The 1990 World Series: A David vs. Goliath Story

1990 World Series

1990 World Series: David Vs. Goliath

Some time ago there was a group of people called the Philistines. There was also a group of people called the Israelites.  They were grumpy with each other for various reasons. And so, they decided to fight one another. They had fought each other before and they would fight each other again. Most of their conflicts are remembered only by biblical scholars and historians of the Middle East, but there is one conflict between these two groups that has become a part of popular culture. The conflict in question was between a man named David and a rather large man named Goliath. The scuffle happened nearly 3,000 years ago and is frequently used to reference an underdog triumphing over a favorite. In the case of David verses Goliath, David was the underdog and Goliath was the favorite. David became king and Goliath became a corpse.

So, what do two ancient warriors have to do with baseball? Throughout baseball history there has been many situations where a favored team was beaten by a not-so-favored team; think the Chicago White Sox of 1906, or the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971, or, more recently, the San Francisco Giants in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Enter the Cincinnati Reds of 1990, possibly the most David-like of all baseball teams, while their opponent, the Oakland A’s, were possibly the most Goliath-like.


1990 AD is a long way from 1050 BC. Many things happened for us to get to the 1990 World Series: the compass, paper, gunpowder, the printing press, the utilization of electricity, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, vaccinations, cars, airplanes, rockets, nuclear fission, semiconductors, and the personal computer. Phew, that was quite a bit.  And now on to the most important of all, baseball.

Let us get to know our incredibly mismatched opponents, shall we?

Oakland Athletics

The 1990 Oakland A’s were the definition of a winner. They were appearing in their third straight World Series. In 1988 they lost to the Dodgers, and in 1989 they swept the Giants. They were loaded with four future Hall of Famers, which included their manager, Tony La Russa, Harold Baines, Dennis Eckersley, and Rickey Henderson. Also, they had the Bash Brothers duo of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, who were, wink, wink, “pumped up” in their own special way.

Henderson finished the regular season with 65 stolen bases, 28 home runs, and a .325 batting average, enough to win the 1990 AL MVP. Behind Henderson in the lineup were the Bash Brothers. who combined for 76 home runs and 209 total runs during the regular season. And not only did they have a potent, power hitting lineup, they also had some dynamite pitching. Bob Welch, the eventual Cy Young winner, won 27 games and had a 2.95 ERA and Dave Stewart won 22 games. Not bad to have two 20+ game winners on the staff. On top of this the A’s had the best closer in the game, Eckersley, whose minuscule 0.61 ERA and 48 saves were enough to have him in the running for the Cy Young as well.

Goliath reincarnated in the form of a baseball team.

Cincinnati Reds

The 1989 Cincinnati Reds finished in fifth-place, so their 1990 success was a surprise. Led by their new manager, Lou Piniella and on the backs of such players as future Hall of Famer, Barry Larkin, center fielder, Eric Davis, third baseman, Chris Sabo, and right fielder, Paul O’Neill, the Reds fought their way to a first place finish in the NL West, four games ahead of the Dodgers. Not only were the Reds successful on the field and at the plate, they had a stellar pitching staff and bullpen. And three of the biggest reasons for their success were, Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, and Norm Charlton.

The Nasty Boys

Making up the nucleus of the Reds bullpen was the Nasty Boys: Myers, Dibble, and Charlton. Over the course of the 1990 season these three pitchers combined for 44 saves and both Dibble and Myers appeared in the All-Star Game. The Nasty Boys were to the Reds what the slingshot was to David.

1990 World Series

So here we are. It’s October 16, 1990. Game 1 of the World Series. The Cincinnati Reds were facing the Oakland A’s. David Vs. Goliath. The Reds struck first off of Stewart with Davis putting a two-run shot in the seats. And over the next four innings, the Reds posted five more runs. With Dibble and Myers closing the door in the eighth and ninth, Game One was a cinch. Reds won, 7-0.

Game Two? This was a closer contest that stayed tied until the 10th inning. The hometown crowd at Riverfront was treated to a walk-off from the bat of Reds catcher, Joe Oliver. Reds won, 5-4.

Game Three? The Reds came out of the gate quickly in this one, scoring eight runs in the first three innings off A’s starter, Mike Moore, and reliever, Scott Sanderson. Thanks to the bats of Davis, O’Neill, Sabo, Todd Benzinger, and the previous games’ hero, Oliver, Game Three was a breeze. Reds w0n, 8-3.

Game Four? Ah, Game Four with a three game lead, every baseball team’s dream incarnate. The A’s went ahead early with a Carney Lansford single that drove in the fleet-of-foot, Willie McGee from second. The A’s would lead 1-0 until the eighth, when the Reds scored two. Reds won, 2-1.


Sling. Stone. Forehead. Dead.

Nasty Is Right

The Oakland A’s did not score a single run past the third inning in any of the games. That’s right, the most “pumped up” lineup in all of baseball was completely shut down for the latter 2/3 of every game. Not a bad job by a team that nobody picked to win their division, let alone their league, or the World Series. And if it wasn’t for the arms of Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, and Norm Charlton, the 1990 Reds would just be another team that lost to Goliath. Instead, the 1990 Reds are forever immortalized in baseball history; nasty is right.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images

1 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Everyone thought 1990 they were gonna win big. Oakland was being predicted 4 games maybe 5 games, Reds didn’t have a chance. They couldn’t have been a bigger underdog. The A’s had the Bash Brothers with Canseco, they had Eckersley, they had Dave Stewart. Lou Piniella Rolf his team don’t in awe of it, don’t be in awe of the Canseco’s and the McGwire’s and the Dave Stewart’s, you belong here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.