The Cincinnati Reds dominated the 1990 baseball for the first two months and they dominated in it for the final month. In between, the play wasn’t always inspiring, but a blazing hot start gave the Reds the breathing room they needed to beat out the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. When October arrived, the Reds bookended their season with an impressive NLCS triumph and a World Series shocker that ranks as one of the biggest upsets in the championship round of any sport.
That’s because all season long, the Oakland A’s looked the part of unstoppable. The A’s were the defending World Series champs and had two consecutive American League pennants. They had no weaknesses in the lineup. Their rotation was stellar, the bullpen outstanding and the managing of Tony LaRussa was Hall of Fame worthy. Even though the AL West had a really good challenger in the Chicago White Sox, the A’s cruised into the World Series. Then four straight losses to the Reds brought it all to an end in stunning fashion.
Oakland’s ALCS foil was the Boston Red Sox. It was the second time in three years the A’s and Red Sox sparred in the playoffs and the second time it ended up as an Oakland sweep. But it was still a nice season in New England, as the Red Sox outlasted the Toronto Blue Jays in an AL East race that went to the final day of the season and was decided on some defensive dramatics in Fenway.
The NL East had a big surprise. The Pittsburgh Pirates, dormant for the better part of the last decade, came seemingly out of nowhere to get control of the race early and then keep the New York Mets at arm’s length. For the Mets, coming up short was a clear sign that a good franchise run that started in 1984 was winding down.
The nine teams mentioned here formed the heart of the pennant races that defined the 1990 baseball season. Their stories are all preserved in the articles below. These articles—along with the accompanying game-by-game narratives of the ALCS, NLCS and World Series—are a great way to recapture the memories of that ’90 season, through the eyes of its best teams.