Sunday, June 23, 2002

Surprise '90 Series sweep of A's defined team effort

By John Erardi and John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In watching the Reds and Oakland square off at Cinergy Field the past two days, one cannot help but think back to 1972 and 1990, two surprising World Series, the first won by the A's, the second by the Reds.

        For casual fans, the two outcomes were surprising: 1972 because the pitching-strong A's were without their star slugger Reggie Jackson but still won the Series in seven games (six were decided by one run); and 1990 because the A's, led by the powerful Bash Brothers (Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco) were swept by the pitching-rich Reds.

1990 World Series recap
    GAME 1
   Oct. 16

   At Cincinnati
Reds 7, A's 0
Eric Davis set the tone for the game and the World Series with a two-run home run in the first inning. Jose Rijo combined with Rob Dibble and Randy Myers on the shutout.

    GAME 2
   Oct. 17
   At Cincinnati
Reds 5, A's 4
Joe Oliver's 10th-inning single off closer Dennis Eckersley drove in Billy Bates with the winning run. Billy Hatcher went 4-for-4, giving him a World Series-record seven straight hits.

    GAME 3
   Oct. 18
   At Oakland
Reds 8, A's 3
Chris Sabo homered twice, including a two-run shot in the Reds' seven-run third inning. Tom Browning, who had left the bench early during Game 2 when his wife went into labor, went six innings for the win.

    GAME 4
   Oct. 20
   At Oakland
Reds 2, A's 1
World Series MVP Jose Rijo, who allowed a run in the first inning, retired 20 straight batters and went 8 1/3 innings for his second Series win. Davis was hospitalized after injuring his kidney while trying to make a catch.

Rob Dibble is doused with champagne in Oakland Coliseum Oct. 20, 1990, after the Reds clinched the World Series.
(File photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Oakland was the team we wanted to face,” Jose Rijo said Wednesday of the 1990 Series. “They had all those power hitters. But if you're a smart pitcher, power hitters are easy to get out. You just can't make a mistake.”

        Rijo recalled hanging a slider to McGwire with the bases loaded in Game 1.

        “He popped it up,” said Rijo, smiling. “That's when I knew we were going to win (the Series).”

        But Rijo also knew something else.

        “I knew I had to be better (in Game 4),” he said. “I got my arm loose throwing fastballs. Then, all I threw were sliders. I got my slider sharper than ever.”

        Did it ever get any better than that, Jose?

        “No, that was the pinnacle right there,” he said. “We were a good team before. We finished second four straight years under (former manager) Pete (Rose). We needed something to get us to the next step. Lou (Piniella) was able to do that.”

        Piniella said the same thing. He recalled a conversation he had with former Reds great Tony Perez before taking the Cincinnati managerial job.

        “What do they need?” Piniella asked Perez.

        “They need somebody to drive them,” Perez said.

        The 1990 postseason was a coming out party for:

        • Rijo — Prior to it, Rijo was best known for breaking in with the New York Yankees as a teenager, and for being the player the Reds acquired for Dave Parker.

        • Larkin — A fine player since he came to Cincinnati in 1986, he hit .300 for the Reds in a full season for the first time in 1990, and hit .353 in the World Series. He fielded like a demon in the National League Championship Series vs. Pittsburgh, and stole three bases. Said Eric Davis about his buddy: “His teammates know what he can do; the players around the league know what he can do; the fans in the NL cities know what he can do. Now the country's going to find out.”

        • The Nasty Boys — The Reds' three flame-throwing relievers, Randy Myers, Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton, emerged as arguably the deepest and most talented late-inning pitchers in postseason history. They pitched a combined 8 2/3 innings in the World Series, giving up no earned runs and six hits, and earned one victory and one save.

        But nobody's fame transcended the team's, and that was probably appropriate because it was a team World Series triumph. The Reds were a forerunner of the great Yankees teams later in the decade, with excellent all-around players, good speed, super defense and a dominant bullpen.

        “We were on the Wheaties box as a team, but none of us got big endorsement deals individually,” Rijo said.

        It is interesting to note that of the five guys who had the biggest performances in that postseason, three (Rijo, Larkin and Charlton) are still in the major leagues, and a fourth (Myers) is staying in shape and hoping to hook up with a team after the All-Star break. The fifth (Dibble) remains a large figure in baseball, working with ESPN-TV and co-hosting an afternoon radio show with Dan Patrick.

        As Dibble pointed out recently in a telephone call from ESPN radio, the Nasty Boys never were meant to be only a trio. They were a fivesome, including fellow relievers Tim Layana, who had a wicked knuckle curve, and Tim Birtsas, who threw a devilish curveball.

        “Man, this is a nasty group,” Myers said early in the 1990 season.

        Dibble said he felt the A's were showing the Reds' no respect. He also didn't like the way they dressed (very casually), and practiced (without their caps on).

        “They had the California look, and frankly, we didn't like it,” Dibble said. “They had their cutoff sleeves, flip-flops and big smiles, having a good ol' time. We were dead serious, and we weren't intimidated.”

        But Charlton said he could understand the hype.

        “On paper, they were probably the best team in baseball, and people were predicting they were going to sweep us,” he said.

        Former Reds great Joe Morgan, now in broadcasting, was one of the few analysts to predict the Reds would win the World Series.

        “Joe has been around the game a long time and he's seen a lot,” Charlton said. “He's seen a good pitching staff dismantle a good hitting team. He was on those great Big Red Machine teams, and he saw tough pitchers dismantle even them. He knew it could happen.”


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Coming up this week
Enquirer Page Two Top&Bottom Five
Myers, Pliev win LaRosa's honors
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North wins Ohio All-Stars game
Hallman scores 26 in defeat

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