Friday, January 6, 2012

1989 World Series: The Earthquake

The Teams
American League: Oakland Athletics (99-63); fifth World Series (won in 1972, 1973, 1974)
National League: San Francisco Giants (92-70); second World Series

What Happened
The 1989 World Series will always be remembered for the earthquake that occurred moments before Game 3. More than 3,700 people were injured and 63 people were killed in the quake, and the World Series was postponed for 10 days while the region. Strangely, the excitement of a World Series featured the two Bay Area teams likely kept the number of casualties down; because of the large number of people who either left work early to watch the game or stayed late to join special viewing parties, the normally busy freeways were unusually quiet when the earthquake hit. Since the vast majority of the deaths occurred when a section of freeway collapsed, it's easy to say that the World Series saved hundreds of lives that day.

This series is always remembered for the earthquake, almost exclusively so. That's because the action on the field was largely forgettable. The Giants were a ho-hum team that year, making the World Series only because they played the Cubs in the playoffs; you know, because everybody beats the Cubs. The A's, meanwhile, were a great team, in the second year of what would turn into three straight American League titles.

After losing to the Dodgers the previous year, the A's added future hall-of-famer Rickey Henderson in a midseason trade in 1989, turning an already great lineup into the stuff of legends. With Henderson at the top of the lineup, and the Steroid Bash Brothers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire ready to drive him in, the A's were nearly unstoppable. San Francisco had no chance. Oakland hit nine home runs in the four games, never trailed in the series, and laid down a thrashing that was forgotten as soon as it was over.

Defining Game
Game 3. When your pregame report is interrupted by an earthquake that's televised live across the nation, it's pretty safe to say that's your defining moment of the series.

Henderson batted .474 with five extra-base hits in his first World Series; Carney Lansford hit .438; Terry Steinbach drove in nine runs. Any one of Oakland's hitting stars could have been the MVP. Pitcher Dave Stewart was the official winner, and it's hard to argue with that choice. He threw a complete-game shutout in Game 1, then gave up only three runs in 8 innings in Game 3 after the break. In between, he spent time on the streets helping Oakland begin the recovery from the earthquake. A very deserving MVP.

The Scores
(Home team in Bold)

San Francisco 0 1 7 6
Oakland5 5 13 9

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here's the ones I've done so far:

105. 1989 - Oakland (A) def. San Francisco (N) 4-0
106. 1928 - New York (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-0
107. 1917 - Cincinnati (N) def. Chicago (A) 5-3

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