I located the full game 4 of the 1990 World Series on youtube. Here is a link.
I was 12 when this game was played. I remember all of the starters, a few of the backups, and of course the Nasty Boys. 23 years later, after watching thousands of baseball games, I thought it would be fun to re-watch it. I write about the highlights and my impressions below. If you would like to watch it first, stop reading now.
What I didn't really remember is how close the Reds were to losing a game 4 and arguably losing their best two offensive players to injuries. Billy Hatcher, who was 9 for 12 in the world series with two walks, was hit on the hand in the first inning with a pitch. He later had to leave the game to go to the hospital. Eric Davis was injured attempting to make a diving catch in left field in the first inning. He also ended up leaving the game to go to the hospital.
These were obviously the Reds' two best hitters at the time. Davis was the best hitter all season and Hatcher was the hottest during the WS. The Reds only had Glenn Braggs and Herm Winingham as backup outfielders and they were both forced into action. According to Jack Buck, you could not add anyone to your World Series roster even if they were injured and could not play in the remainder of the series.
As an interesting side note, Glenn Braggs breaks a bat over his back swinging and missing in the 2nd inning.
Had the Reds lost game 4 and if Davis/Hatcher could not go for the remainder of the series or they would be less effective, the Reds would have been seriously outmatched for the remainder of the series. The great Jack Buck and Tim McCarver kept making the point that Piniella needed to do his best to win game 4 due to this issue. Watching it at the time, I don't remember being that worried in game 4. However, watching as an adult, I can really comprehend how limited offensively the Reds would have been if they had to play the rest of the series without those guys at full strength. Maybe the subsequent knowledge of the Red Sox comeback against the Yanks or even the Giants comeback last year makes this scenario more realistic with hindsight. If the A's got the momentum by winning game 4, those bats could have suddenly come alive and the Reds could have been in trouble.
The Reds were down 1-0 until the bottom of the 8th. There were some interesting decisions by Lou Piniella that worked out well, but could have really been questioned if they did not work and Redszone was around at the time. Barry Larkin singled to lead off the 8th. Herm Winningham then surprised the A's by bunting on an 0-2 count and reached safely. Next, Paul O'Neil bunted and reached safely on a controversial call at first base. The ump said Dave Stewart's throw brought the first baseman off the bag. The announcers questioned the call. It was very close. With the bases loaded and no one out, the Reds scored their only two runs on a Glenn Braggs chopper to short that yielded a force out at 2nd (but the A's could not turn the double play) and a Hal Morris sac fly. Talk about manufacturing runs. If it had not worked, I can imagine the outcry over bunting Winningham with 2 strikes or not letting Paul O'Neil swing the bat down one on the road with two outs and a depleted roster.
Jose Rijo was amazing. His slider was so nasty that night. After allowing one run in the 1st, he retired 20 straight A's. With one out in the bottom of the 9th and no one on, left handed DH Harold Baines was due up. Despite the fact that Rijo had retired 20 straight and the Reds were 2 outs away from the championship, Piniella pulled Rijo in favor of left handed closer Randy Myers. Tony LaRussa then pulled Baines in favor of Jose Canseco, who had been given the night off for defensive purposes with the A's ace on the mound. Canseco had hit 37 homeruns on the year and one already in the Series. Baines had hit 3 homeruns all year.
Knowing Canseco was available and a move meant that Myers may have to pitch to him, I don't think I could have pulled Rijo. I think Lou had to be thinking that LaRussa would leave the DH Baines (.800 OPS) in the game and he would have the left handed Myers pitch to him. I think he thought that LaRussa would pinch hit Canseco for Carney Lansford (.650 OPS) who was hitting next and Piniella would then counter with the right handed Rob Dibble who was also warming up. As it turns out, LaRussa forced Myers to pitch to Canseco.
It all came down to that at bat. Myers was able to get Canseco out on a groundout to Chris Sabo. Carney Lansford hit next. At one point he hit a little chopper that was foul by a wide margin off the third base side. The video showed that it was so far foul that Sabo didn't even move, but Myers ran after it as far as a few steps into foul territory. I can only imagine how much nervous energy he had to have. On the next pitch, he got Lansford to pop out to Benzinger in foul territory. When I watched him fail to use two hands to catch that last ball, I was almost as nervous as I remember being when I was 12 watching it live.
23 years later, this game was a joy to watch. It is the only Reds WS in my lifetime. It was a game four with one team leading 3-0, but given the fact that the Reds were such underdogs in the series in general, and given the two key injuries to Reds players in game 4, the tension felt like it was game 7.
It was really cool to watch it after several years of learning more about the game of baseball. If you are looking for something to do the next time the Reds have a night off, I recommend sitting back and watching this game.