The delivery was
remarkably fast and surprisingly easy. Quicker than you can say Tucker Thomas
Browning, a new world champion was born last week, and it wasn't the team that
most reasonable people expected to win, much less sweep, the 87th World Series.
The Cinderella Reds beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1 in the fourth and final game
last Saturday night to give Cincinnati its first Series trophy since 1976 and
the rest of the baseball world something of a shock.
media and A's looked like so many bobblehead dolls, nodding and shaking their
heads, as the Reds cavorted on the field of the Oakland Coliseum at 8:14
Pacific Daylight Time. The A's had won 103 games in the regular season and had
breezed into their third straight Fall Classic by sweeping the Boston Red Sox
in the American League Championship Series. The Reds had won only 91
regular-season games and had struggled to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the
playoffs. No team with so few victories had ever swept a World Series. The only
other time a team had swept an opponent that had at least 12 more wins during
the regular season was in 1954, when the New York Giants took four straight
from the Cleveland Indians.
"The A's have
the best talent in baseball," said Reds first baseman Todd Benzinger.
"But we have the best team." Despite the bravado, some of the Reds were
a little surprised by how easily they had won. Outfielder Billy Hatcher, whose
seven consecutive hits established a Series record and whose .750 batting
average (9 for 12) broke a mark for a four-game Series set by none other than
Babe Ruth (.625 in 1928), said afterward, "We never let 'em get out of the
box. I'll tell you something, though. I wouldn't want to be in their division
next year. If we come back to the Series, I hope and pray we'll be playing the
Red Sox or somebody else. I don't want to play them again. They're
as they must have been, the Athletics were gracious in defeat. Several came
over to the visiting clubhouse after the game to offer their congratulations.
Oakland manager Tony La Russa embraced Cincinnati manager Lou Piniella, an old
friend and teammate from their Tampa American Legion Post 248 team, and said,
"It was almost enjoyable to see."
The Series, short
though it may have been, was memorable. It featured a newborn son, a torn
father-in-law, a First Lady, a pooch and a third baseman nicknamed after a
pooch. The Reds, not the A's, played BillyBall, their Billys being Hatcher and
Bates. The A's, not the Reds, became Nasty Boys, pointing fingers at one
another and bashing fellow Bash Brother Jose Canseco.
In addition to
the family dramas, there was plenty of suspense, especially in Games 2 and 4.
But then, as pitcher Tom Browning, who had a rather interesting week, put it,
"We've had people on the seat of their pants all season."
That wasn't the
only malaprop of the Series. Reds owner Marge Schott dedicated the Series to
"our women and men in the Far East." (She meant the Mideast, of course,
but she also might have said Midwest.) And during an off-day interview session,
Hatcher told reporters, "There wasn't an empty house in the seat." As
it turned out, those were about the only mistakes the Reds made all week.
The Series began
on Oct. 16 in Cincinnati, and most of the nation's baseball press brought along
stone tablets on which to etch the chronicles of those Dynasty Boys, the
Athletics. The citizens of Porkopolis and their beloved Reds would have none of
that talk, however. At a noontime rally in Fountain Square, the emcee told a
crowd of 7,000 fans, "We have to play a team that everyone says is
unbeatable." After an appropriate chorus of boos, he said, "I guess you
don't believe in that theory." Schott, accompanied by her St. Bernard,
Schottzie, then led the crowd in the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball
As the two teams
took the field at Riverfront Stadium for Ball Game 1, there was hardly an empty
house in the seat. Before the Series, Schott suggested that her players wear
their Schottzie caps (Reds hats with long, floppy dog ears) in the first
inning, to which pitcher Jose Rijo said, "I wouldn't pitch like that. No
way, Jose." True to his word, Rijo, a former Athletic, wore a conventional
cap for his matchup with his onetime mentor, Dave Stewart.
As it turned out,
the Reds could have worn nearly anything and still have won. In the very first
inning, leftfielder Eric Davis hit a Pat O'Brien-seeking missile near the CBS
studio in left center to give Cincinnati a 2-0 lead. (DAVIS STUNS GOLIATH read
the headline in The Cincinnati Post the next day.) Hatcher's double in the
third, his first hit of so many, keyed a two-run rally, and his double in the
fifth started a three-run rally off reliever Todd Burns. Rijo pitched seven
shutout innings before turning the game over to the ever-charming, pea-throwing
Nasty Boys, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers.