The A’s have now played 50 full seasons in Oakland, at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. They’ve won four titles, but haven’t managed a World Series appearance since 1990. However, with a young team on the rise following a 97-win season, A’s fans have some hope for a trip to the Fall Classic in the coming years. Now, I’d like to reflect on the greatest team in Oakland Athletics history: the 1989 World champion A’s.
The A’s were the best team in the league throughout the whole year, tallying a 99-63 record; the best record in baseball. They were completely dominant compared to all other teams, as they had six more wins than the Chicago Cubs, who had the second best record.
Along with the regular season, Oakland completely dominated through the playoffs at a time when the Division Series didn’t exist. The A’s faced the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, easily winning four games to one.
The first two games of the series took place at the Coliseum, and the A’s certainly excelled with the home-field advantage. Dave Stewart was the winning pitcher for Oakland in the A’s 7-3 victory in game one, aided by homers from Mark McGwire and Dave Henderson. The A’s won by a similar score again in game two, as they defeated Toronto 6-3 with Mike Moore as the winning pitcher, and Dennis Eckersley collecting the save.
When the series moved to Toronto, the Jays were able to notch their only win of the series. They took game three by a 7-3 score, with Jimmy Key earning the victory for the Blue Jays. The next night held a tighter game, as the A’s edged out Toronto in a close 6-5 win. Bob Welch was the winner, and Dennis Eckersley earned his second save of the series.
Just a win away from the World Series, Oakland finished the job in Toronto, taking game five by a 4-3 final score. Dave Stewart got his second win of the series, and Eckersley collected his third save. The A’s were overall dominant in the ALCS, as expected facing a Blue Jays team that notched ten less wins in the regular season.
A similar series came in the National League as well, in a set between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs. The series began at Wrigley Field, and the Giants dominated game one with an 11-3 victory, then dropped game two to the Cubs, 9-5. After two non-intense games to start the NLCS, some close games took place when the series shifted to San Francisco.
Game three started out with a bang, as the Cubs tallied two runs in the first inning, followed by San Francisco’s three runs in the bottom half of the frame. In the end, the Giants won by a 5-4 score, then beat Chicago 6-4 in game four and 3-2 in game five. They were able to pull off a sweep of their three home games against the Cubs, punching their ticket to the ’89 World Series.
The 1989 Fall Classic was a special series, featuring the two teams from each side of the Bay. With Oakland facing San Francisco, the series was named the Bay Bridge Series; a name that still exists today in the teams’ annual series against each other.
Given the A’s regular season record advantage, the first two games were played in Oakland. The first was played on October 14, which turned out to be all-around dominance by the Athletics. The A’s won by a 5-0 final score, as Dave Stewart hurled a five-hit shutout to kick the series off. Oakland jumped out to an early lead, scoring three runs in the second and one in each of the third and fourth frames. Dave Parker and Walt Weiss both had solo homers, and Mark McGwire collected three hits in four at-bats.
After a dominant game one by the A’s, things were very similar in the second game. San Francisco managed to get on the board, but only scored a run, and the A’s tallied five for the second consecutive game. Mike Moore was the winning pitcher, tossing seven frames of one-run ball while punching out seven hitters. Rick Honeycutt pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in relief, and Dennis Eckersley closed out the game by getting the final two outs.
After two games of dominance by the A’s in Oakland, the Giants hoped to turn things around as the series moved across the Bay to Candlestick Park. However, there was a bit of an interruption before the game’s start.
Just a half hour before game three’s scheduled start time, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck, and it was centered about 60 miles away from San Francisco. The quake was clearly felt in the stadium, and the game was postponed.
The two teams waited ten days for the resumption of the World Series, as game three was played on October 27. Both of game one’s starting pitchers were set to go again in a possible pitcher’s duel. However, it was the complete opposite. A total of 20 runs crossed the plate in game three, and 13 of them were scored by the A’s. Even though Oakland’s pitching wasn’t stellar like it had been in the first two games, they were still able to win by six runs.
Dave Stewart contributed seven innings for the A’s in his second start of the series, allowing three runs with eight strikeouts. It was a better line than expected when looking at a game in which the A’s gave up seven runs, but four of the runs came in the ninth inning against Oakland reliever Gene Nelson.
The A’s knocked Giants’ ace Scott Garrelts out of the game in the fourth inning, as Garrelts gave up four runs, six hits and two homers over 3.1 innings. Oakland also tagged reliever Kelly Downs for four runs and a pair of homers in one inning, and scored four more in the eighth off of Atlee Hammaker.
The Athletics hit a total of four homers in game three, coming off the bats of Dave Henderson, Tony Phillips, Jose Canseco and Carney Lansford. Henderson, Canseco and Lansford also collected three hits each in the ballgame.
With their backs against the wall, the Giants were looking for any ounce of success against their Bay Area rival. Mike Moore and Don Robinson earned the game four starts, and once again, the A’s came out on top.
The Athletics won the game, 9-6, to clinch their fourth championship in the team’s 21 years in Oakland. Mike Moore earned his third win of the postseason, allowing two runs over six innings. Gene Nelson and Rick Honeycutt each gave up two runs in less than an inning combined, but the A’s were still able to close out the game. Todd Burns delivered 1.1 scoreless frames, and Dennis Eckersley collected his first save of the series by getting the final three outs.
Dave Stewart was named MVP of the ’89 World Series, and deservedly so. The right-hander won both of his starts, collecting a 1.69 ERA and 0.75 WHIP with a shutout in game one. He was overall dominant in that postseason for Oakland, winning all four of his starts and pitching to a 2.25 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.
In conclusion, the series was complete domination by the A’s. Just like they’d dominated in their 99-win regular season, they went 8-1 in the postseason; an amazing feat.
Oakland’s 1989 championship was the middle of three World Series appearances, as they were defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in ’88, and then swept by the Cincinnati Reds in ’90. While the A’s had better regular seasons in those years than in 1989, Oakland’s greatest season of all-time came in the year that they finished it off with a championship.
The Athletics have had some terrific runs since they moved from Kansas City to Oakland. They won three consecutive championships from 1972-74, and had baseball’s best record for three years in a row from ’88-’90. Now, as A’s fans have gone 29 seasons without a World Series appearance, we’ll see if they can cook something up in the years to come.
Photo Sources: MLB, Ves Photo, Getty Images