Baseball hadn't fielded a dynasty since the Swingin' A's of the early 1970s. But by the 1990 baseball season, one dynastic club had emerged -- and again it was the Oakland Athletics. Oakland, which had made it to the World Series in 1988 and had swept the fall classic in 1989, was storming toward another World Title in 1990.
These A's were loaded -- especially after picking up former All-Stars Harold Baines and Willie McGee in August. By the end of the season, Oakland could field a lineup that contained nine one-time All-Stars. They included Rickey Henderson (.325 average, 28 homers, 65 steals), Jose Canseco (37 homers, 101 RBI), and Mark McGwire (39 homers, 108 RBI). The pitching staff was led by Bob Welch (27-6), Dave Stewart (22-11), and Dennis Eckersley (48 saves, 0.61 ERA). Oakland easily won 103 games.
In the National League, another team was making its mark. The Cincinnati Reds won their first game of the season and never looked back, leading the National League West from wire to wire. Despite no standout starters, the Reds boasted a brilliant bullpen duo known as the "Nasty Boys." Randy Myers saved 31 games, while Rob Dibble whiffed 136 in 98 innings.
However, before the season even started, labor negotiators were stealing the headlines. After failing to sign a new collective bargaining agreement, the owners locked the players out of training camp. The dispute wasn't resolved until late March, and the players were given just two-and-a-half weeks to prepare for a delayed Opening Day.
The labor dispute infuriated fans, who considered both owners and players spoiled and greedy. The owners were sitting pretty after signing a $1 billion TV contract with CBS. Superstars were now earning $3 million a year, and Canseco signed for five years at $23.5 million.
A record nine no-hitters were fired in 1990. The most amazing of all came off the fingers of Ranger Nolan Ryan, who threw his sixth career no-hitter. Ryan won his 300th game in 1990 and, at 43, led the American League in strikeouts with 232. White Sox relief Bobby Thigpen also entered the record books, notching 57 saves.
Thigpen sparked the Sox to 94 wins, though they finished 9 games behind Oakland in the American League West. Boston, led by Roger Clemens (21-6, 1.93 ERA), edged out Toronto by 2 games in the American League East. While the Tigers finished a distant third in the East, their first baseman, Cecil Fielder, led the majors with 51 homers and 132 RBI.
In the National League East, Pittsburgh beat out the Mets by 4 games. The Pirates were powered by Barry Bonds (.301 average, 33 homers, 114 RBI, 52 steals) and Bobby Bonilla (32 homers, 120 RBI). The Reds won their division by 5 games.
Oakland broomed Boston in the ALCS, winning 9-1, 4-1, 4-1, and 3-1. Pittsburgh fell in five games to the Reds, who were led by outfielder Paul O'Neil (.471 average).
Most experts predicted Oakland's Big Green Machine would pulverize the Reds in the 1990 World Series. Instead, Cincinnati swept the A's in the biggest upset since 1969.
Jose Rijo won two of the four games, yielding just one run in both of his starts. The Reds' Billy Hatcher netted seven hits in his first seven at-bats, and hit an all-time record .750 for the Series (9-for-12). Chris Sabo batted .563 and was brilliant defensively at third base. Overall, the Reds out-scored the A's 22-8 and won their first World Title since 1976.
Find headlines and summaries of the big stories from the 1990 baseball season on the next page.