Thursday, April 15, 2010

20 Years Later: Remembering the 1990 Reds

Hard to believe, but 20 years ago this month the Cincinnati Reds started their improbable run toward the 1990 World Series. If you look at the sidebar of this blog, under My Baseball History, you'll find that I wrote: "As it turned out, the Reds started that season 9-0 and the excitement pulled this 10-year-old boy along for the ride. I remember quite a bit from that season..."

Ah yes, 9-0. What a great start to the season. (I don't think any teams this year even made it to 6-0.) Just for fun, without looking up anything online, I'll list some things that I remember from that 1990 season.

First off, here's who I remember from that team:

Infield: C - Joe Oliver, 1B - Todd Benzinger (and Hal Morris), 2B - Mariano Duncan, SS - Barry Larkin, 3B - Chris Sabo
Outfield was: RF - Paul O'Neill, CF - Eric Davis, LF - Billy Hatcher (and off the bench they had Rolando Roomes and Herm Winningham)
Starting pitchers: Jose Rijo, Tom Browning, Danny Jackson, Jack Armstrong, and ???
Bullpen: Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Bobby Ayala(?)
Manager: Lou Piniella
Owner: Marge Schott (and her St. Bernards!)

And here are some  random nuggets I seem to recall:
  • The Reds began the year by sweeping the Astros.
  • Barry Larkin started the season by going 21 for 35 (.600).
  • Rob Dibble didn't do well in the All-Star game and the NL lost.
  • The Reds raced out to a 33-12 record, best in baseball, and then cooled off.
  • At a game in New York against the Mets, the Reds' closer Randy Myers got to bat in an extra inning game. It was way past my bedtime, but I just had to listen on the radio. Myers came through with an RBI triple, and I couldn't believe my ears. The Reds held on to win. (It was worth staying up late.)
  • The Reds actually clinched the division with a loss (might have been to the Padres... somehow the Padres were involved with the Reds clinching, I think).
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates (with Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Doug Drabek, and Andy Van Slyke) faced off against the Reds in the NLCS.
  • The Pirates won a high-scoring Game 1 in Cincy.
  • The Reds won a low-scoring Game 2.
  • At some point in the NLCS, Eric Davis threw out (Bonds or Bonilla) at third base for a critical out in a critical game that the Reds won.
  • Reds won the NLCS in 6.
  • The Oakland A's (with Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Walt Weiss, and can't remember if Rickey Henderson was on that team...) faced off against the Reds in the World Series. 
  • Eric Davis hit a two-run homer in the first inning of the World Series Game 1 in Cincy. I went to bed shortly thereafter (school night). Got up early the next day to see that the Reds won 7-0.
  • Some guy for the Reds with the last name Bates scored a crucial run in either the NLCS or the World Series. In any case, I do remember this guy's 15 minutes of fame. I just can't remember when it happened. (I want to say the Reds won an extra inning game 5-4 with Bates scoring the winning run or something.)
  • With the Reds up 3-0 in the Series, a headline in the Dayton Daily News read "A's Vow to Sweep."
  • In Game 4 of the World Series, Hal Morris got a sac fly for the go ahead run. Then I believe Todd Benzinger caught a fly ball in foul territory to seal the 2-1 win and World Series sweep.
  • Jose Rijo won World Series MVP.
  • Billy Hatcher set the record for best batting average in a World Series (he went 8 for 9).
Some of the aforementioned memories might be imperfect or wrong. Feel free to correct the record in the comments section.

As this 20th anniversary season continues, here on the blog I'll try to sprinkle in a few more memories and tributes to the '90 Reds.

UPDATE: I've started surfing the Web to see how much I remembered correctly. I was right about the Reds starting with a sweep of the Astros, and Larkin starting 21 for 35. I was wrong about Bobby Ayala (I must have meant Tim Layana). And I knew that I was forgetting some guys, one of whom was Glenn Braggs. Also, I just now found a fun article by Joe Erardi about the '90 Reds. Here's an excerpt:
The myth is that the 1990 Reds were sprinkled with magic dust. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A generation later, the statistical geeks were able to quantify what only Piniella knew at the time: The Reds were perfectly built for the postseason.
In the book, "Baseball Between the Numbers," authors Nate Silver and Dayn Perry argue that three factors more than any others correlate to playoff success:
Closer quality.
Pitchers' strikeout rate.
Of the 180 teams to make the playoffs from 1972 to 2005, the '90 Reds were the second-best suited team for success in the playoffs, ranking high in all three categories. (Best was the 1979 Baltimore Orioles, who blew a 3-1 lead in the World Series and lost to the Pirates.)
I also see that Erardi has a book coming out this May about the '90 Reds, called, "The Wire-to-Wire Reds." Cool.

No comments: