The 1989 baseball season ended with disaster. At 5:04 p.m. on October 17 in San Francisco's Candlestick Park -- just a half-hour before game three of the 1989 World Series -- fans and players felt a vibration. For a few seconds, they didn't know what to make of the tremors, but then the reality dawned: Earthquake.
When the quake ended, Candlestick Park was still intact -- there were even plans to start the game on time. That was, of course, before the billions of dollars of damage began to unfold. The earthquake measured 7.1 on the Richter Scale, the largest in San Francisco since an 8.3 in 1906.
As the disaster became evident, commissioner Fay Vincent postponed game three indefinitely, putting the contest into perspective by calling the World Series "our modest little sporting event."
The Bay Area earthquake was the biggest tragedy in a year filled with dark moments. In August, after months of investigation, Reds manager Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life for allegedly betting on his own team.
Commissioner Bart Giamatti died of a heart attack September 1. Baseball stars Wade Boggs and Steve Garvey made scandalous headlines when they were sued by women with whom they had affairs. And in December, Billy Martin was killed in a truck crash.
The turmoil overshadowed some impressive on-field performances, especially by relief pitchers. Virtually every team had a standout closer, and baseball's relievers totaled an unprecedented 1,079 saves. Among the stellar stoppers were San Diego's Mark Davis (44 saves, 1.85 ERA), Texas' Jeff Russell (38 saves, 1.98 ERA), and Oakland's Dennis Eckersley (33 saves, 1.56 ERA). Davis won the 1989 National League Cy Young Award, while Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen (23-6, 2.13 ERA) took the American League crown.
In a pitcher's year, San Francisco's Kevin Mitchell posted giant numbers (47 homers, 125 RBI). Mitchell was named 1989 National League MVP, while Milwaukee's Robin Yount (.318, 21 homers, 103 RBI) won his second American League MVP prize.
The Baltimore Orioles were the darlings of 1989. After losing 107 games in 1988, the "Baby Birds" hung in the 1989 pennant race until the final weekend, before bowing to Toronto.
The playoffs, though, were dominated by just two men: San Francisco's Will Clark and Oakland's Rickey Henderson. Against Chicago in the NLCS, Clark set National League playoff records for batting average (.650), hits (13), extra-base hits (six), total bases (24), and slugging (1.200). Clark cracked a grand slam in game one, and won game five with a two-run, eighth-inning single.
Despite Clark's virtuosity, however, perhaps the best LCS performance ever belonged to Oakland leadoff man Henderson. In a five-game set against Toronto, Henderson won the first contest with a takeout slide, swiped four bases in game two, and powered two homers in game four. In all, Henderson led the series in runs (eight), on-base percentage (.609), slugging (1.000), home runs (two), RBI (five), total bases (15), and steals (eight, including a tiptoed non-slide into second which infuriated the Blue Jays).
Oakland dominated the first two games of the 1989 World Series, outscoring San Francisco 10-1. Ten days passed before game three was played, but it was the same story. The A's clubbed the Giants 13-7 and 9-6, completing the first Series sweep since 1976.
Dave Stewart, who started games one and three, was named MVP, but the award could have gone to Rickey Henderson (.474 average), Dave Henderson (.923 slugging percentage), Carney Lansford (.438 average), or Terry Steinbach (seven RBI).
See the next page for headlines and summaries of the top stories from the 1989 baseball season.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1988 Baseball Season
- 1990 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth