Twenty-five years ago this year, 1990, was the last time either the Oakland Athletics or Cincinnati Reds appeared in the World Series. That year, the Athletics won the American League Western Division by nine games over the second place Chicago White Sox, with a record of 103-59, and then swept the Eastern Division Champion Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.
The Reds had advanced to the Series that year by winning the Western Division of the National League, with a 91-71 record, by five games over the Los Angeles Dodgers and then besting the Pittsburgh Pirates in six games in the NLCS.
Oakland had won the 1989 Series, sweeping the San Francisco Giants in four games and were the favorites to beat the Reds. Their lineup included such proven hitters as AL MVP Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, Harold Baines, Carney Lansford and Willie McGee. McGee had been traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Athletics on August 29 after having accumulated enough National League at bats to make him that year’s NL batting champ at .335 and he was playing for the AL entry in the World Series.
Game 1 was played at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium before 55,830 fans. Jose Rijo, the Reds right hander, who went 14-8 with a 2.70 ERA during the regular season started for the Reds and Dave Stewart, who won 22 and lost 11, winning 20 or more for the fourth straight year, started for Oakland.
The Reds scored quickly, getting a two run homer from cleanup hitter, catcher, Eric Davis in the first and added two in the third when short stop Barry Larkin walked, center fielder Billy Hatcher doubled, driving in Larkin, went to third on an error and scored on right fielder Paul O’Nell’s ground out to make it 4-0. Stewart lasted just four innings and the Reds got three more off reliever Todd Burns in the fifth to make the final 7-0.
Rijo went seven shutout innings, giving up seven hits and getting five strikeouts for the win. Stewart took the loss.
Bob Welch, later named the Cy Young Award winner, who had won 27 and lost just six with a 2.95 ERA, started Game 2 for Oakland against Danny Jackson who was 6-6 for the Reds. Welch’s 27 wins were the most in a single season by any pitcher since Steve Carlton, of the Phillies, won 27 in 1972 and the most in the American League since Denny McLain won 31 for the Tigers in 1968. No one has won that many games in a single season since then.
Oakland got off to a quick lead in the first when left fielder Rickey Henderson, singled, stole second, was sacrificed to third and scored on a ground out. The Reds came back with two in the bottom half on back to back doubles by Larkin and Hatcher, a fly out and a ground out.
Oakland right fielder Jose Canseco homered to right with one out in the fourth and first baseman k McGwire singled to left followed by walks to center fielder Dave Henderson and second baseman Willie Randolph. Catcher Ron Hassey then hit a sac fly to score McGwire and shortstop Mike Gallego singled to center to score Henderson and make it 4-2 Oakland.
Reds catcher Joe Oliver doubled in the fourth and scored when pinch hitter Ron Oester grounded a single up the middle to make it 4-3.
Welch lasted 7 1/3 innings and was ahead 4-3 with runners on first and third and one out, after Hatcher tripled and O’Neill walked. He was relieved by Rick Honeycutt who got pinch hitter, Glenn Braggs, to ground into a force out but the run scored and the game was tied.
It went to the tenth 4-4 and, after the Athletics failed to score in the top of the inning, Dennis Eckersley replaced Honeycutt on the mound for Oakland. Eckersley got Davis to ground to short for the first out but pinch hitter Billy Bates reached on a roller to third and third baseman Chris Sabo singled to left. Catcher Joe Oliver then singled to left to score Bates with the winning run and the Reds were up two games to none going to Oakland for Game 3.
Eckersley, who had saved 48 games during the year, with a 0.61 ERA, got the loss and Rob Dibble, who pitched a scoreless ninth and tenth, got the win. A crowd of 55,832 watched the game which took 3 hours and 31 minutes to play.
Game 3 was played in Oakland-Alameda County Stadium with a crowd of 48,629 and the Reds got six runs, only two earned, on eight hits, off Athletics’ starter Mike Moore in just 2 2/3 innings. Sabo had a lead off homer in the second and a two run homer in the seven run third to lead the Reds’ attack. The Reds also got a triple from third baseman Barry Larkin, a double from Oliver and singles from Hatcher, Davis, first baseman Todd Benzinger and second baseman Mariano Duncan in the big inning.
Oakland got a two run homer from Harold Baines in the second and a solo shot from Ricky Henderson in the third for all their scoring as the Reds won 8-3 to go up three games to none. Left hander Tom Browning, who was 15-9 during the regular season, started and went six innings for the Reds, giving up three runs on six hits and got the win.
Jose Rijo started Game 4 for the Reds, in front of 48,613 fans, and gave up a run in the first when McGee doubled and, after Baines was intentionally walked, with two outs, Lansford lined a single up the middle to make it 1-0, Oakland. That was all the scoring for Oakland as Rijo held them to the one run for 8 1/3 innings.
Stewart started for Oakland and shut out the Reds for seven innings and it went to the top of the eighth still 1-0. Larkin led off the eighth for the Reds with a single to left and Herm Winningham, who had replaced Hatcher, after he was hit by a pitch, in the first inning, in center field, beat out a bunt to put runners on first and second with no outs. O’Neill then reached first when Stewart made a bad throw after fielding his sacrifice bunt and the bases were loaded.
Braggs then hit into a force out at second and Larkin scored, tying the game. Designated hitter Hal Morris then flew out deep to right and Winningham scored to make it 2-1 Reds.
Rijo put the Athletics down in order in the eighth and got Dave Henderson on strikes for the first out of the ninth. Myers came in in relief and got Canseco on a grounder to third and Lansford to hit a foul pop to Benzinger at first and the Reds had swept the Athletics and won the World Series.
The Reds’ Jose Rijo, with two wins, who gave up only one run on nine hits in 15 1/3 innings against Oakland’s potent offense, was named the Series Most Valuable Player. It’s been 25 years since either of these two teams made it to the Series and it looks like it could still be a while before either is back.