Hatcher Has Fond Memories Of 1990
Billy Hatcher was signing one autograph after another.
Suddenly, someone mentioned the 1990 World Series.
Hatcher's eyes lit up and a smile overtook over his face.
The former Reds outfielder was a key member of the 1990 World Champion Reds. It was a year he'll never forget in a 12-year major league career, which spanned the Cubs, Astros, Pirates, Reds, Red Sox, Phillies and Rangers.
"That (1990) was a great year," Hatcher, now a coach, said at the Reds' recent winter caravan at the Lima Mall. "Any time you win a world championship, that's what you play for as a baseball player. And to have the opportunity to win one, with all the tradition with the Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine, in 1990, it lives forever."
Most people remember the Reds were the heavy underdog in the 1990 World Series against the mighty Oakland A's with Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.
But few might remember that the Reds were given little chance of winning the pennant that year, either. The year before they finished fifth with a record of 75-87.
Enter the Reds' first-year manager Lou Piniella.
"Lou was a baseball manager, but he was a very good manager of people," Hatcher said. "Lou was a young man at the time and he was very, very feisty and I think at the time, that's what the Cincinnati Reds needed. They needed someone who would make them stick to the plan, never lose confidence and would leave everything you had on the field every day."
The Reds had plenty of pitching that year, led by World Series most valuable player Jose Rijo, Tom Browning and the Nasty Boys bullpen of Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers.
That helped Reds get off to a 33-12 start and they coasted home to a 91-71 record.
"We just went out there and said if we win these games early and get into the playoffs early, we can get ready for the playoffs. And that's exactly what we did," Hatcher said. "We went out there and played every single game like it was our last game, and when you play like that, you're going to win your share of games.
"We played the game until the game was over, regardless of what the score was. People weren't playing for a contract. We were playing for the Cincinnati Reds to win a world championship."
Hatcher was the driving force in the Reds' four-game sweep over the A's. The outfielder went 9-for-12 (.750) with four doubles and two RBIs. Including the National League Championship Series win over the Pirates, Hatcher hit .519 for the 1990 playoffs, going 14-for-27.
And consider that Hatcher was a .264 career hitter. In 1990, over 504 at-bats, hit .276 with 28 doubles and five home runs. He stole 30 bases and had 25 RBIs.
"I seemed to do well in the playoffs," he said. "I don't know what it was, it was just one of those things. You're one of the few teams left and everybody's watching you so you don't want to embarrass you or your family.
"You don't have that many opportunities to get to the playoffs. When you get there, you want to be able to shine."
Hatcher will begin his fourth season as the Reds' first base coach. Prior to joining the Reds, he spent 10 years with the Tampa Bay Rays' organization, including the final eight as a member of the coaching staff.
As Hatcher walks across Fountain Square in the summer, he said he's often asked about the World Championship team of 1990.
And he never gets tired of talking about it.
"I'm in Cincinnati and it's a baseball town," Hatcher said. "That was the last championship that they won so they still hang on to that. And, hopefully, we'll win another one here with me as a coach."
But no matter how many championships Hatcher wins as a coach, he'll always be remembered for his 9-for-12 effort in the '90 World Series.