1989 Of Triumph and Tragedy

In a rough year for the game, Pete Rose is banned, a popular commissioner dies, a player's inspirational comeback from cancer is stopped cold and the local euphoria of a Bay Area World Series is badly shaken up by a major earthquake.

Ten days after a major earthquake rocked—yet failed to bring down—San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, the Bay Bridge World Series between the Giants and Oakland A’s reconvenes before a packed house full of resistant fans looking to refocus on baseball.

The renaissance of baseball was now complete. Awakened in the mid-1970s after an archaic deep sleep in the 1960s, the game was embraced like it hadn’t been for 40 years; attendance was constantly on the rise, memorabilia sales were booming, and the game was fervently waxed nostalgic from Hollywood to the New York publishing world.

But in 1989, baseball endured a seemingly endless string of challenges, some self-inflicted, others not, that put its newfound sentimentality at risk. It was a reminder that, no matter how glossed over the sport could get with old-timers’ games, Brooklyn Dodgers paraphernalia and mint-condition Mickey Mantle cards, there were still troubles in modern times.

Before the year was out, baseball would witness the defrocking of its favorite son and its cynical link to a popular commissioner’s death, a heartbreaking end to a gutsy comeback, and a World Series jolted to its knees by Mother Nature.

Even before the gates flew open for spring training, there was plenty of bad press to go around. The owners had just gotten socked, again, by a court ruling finding them guilty of further collusion against potential free agents. Wade Boggs, the prevalent American League batting champion, was ratted on by a former mistress who told—and showed—all for Penthouse. And Steve Garvey, the retired but still-popular baseball icon, had his "Mr. Clean"A memorable bumper sticker in the San Diego area read: “Steve Garvey is not my Padre.” image dirtied up with a series of paternity suits.

Because baseball cares more about what happens between the lines, the commissioner’s office had little use for such bedroom gossip. But it grew alarmed at allegations that were far more brooding: That Pete Rose, the game’s all-time hit leader, was betting not only on baseball, but on the Cincinnati Reds—the team he managed.

Rose was initially queried by outgoing commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who seemed content with Charlie Hustle’s answers. But he kept the case open and handed it to his successor, A. Bartlett Giamatti. A perfect choice to lead baseball in the day and age, Giamatti was a former Yale University president who spoke romantically of the game in poetic tones. Along with deputy commissioner Fay Vincent—whose dour, drone-toned façade was a sharp contrast to the whimsical Giamatti—the new commissioner hired former FBI mob investigator Robert Dowd to check further into Rose’s gambling past.

At 2,300 pages and a cost of $3 million, the so-called “Dowd Report” painted Rose as a troubled man with a bad habit of befriending shady characters such as bookies and drug dealers. More troubling was the evidence; betting slips were produced showing Rose had repeatedly bet on baseball games—including those involving the RedsAccording to the slips, Rose always bet on the Reds to win.—in 1987. And that, according to those interviewed, was just the tip of the iceberg.

The investigation remained quiet until Sports Illustrated publicly blew the lid off the story during spring training when one of Rose’s disgruntled bookies, Ron Peters, sang like a canary. Suddenly, Rose became a prisoner in his own dugout, trapped by a daily arc of reporters. His evasiveness to questions on the subject seemed peculiar for a man who often and gregariously spoke his mind.

Cincinnati finished second under manager Pete Rose from 1985-88—the years baseball alleged that Rose was betting on the Reds. Whether Rose’s gambling habits affected his managerial decisions is debatable, but here are the facts of how close the Reds challenged for first place.

As spring turned into summer, Rose appeared ready to buckle under the weight of the evidence when he got legal leverage from an unlikely source: Giamatti. The commissioner, whose job it was to be independent until all the facts were in, had decreed Ron Peters’ testimony to be truthful—and that opened the door for a series of court battles in which Rose’s lawyers charged that baseball had an anti-Rose agenda.

The fierce tug-of-war segued into negotiations, and then to settlement. On August 24, it was announced that Rose was indefinitely banned from baseball, though he could apply for a reinstatement within a year. In exchange, baseball could not claim Rose bet on baseball, leaving a contradictory smell to the deal. The irony was hardly lost on Giamatti, who dropped the jaws of Rose and his lawyers when, at the press conference to announce the ban, answered the one question he wasn’t supposed to: “I have concluded that he (Rose) bet on baseball.”

Having to banish a living legend like Pete Rose was not what Giamatti, the idealistic Ivy Leaguer, had in mind when taking over the commissioner’s office. Recovering from the emotional and physical burden of the Rose drama one week after its conclusion, Giamatti—a known chain-smoker—suffered a fatal heart attack at his Martha’s Vineyard retreat. The renaissance sport had lost its renaissance manPete Rose released a statement after Giamatti’s death, saying he was deeply saddened and had “great personal respect” for him.; Fay Vincent took over as baseball’s commissioner.

Distracted by the Rose affair and wracked by injuries, the Reds stumbled to fifth place in the National League West, conquered for the second time in three years by the San Francisco Giants.

After falling a game short of a World Series appearance in 1987, the Giants were older, wiser and more talented in 1989. The continued evolution of first baseman Will Clark was expected—Clark hit .333 with 23 home runs and 111 runs batted in—but unexpected was the sudden rise of outfielder Kevin Mitchell, who exploded after three years of displaying erratic potential with a NL-high 47 homers and 125 RBIs. Together, Mitchell and Clark not only formed a 1-2 punch worthy of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, but also one among NL Most Valuable Player voters, with Mitchell edging out Clark.

A human interest story developed out of the Giants’ pitching staff in Dave Dravecky. A reliable southpaw traded (along with Mitchell) from San Diego in 1987, Dravecky was diagnosed with a tumor in his pitching arm at the end of 1988 and had it removed—along with half of the deltoid muscle. Doctors were convinced the procedure would severely curtail his arm mobility and end his pitching career, but they were stunned to later see Dravecky miraculously rehabilitate beyond their expectations, and the impossible became possible when Dravecky started throwing a baseball with little velocity loss.

In his second start after a comeback from cancer, San Francisco’s Dave Dravecky writhes in pain after breaking a bone in his pitching arm. The cancer would return and lead to an amputation of his entire left shoulder and arm.

Quickly, impressively and cautiously working his way back through the Giants’ minor league chain, Dravecky was given the go-ahead to make his first major league start of the season, August 10 in San Francisco against the RedsPete Rose, two weeks shy of his banishment, on Dravecky: “It’s great for him. I hope he loses.”. With the national spotlight upon him, Dravecky was magnificent, firing seven shutout innings before tiring in the eighth, the Giants holding on for a 4-3 win.

Baseball’s first genuine (and badly-needed) feel-good story of the year took an excruciating u-turn in Dravecky’s next start at Montreal. After throwing five shutout innings against the Expos, he got shaky in the sixth with a leadoff home run and a hit batsman. On his second pitch to the third batter, Tim Raines, a loud pop sounded as Dravecky threw, and he flailed uncontrollably to the turf in front of the mound. Will Clark, an avid game hunter, raced over from first base convinced that Dravecky had been shot.

A bone in Dravecky’s pitching arm, structurally weakened by the tumor surgery, had snapped. Dravecky was carried off on a stretcher and later vowed he’d return to the mound. Doctors predicted a possible return for the postseason, but the euphoria had been sapped.

After taking the West, the Giants won a spirited NLCS in five games against the NL East champion Chicago Cubs, highlighted by a spectacular individual dual between the teams’ young, star first basemen: Clark for the Giants, and sophomore Mark Grace for the Cubs. Grace repeatedly hammered at Giants pitching by hitting .647 (11-for-17) with three doubles, a triple and a home run. Yet Clark not only was slightly better (13-for-20, three doubles, a triple and two home runs), but also made his hits count—including a grand slam that pulled the Giants away in Game One, and a two-run, two-out single off Cub closer Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams in the eighth inning of Game Five to clinch the series. Yet even in jubilation, the Giants found sadness; Dave Dravecky re-broke his fragile arm when he got caught too deep in the mob of celebrating Giant players.

While the Giants were thrilled to be back in the World Series for the first time in 27 years, across the bay in Oakland, the Athletics were fiercely determined to get back to the Fall Classic after enduring off-season nightmares over their upset Series loss to Los Angeles the year before.

Despite injuries to key players—including Jose Canseco, who missed nearly 100 games to a broken wrist—the A’s never slowed in pursuit of their second straight AL pennant. The team’s hitting, affected the most by injury and far from proficient, was backed up by a healthy and very sharp four-man pitching rotation (Dave Stewart, Mike Moore, Storm Davis and Bob Welch) that combined for 76 wins and just 35 losses.

Crucially, the A’s made the mid-season steal of the year when they brought back Rickey Henderson, struggling and stewingHenderson hit just .247 in 65 games at New York before being traded. under New York Yankee manager Dallas Green. Reacting like a free man in green-and-gold, The once-and-current Athletic tore apart the AL in the season’s second half, batting .294 with 72 runs and 52 stolen bases in just 85 games.

After struggling and whining through the first half of the season with the Yankees, Rickey Henderson was granted a trade back to Oakland, where he first made his mark as a major league star. Henderson’s second tour of duty with the A’s clearly rejuvenated his game.

With everyone healthy for the postseason and Henderson at the top of his game, the A’s—who had won 99 games through all the aches and pains of the regular season—were now ready to shift into juggernaut mode. Against the feisty Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, the A’s exhibited all their strengths. Dave Stewart won two games, closer Dennis Eckersley saved three and Jose Canseco hit a memorably titanic home run into Skydome’s upper deck. But above them all was Henderson, who drove the Blue Jays absolutely crazy—batting .400 (6-for-15) with seven walks, eight runs, two home runs and eight steals. Bellicose Blue Jay manager Cito Gaston desperately resorted to mind games toward the end, accusing Oakland players of showboating and cheating, but the A’s laughed him off and took the series in five.

For three years, talk of a Bay Bridge World Series had grown among Bay Area baseball fans watching their local teams emerge through the late 1980s. And after two decades of being told their region couldn’t support two teams, they now had the ultimate showcaseIt was the first intra-market World Series since the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants squared off in 1956. all to themselves to brag about.

Unfortunately, that showcase would be upstaged by a more traditional Bay Area phenomenon: The San Andreas Fault.

The first two games of the World Series reconfirmed how focused the A’s were at purging the ghost of Kirk Gibson, as terrific pitching silenced the Giants’ bats at Oakland by scores of 5-0 and 5-1.

Game Three was moments away from beginning on an unusually warm and still evening at typically arctic Candlestick Park. As fans were taking their seats and players biding their time before introductions, a loud roar was heard—quickly followed by ominous movement underneath. The light towers and the second deck swayed and danced with one another above the box seats as the shaking continued for 15 seconds—or, in earthquake time, an eternity.

When it ended and all was safe, the fans heaved a huge sigh of relief, then let out a big cheer. They expected the game to go on, but the power was out and police, using bullhorns from the field, told spectators to leave the stadium at once.

As the fans exited, listening in on transistor radios and seeing a sky dotted with plumes of smoke, they realized this was no tremor.

Registering 6.9 on the Richter scale, the Loma Prieta Earthquake killed 65 people, injured 3,000 and caused over $10 billion in damage. A double-deck freeway near the Oakland Coliseum collapsed; the Bay Bridge, the very symbol of this World Series, was fractured. Among the homes heavily damaged in the hard-hit Marina section of San Francisco was that of A’s pitcher Bob Welch.

Because Candlestick Park was built on bedrock and had just undergone a $28 million seismic retrofit, a catastrophe of epic proportions was averted and all 62,000 people within the stadium safely departed. Outside of Candlestick, the World Series helped save more lives; many people had gone home early to catch the game on TV, and thus the usually jammed freeways were light at 5:04 p.m. on October 17.

Commissioner Fay Vincent, whose naturally downcast demeanor perfectly mirrored the moment, was happy to give the World Series a week off while the Bay Area recovered—but had to armwrestle with San Francisco mayor Art Agnos, who demanded and gotVincent reluctantly agreed, but not before he threatened to move the series to Los Angeles—the ultimate insult to Bay Area baseball fans. an additional three days’ delay.

The World Series—and the Oakland rout—resumed on October 27 at Candlestick, as offensive firepower picked up where the pitching left off. The A’s crushed five home runs in a 13-7 Game Three thrashing, and jumped to an 8-0 lead in Game Four before surviving a late Giant counter-offensive to win the Series, 9-6. With the final out, the A’s celebrated as any team normally would, running and leaping upon one another, but most of the fans simply applauded, said “nice job” and went home to resume their post-quake lives.

Mercifully, the year was done, yet its legacy persisted. Players declared free agency, and the owners actually paid heed to them. Bay Area residents rebuilt and moved on, understanding that the ground will occasionally shake beneath them. Cancer redeveloped in Dave Dravecky’s pitching arm; by 1991, with the disease spreading, doctors had no other option but to amputate his left shoulder—though with sheer will and a strong spiritual conviction, Dravecky has become a highly respected and better man.

The same cannot be said for Pete Rose. He was stripped of all contact with baseball, and his freedom wasn’t far behind; in 1990 it was the IRS’ turn to dog Rose, who was convicted on tax evasion and sentenced to six months in jail with a $50,000 fine.

After 15 years of fiercely proclaiming his innocence, Rose performed an about face and admitted that he had, in fact, bet on the Reds in the late 1980s. He made his long-overdue contrition the only way he knew how; on his own terms, as part of a million-dollar book deal. Baseball was not impressed, and Rose remains banned while he gruffly and eagerly seeks reinstatement. The issue remains a white-hot topic of debate. His supporters say he’s suffered enough—and besides, he bet on his Reds to win, so what’s the harm? Plenty, say his detractors. Rose could have impulsively adjusted his lineups and pitching assignments when money was on the line at the expense of a 162-game focus.

For a team that finished second in the NL West four straight years under the stewardship of Rose, it begs to wonder: Did Rose’s passion for the betting line unintentionally scuttle the Reds’ chances for a World Series as much as those purposely thrown away by the 1919 Chicago Black Sox?


1990 baseball historyForward to 1990: The Dynasty Dies Nasty Armed with a tough, rough and rowdy trio of relievers, the Cincinnati Reds knock off the almighty Oakland A's.


1988 baseball historyBack to 1988: Roy Hobbs in Dodger Blue Kirk Gibson makes like Robert Redford and gives the Los Angeles Dodgers a storybook ending.


1980s baseball historyThe 1980s Page: Corporate Makeover Baseball enjoys a healthy boom on several fronts, with increased attendance, corporate sponsorship and memorabilia sales; players also continue to enjoy skyrocketing salaries, but some abuse their newfound riches by delving into illegal drugs.


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1989 Standings

National League East
Chicago Cubs
93
69
.574
---
New York Mets
87
75
.537
6
St. Louis Cardinals
86
76
.531
7
Montreal Expos
81
81
.500
12
Pittsburgh Pirates
74
88
.457
19
Philadelphia Phillies
67
95
.414
26
National League West
San Francisco Giants
92
70
.568
---
San Diego Padres
89
73
.549
3
Houston Astros
86
76
.531
6
Los Angeles Dodgers
77
83
.481
14
Cincinnati Reds
75
87
.463
17
Atlanta Braves
63
97
.394
28
American League East
Toronto Blue Jays
89
73
.549
---
Baltimore Orioles
87
75
.537
2
Boston Red Sox
83
79
.512
6
Milwaukee Brewers
81
81
.500
8
New York Yankees
74
87
.460
14.5
Cleveland Indians
73
89
.451
16
Detroit Tigers
59
103
.364
30
American League West
Oakland A's
99
63
.611
---
Kansas City Royals
92
70
.568
7
California Angels
91
71
.562
8
Texas Rangers
83
79
.512
16
Minnesota Twins
80
82
.494
19
Seattle Mariners
73
89
.451
26
Chicago White Sox
69
92
.429
29.5

1989 Postseason Results
NLCS San Francisco defeated Chicago, 4-1.
ALCS Oakland defeated Toronto, 4-1.
World Series Oakland (AL) defeated San Francisco (NL), 4-0.


It Happened in 1989

You’ll Always Have 1988
Orel Hershiser, who finished the 1988 regular season with his consecutive scoreless inning streak intact at 59, has it immediate snapped in the first inning of his first start in 1989 at Cincinnati on April 5. The Reds will go on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-3, as Hershiser hurts his own cause with two throwing errors that lead to two unearned runs.

That’s B for Baseball—And a Billion
Major League Baseball initiates a four-year television deal with CBS and ESPN that will bring in a record-smashing $1.6 billion in revenue. The deal ends one era with the demise of NBC’s longstanding Game of the Week—CBS will continue with the Saturday affairs, but on a limited basis—and begins another with ESPN’s Sunday Night matchups. The TV package will ultimately give CBS its second baseball-related headache, after its unsuccessful 1964-73 run as owner of the New York Yankees; the network loses so much cash on the deal that it ultimately asks MLB for some of it back—and will be denied.

Ryan and Rickey
Nolan Ryan, in his first year as a Texas Ranger, becomes the first major leaguer to strike out 5,000 batters in a career when he puts away Oakland’s Rickey Henderson on August 22 at Arlington Stadium. Ryan goes the distance and strikes out 13 on the night, but loses to the A’s, 2-0. Ryan will become an occasional thorn in Henderson’s ego; on the night the veteran speedster becomes the all-time stolen base king in 1991, his publicity thunder will be stolen by Ryan, who on the same night throws his seventh (and final) career no-hitter.

Black and White
Former St. Louis Cardinal standout Bill White becomes the highest-ranking African-American baseball executive when he is named National League president. Though the owners will deny it, his move may be a reaction to complaints that baseball is dragging its feet in hiring minorities to top positions, a complaint made very topical a few years earlier when Al Campanis made racially insensitive remarks on the ABC news program Nightline.

What Handicap?
Jim Abbott, born without a right hand, makes a strong impression as a rookie southpaw for the California Angels. The 21-year-old Michigan native will go 12-12 with a 3.92 earned run average in 29 starts, beginning a ten-year career that will include 18 wins in 1990 and a no-hitter in 1993.

Game of the Year
On August 23 at Montreal, the Dodgers defeat the Expos, 1-0, in a 22-inning affair that’s the second longest shutout in history and full of bizarre episodes. Among them: The ejection of the Expos’ mascot, Youppi, for needling Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda a bit too much; the nullification of an apparent game-winning Expo run off a 16th-inning sacrifice fly when Larry Walker is called out for leaving third too early; and the Dodgers’ lack of walks—none, in fact—for the longest such game without one by one team. Rick Dempsey, 39, scores the game’s only run with a solo home run off Dennis Martinez, plucked from the starting rotation for emergency relief.

Son of Game of the Year
Earlier on June 3, the Dodgers engage in another 22-inning epic at Houston that is an hour longer by time—seven hours and 14 minutes, the longest night game in NL history. The Dodgers’ roster is stretched so thin towards the end, pitcher Fernando Valenzuela is sent in to play first base for the final two innings. Orel Hershiser, on two days’ rest after his previous start, pitches seven innings of shutout relief; his replacement, third baseman Jeff Hamilton—the ninth Dodger pitcher on the night—tosses the final two innings and is charged with the loss when Rafael Ramirez singles home Bill Doran to give the Astros a 5-4 win.

Double Deion Duty
Deion Sanders, the flashy two-sport star using September to commute between the Yankees and football’s Atlanta Falcons, becomes the first person ever to hit a major league home run and score a NFL touchdown in the same week. Sanders will reach the bleachers at Seattle against the Mariners on September 5, and five days later will reach the end zone on a 68-yard punt return for the Falcons against the Los Angeles Rams. Although Sanders will become a highly respected, Hall-of-Fame defensive back on the gridiron, his baseball career will be largely erratic with occasional flashes of brilliance.

For Those Who May Have Showed Up Late…
The Reds set a major league record for hits in an inning when they wrap out 16 in the bottom of the first against the Astros on August 3. The offense barrage including three doubles and a home run, all of which leads to 14 runs. The Reds win 18-2 on 26 hits, with seven players collecting at least three hits each.

Nifty Fifty
Vince Coleman sets an all-time mark when he steals 50 consecutive bases without being caught. The streak begins on September 18, 1988 and ends July 28 at Montreal. For the year, Coleman steals 65 bases and is caught ten times.

So Close, And Yet So Far
In a 2-0, 13-inning loss to the Reds at St. Louis on August 30, the Cardinals leave 16 men on base—the most ever by a team suffering a shutout. The Cardinals had runners in scoring position in six innings and twice left the bases loaded. By comparison, the Reds leave only one man on base for the entire game. Starting St. Louis pitcher Jose DeLeon has an 11-inning, one-hit effort (with no walks) wasted.

Unassisted Victory
On June 25, the New York Mets become only the second team in modern big league history to record all of their outs unassisted in a 5-1 defeat of the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. Thirteen of the 27 outs come courtesy of strikeouts from starter Sid Fernandez and reliever Rick Aguilera.

New Ballparks

Skydome, Toronto The last of the multi-purpose stadiums, Skydome became an instant—if not expensive—jewel in the Toronto skyline, with a half-billion dollar price tag over twice the original estimate; in 2000, it declared bankruptcy. Until then, Skydome is the place to be, catapulting the Blue Jays to the top of the team attendance charts with yearly totals of around four million from 1990-93. (That an exciting Blue Jay team won back-to-back World Series in 1992-93 didn’t hurt.) The facility is topped by a unique, massive and intimidating roof structure that contains four separate panels gyrating around one another into a closed position.

Skydome’s numerous amenities include a running track that encircles the stadium from the top of the upper deck; several eating establishments and bars, including McDonald’s and a Hard Rock Café; and a 348-room hotel located behind center field, with 70 rooms getting a glimpse of the action on the field—which on a few occasions has taken a backseat to the action in those hotel rooms, where couples have displayed conjugal relations in full view of the crowd. Skydome is the last new venue for big league baseball to include artificial turf. Renamed Rogers Centre (after Rogers Communications, which bought the Blue Jays) in 2005.


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