Oakland Athletics’ 1989 World Series Championship – The Battle of the Bay

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The Bay Bridge Series – It’s All Fun Until the Ground Shakes

After 21 years, Bay Area sports fans finally got something they had been hoping for; a World Series between the A’s and Giants. In 1971 fans were teased with the possibility when the A’s won the AL West and the Giants took the NL West, but both teams went on to lose to the East teams – the Orioles and Pirates. It was the first cross-town World Series since 1956, and I was there for three of the four games in a sweep by the Athletics.

For the 1989 Series, it was Roger Craig’s ‘Humm-Baby’ Giants (92-70) versus the ‘Bash Brothers’ of Tony LaRussa’s Athletics (99-63). The A’s were defending AL Pennant champs, having fallen to the LA Dodgers in five games in 1988. For 1989, they added speed and offensive spunk to their lineup by bringing back Rickey Henderson in a mid-season trade that sent Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk, and Luis Polonia to the Yankees. The trade paid off as Henderson, after a fantastic second half, was awarded the series MVP in the ALCS in a 4-1 game win against the Blue Jays, hitting .400 while scoring eight runs with two HRs, five RBIs, seven walks and a 1.000 slugging percentage.

In Game 1, I saw a brilliant 21-9 Dave Stewart toss a complete game five-hit shutout in a 5-0 Athletics win. The A’s scored three runs in the second inning when Dave Henderson and Terry Steinbach reached base to start the inning. Tony Phillips singled home Hendu and Steinbach later scored on catcher Terry Kennedy’s error in a play at the plate. Rickey then drove home Phillips with a single. In the third and fourth innings, DH Dave Parker and shortstop Walt Weiss each hit solo homers.

I was again at the Coliseum for Game 2 to see Mike Moore (19-11) face Giants ace Rick Reuschel (17-8) and the A’s took a prompt 1-0 lead in the first when Rickey walked and stole second (what else was new then?) then scored on a Carney Lansford double.  Moore gave up two hits in the third, one by Jose Uribe who later scored on a Robby Thompson sacrifice fly.

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In the fourth, Dave Parker doubled with a shot off the right field wall that was both inches from being foul and inches from being a home run, scoring Jose Canseco who had previously walked. Dave Henderson walked and both Henderson and Parker scored when Terry Steinbach went deep to left with a 3-run HR. Moore only allowed four hits all game and was relieved in the eighth as Rick Honeycutt and Dennis Eckersley closed it out for a 5-1 A’s win and 2-0 game lead heading to SF.

Game 3, Oct. 17, 1989. Yes, I was there, courtesy of my now brother-in-law, and at 5:07 p.m. it sounded like a large concessions cart was rolling on the walkway below us but then the noise and shaking sensation grew to where the second deck was bouncing. Fans were screaming and I could actually see the concrete deck across the field rocking and jolting up and down. When the 17-seconds of trembling stopped, the crowd let out a roar as if to say, “Welcome to California” to all the TV audience.

But then news reports came in. Remember now, this was all prior to cell phones and streaming so reports were vague. A fan close to us had a portable battery-operated TV (one of those guys I would normally criticize for bringing a TV to a game you’re supposed to watch) and we were able to see early news reports of the upper deck of the Bay Bridge crumpled down to the lower deck, a section of the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland – known as the Cypress Structure – collapsed, and fires raging in the Marina District with plumes of smoke that could be seen over the northwest side of the stadium.

Players were all on the field gathering family members from the stands and then a police car drove on to the field.  The Candlestick PA system was down, and we had no way of knowing what was being decided, but word got around that the there was no power and the game had been cancelled. It was a more than four-hour drive of listening to news reports just to make the 27-mile drive back to San Leandro across the bay.

In the following days, in candle-lit makeshift press rooms, Commissioner Faye Vincent, who had just taken over as Commissioner of Baseball after the sudden death of his predecessor Bart Giamatti in September, announced no decision had been made as to whether the series would resume.

It would be 10 days until its resumption. During the break, LaRussa, the strategist, had the A’s escape to Phoenix to get away from all the earthquake news while the Giants remained in the City. The move to Arizona was beneficial for the next two games.

Games 3 and 4 were repeats of Games 1 and 2. The Giants had to face Dave Stewart and Mike Moore again, who had limited the Giants to just nine hits and one run in 18 innings.

After all the pre-game ceremonies, the A’s broke out in Game 3 hitting a record-tying five home runs including two by Dave Henderson and one each by Jose Canseco, Carney Lansford and Tony Phillips. (Hendu would have had three except his first inning shot bounced off the top of the centerfield wall for a double). The Giants also hit home runs by Bill Bathe and Matt Williams, and the game also set a record for most combined HRs hit in a World Series game – seven. By the sixth inning it was 9-3 (12-3 in the eighth) and I had moved to behind the A’s dugout for the last three innings since a good portion of the crowd had left. The final score was 13-7 and the last four runs of the Giants in the ninth inning amounted to nothing to be concerned about. The A’s were one game away from a sweep and their fourth World Series title since coming to Oakland.

For Game 4 (which I was not at), the A’s came out early and set the tone with a Rickey Henderson leadoff home run (again, what else was new back then?). The A’s continued with three more runs in the second, when Mike Moore doubled in Hendu and Weiss, and later scored when Rickey singled him home. The A’s were well on their way with three more in the fifth to take a 7-0 lead when Steinbach tripled, scoring Hendu and Canseco, and then scored himself on a Tony Phillips double. In the sixth, it went to 8-0 on a Carney Lansford single scoring Rickey.

The Giants attempted a small comeback with a two-run Kevin Mitchell HR off Moore in the sixth and four runs off the bullpen in the seventh  but the A’s added a run in the eighth on a baes-loaded walk and it was 9-6. In the ninth, with two outs, on a Brett Butler ground ball past Mark McGwire, second baseman Tony Phillips went wide to his left to come up with the ball and flipped it to Dennis Eckersley covering first base as umpire Al Clark signaled “out.” Eckersley pumped his fist and the A’s celebrated their first championship since 1974 on the infield of Candlestick Park.

In the four-game sweep, the A’s never trailed at any point, only the third time in World Series history that a team never trailed in any game. They outscored the Giants 32-14 and outhit them 44-28.  It was the first four-game sweep since 1976 when the Reds beat the Yankees.  Stewart was named World Series MVP.

Next: Which A's Prospect Will Have the Biggest Impact Next Season?

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