canseco hit a rocket into the right-center field stands to tie the game (his only hit of the series). A base hit by Mark McGwire and two walks followed, knocking Jackson out of the game. With the bases loaded, Ron Hassey hit a sacrifice fly and Mike Gallego singled to center to give the A's a 4-2 lead.
The A's, however, would not score any more runs thanks to the relief pitching of All-Star Game starter Jack Armstrong and the threesome nicknamed the "Nasty Boys" which included Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers.
The Reds got a run closer at 4-3 run on pinch-hitter Ron Oester's RBI single that drove in Joe Oliver in the 4th. The Reds tied it in the 8th when Hatcher tripled over the crippled Canseco (who was suffering from back spasms throughout the playoffs) and scored on a force play.
In the 10th, the Reds broke through to win the game off A's closer Dennis Eckersley. Utilityman Bill Bates chopped an infield single off home plate to start the inning. Chris Sabo singled to left to put runners on first and second. Then Oliver hit a bouncer that hopped over third base and down the line to drive in Bates with the winning run.
 Game 3
|W: Tom Browning (1-0) L: Mike Moore (0-1)|
|HR: CIN – Chris Sabo 2 (2) OAK – Harold Baines (1), Rickey Henderson (1)|
Game 3 turned out to be the Chris Sabo show as the Reds shockingly went up 3-0 on the defending champs. Tom Browning started for the Reds while Mike Moore, who got two wins in the 1989 World Series, got the assignment for Oakland. In the 2nd inning, Sabo put the Reds up 1-0 with a solo homer. The lead was short-lived as DH Harold Baines hit a soaring two-run homer to give the A's a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 2nd.
In the 3rd, the Reds put the game completely out of reach with a 7-run inning. It all began with Billy Hatcher's 8th hit in 9 at bats (he had rapped into a double play in the 1st inning, ending his streak of seven straight hits). Paul O'Neill then singled off the glove of first baseman Mark McGwire to put runners on first and second. Eric Davis drilled a sharp single to center, scoring Hatcher and advancing O'Neill to third. Following an RBI groundout by Hal Morris, the Reds went up 5-2 when Sabo hit his second homer of the game into the left field stands. Todd Benzinger then singled and Joe Oliver hit an RBI double. Mariano Duncan drove Oliver home with a single, stole second, and scored himself when Barry Larkin hit a gapper. The Oakland Coliseum was in a state of shock with the A's now down 8-2. Rickey Henderson's solo blast made it 8-3, but Browning pitched effectively the rest of the way to earn the victory and put the Reds one win away from the title.
 Game 4
|W: José Rijo (2-0) L: Dave Stewart (0-2) S: Randy Myers (1)|
Game 4 was a pitchers duel between Dave Stewart and Jose Rijo (the Game 1 starters) that eventually culminated in the Reds sweeping the series. The A's got on the board in the 1st when Willie McGee doubled and Carney Lansford singled him in. The game remained 1-0 until the 8th when the Reds finally got to Stewart. Barry Larkin singled up the middle, Herm Winningham followed with a bunt single, and Paul O'Neill reached on a throwing error by Stewart that loaded the bases. Glenn Braggs' groundout and Hal Morris's sacrifice fly gave the Reds a precious 2-1 edge which was preserved by both Rijo, who at one point retired 20 straight batters, and Randy Myers, who got the final two outs.
The 1990 World Series would be the Reds' 5th championship but would also be remembered as one of the biggest upsets in baseball history.
 Composite Box
|Total Attendance: 208,544 Average Attendance: 52,136|
|Winning Player’s Share: – $ 112,534, Losing Player’s Share – $86,961 *Includes Playoffs and World Series|
- The Oakland Athletics became the first franchise to appear in three consecutive World Series since the 1976-1978 New York Yankees.
- When Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart entered to pitch Game 1, he had a six-game postseason winning streak going (it ended after four innings of work).
- This was the first of four consecutive World Series to be televised on CBS. From 1976 to 1989, World Series telecasts alternated between ABC (in odd numbered years) and NBC (in even numbered years).
- Reds outfielder Billy Hatcher set a World Series record with seven consecutive hits. In addition, Hatcher's .750 batting average, (9 for 12), broke a mark for a four-game World Series that was previously set by Babe Ruth (.625 in 1928).
- Athletics manager Tony La Russa and Reds manager Lou Piniella were old friends and teammates from their Tampa American Legion Post 248 team.
- Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott made a major verbal slip-up when she dedicated the 1990 World Series to "our women and men in the Far East" (Schott meant to say Middle East). The Oakland Athletics, not to be outdone, dedicated the World Series to the victims of the previous year's San Francisco earthquake, as evidenced by a moment of silence prior to Game 3.
- In the very first inning of Game 1, Reds left fielder Eric Davis hit a home run in left center that nearly hit the CBS television studio where anchor Pat O'Brien was sitting.
- During Game 2, Reds pitcher Tom Browning's pregnant wife Debbie went into labor during the game. Debbie left her seat in the 5th inning to drive herself to the hospital. As the game went on, the Reds wanted Browning ready to pitch just in case the game went well into extra innings. Thinking that Browning was en route to a nearby hospital, the Reds had their radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman put out an All Points Bulletin on Browning, a bulletin that was picked up by Tim McCarver on CBS television, who passed it along in the 9th inning.
- Before the Series, Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko issued the stunning prediction that the heavily favored A's were "doomed", based on the Ex-Cubs Factor. When the prediction came true, it fueled new interest in that arguably spurious correlation.
- Cincinnati Reds' pitcher Jose Rijo became the second Dominican-born player to earn the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. Fourteen years later (in 2004) another Dominican-born player, Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox became the third Dominican-born player to earn the honor. The first one had been Pedro Guerrero of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981, (along with his Co-MVP teammates Ron Cey and Steve Yeager).
- A's outfielder Willie McGee won a batting title that year, but it wasn't the AL batting title. He batted .335 for the NL's St Louis Cardinals before he was traded in late August to Oakland.
- This was the last World Series to be scheduled to begin play on a Tuesday, and the first since 1984. The schedule called for the seven-game series to be held Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Saturday-Sunday, and Tuesday-Wednesday. Games 5, 6, and 7, however were not necessary. All World Series since have been, and several prior were, scheduled to begin on a Saturday.
 Quotes of the Series
Fly ball into deep, deep center field, McGee going back... it's going to go!!! You would think they had just won the World Series! - Jack Buck calling Eric Davis' home run off Dave Stewart in the 1st inning of Game 1.
I would like to dedicate this World Series to our men and women in the Far East! - Marge Schott.
Popped up into short right in foul ground, Benzinger wants it... Cincinnati! The champions of baseball... for 1990!!! With an improbable sweep over Oakland! - CBS Sports announcer Jack Buck on the call.
 Further Reading
- Tom Browning and Dann Stupp: Tales from the Reds Dugout, Sports Publishing LLC, Champaign, IL, 2006.
- Charles F. Faber and Zachariah Webb: The Hunt for a Reds October: Cincinnati in 1990, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2015. ISBN 978-0-7864-7951-1
- 1990 World Series at WorldSeries.com (MLB.com)
- 1990 World Series by Baseball Almanac
- History of the World Series - 1990 at SportingNews.com
- The Big Sweep at SI.com
- 1990 World Series box scores and play-by-play at Retrosheet.org
- 1990 Cincinnati Reds at baseballlibrary.com
- 1990 Oakland Athletics at baseballlibrary.com
- Reds History
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