The Oakland A’s came to the 1974 World Series looking for a third straight championship. The Los Angeles Dodgers were in the Fall Classic for the first time in nine years. In one sense, it was a close Series—each game was tightly contested. But in the bigger sense, it was decisive—the veteran A’s were the team that consistently came up with the clutch plays and captured the title in five games.
You can read more about the paths Oakland and Los Angeles took through the regular season, about their key players, and about their triumphs in the League Championship Series, at the links below. This page is focused solely on the games of the 1974 World Series.
The Series began on Saturday afternoon in Dodger Stadium. The A’s went with lefty Ken Holtzman against the Dodgers’ 20-game winner, Andy Messersmith. Oakland struck first in the top of the second when Reggie Jackson homered to left-center. Los Angeles responded by putting two men aboard in the bottom half of the inning, but Ron Cey grounded into a double play.
That missed opportunity set a tone. The Dodgers put two runners on in both the third and fourth innings and failed to score. In the top of the fifth, Holtzman went to work with his bat, doubling down the leftfield line, going to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a squeeze bunt by Bert Campaneris. L.A. might have been making most of the noise, but it was Oakland that took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth.
The Dodgers got some help from the A’s defense. Davey Lopes reached on an error by Campaneris. A subsequent error by Reggie, on a single off the bat of Bill Buckner, allowed the speedy Lopes to come all the way around. Jimmy Wynn drew a walk. It was 2-1, there were runners on first and second and still just one out. Oakland manager Alvin Dark had seen enough and went to his Hall of Fame reliever, Rollie Fingers.
Fingers struck out Steve Garvey and ultimately killed the threat. The Dodgers might have gotten on the board, but they had let another chance get away. And they made their own defensive miscues in the top of the eighth. Campaneris beat out a bunt. Then Cey committed an error, that allowed Campy to come all the way around. In the meantime, Fingers was dealing. Not until there were two outs in the ninth, when Wynn hit a solo blast, did the Dodgers do anything offensively. The final was 3-2.
Don Sutton and Vida Blue had both been dominating in their LCS starts, and they were the pitching matchup for Sunday’s Game 2. This was an era when baseball was still more popular than the NFL, so even though the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Rams were each bound for their respective conference championship games in 1974, the World Series was the biggest show in town.
The Dodgers got on the board in the second inning when Cey worked a one-out walk. Subsequent singles by Bill Russell and Steve Yeager brought him around. Blue got settled in and L.A. stayed quiet until the sixth. That’s when Garvey’s infield hit was followed by a Joe Ferguson home run. It was 3-0.
In the meantime, Sutton was dominating. Not until the eighth, when two singles and an error loaded the bases with one out, did the A’s launch a meaningful threat. Sutton got Billy North to hit on the ground to Russell at short, who took it himself at second, threw to first for the double play and killed the threat.
Oakland threatened again the ninth. Bando was hit by a pitch and Reggie doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. The veteran Dodger manager Walter Alston called on his Cy Young Award-winning reliever, Mike Marshall. Joe Rudi greeted Marshall with a line drive single to center that cut the lead to 3-2.
Marshall struck out Gene Tenace. At that point, Herb Washington came out of the A’s dugout to pinch run at first base. Washington was a track star and was employed specifically for these situations—to steal a base and get into scoring position. Marshall picked him off and closed it out. Another 3-2 final was in the books, this one going to the Dodgers.
After a day off, the Series resumed back in Oakland on Tuesday night. The great Catfish Hunter was going for Oakland, while Al Downing took the ball for Los Angeles.
The first movement took place in the bottom of the third. With one out, North singled to left. That was followed by a ground ball out, but alert baserunning got North all the way to third. That extra base was significant. After Bando drew a walk, North was in position to score on an error made by catcher Ferguson on a ball in front of the plate. Rudi followed with a single that scored Bando and it was 2-0.
L.A. put two runners on in the fourth with one out, but Willie Crawford’s line drive to second baseman Dick Green ended up as a double play. Oakland added on in the bottom of that same inning. Green walked, Catfish bunted him up and Campaneris delivered a two-out single that made it 3-zip.
Hunter cruised through seven innings. In the eighth, Buckner went deep to get the Dodgers on the board and brought on Fingers. Wynn drew a one-out walk. Garvey came up and hit a line drive. Once again, it was bad luck for Los Angeles—it went at Green and ended up as a double play.
A home run by Crawford in the ninth cut the lead to 3-2 and a Campaneris error put the tying run aboard with none out. Fingers struck out Cey, got a double-play ball from Russell and put another 3-2 final to bed.
Game 4 was a Holtzman-Messersmith rematch, and it was mostly quiet in the early innings. Until Holtzman again did damage with his bat—a third-inning solo blast gave Oakland a 1-0 lead. L.A. had an immediate response in the top of the fourth. With one out, Garvey singled. Ferguson drew a two-out walk. Russell smacked a triple to center that scored both runs and gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
Holtzman had another opportunity at the plate in the fifth, with runners on second and third and one out. This time, Messersmith struck him out and preserved the lead. In the top of the sixth, Wynn’s leadoff double gave Los Angeles a chance to add on. But Holtzman pitched around trouble. That set up the decisive home half of the sixth inning.
North led off with a walk and moved up to second when a pickoff throw went awry. Bando singled, and we were tied 2-2. After Messersmith walked Reggie, Rudi got a bunt down and put runners on second and third. Claudell Washington was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out.
Jim Holt came off the Oakland bench to pinch-hit for catcher Ray Fosse and delivered—a two-run single to rightfield put the A’s up 4-2 and there were still runners on the corners. Green’s groundball out picked up another run.
It was 5-2, and not until the eighth did Los Angeles threaten. They put two runners on with two outs. The tying run at the plate brought Fingers in for Holtzman. The great closer struck out Ferguson, closed the ninth without further incident and put Oakland on the brink of another championship.
The Dodgers would invest their last hopes in Sutton, who had been brilliant in all three of his postseason starts. He would rematch with Blue in Game 5.
Oakland had momentum, and they applied early pressure. Campaneris led off the bottom of the first with a single. North replaced him on the basepaths after a force out. North then stole second and took third on Yeager’s throwing error. That allowed Bando’s fly ball to score a run and give the A’s a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, Fosse homered to make it 2-0.
Sutton settled down, Blue cruised in the early going and it was still 2-zip in the top of the sixth. With matters getting urgent for the Dodgers, Tom Paciorek led off the inning with a double. Lopes drew a walk and Buckner’s sac bunt moved the tying runs into scoring position. Wynn’s fly ball scored one run. Garvey came up with a clutch two-out single to left that tied the game 2-2.
By the seventh inning, it was a battle of the great closers, Fingers and Marshall. In the bottom of that inning, Rudi homered. It was 3-2 and the A’s had just six outs left to get.
In the top of the eighth, Buckner singled to center. An error by North gave Buckner second base, and he decided to try for third. Reggie was backing up the play and threw out Buckner. The last, best Dodger chance was gone. Fingers closed it out. When Von Joshua hit a comebacker to the mound, the Oakland A’s were champions again.
Fingers was named the 1974 World Series MVP. He had appeared in four games, pitched 9 1/3 innings, allowed only two runs and picked up a win and two saves. He was an understandable choice. But Rudi had a case of his own—he was 6-for-18, with several clutch hits, including the home run that won the championship. I can see a really good argument both ways, but I think I’d lean to Rudi.
Campaneris had a notable series, going 6-for-17. On the Dodger side, Garvey was the only hitter who was consistent, collecting eight hits over the five games. Marshall appeared in all five games out of the bullpen and pitched nine innings. The fatal pitch to Rudi in the seventh inning of Game 5 was his only mistake.
Los Angeles would be back. In 1977, a rookie manager named Tommy Lasorda took over and guided the Dodgers into the Series each of first two years and won it in 1981.
As for Oakland, the 1972-74 stretch of dominance represents the only time in baseball history a team not named the New York Yankees has won three consecutive World Series titles. The A’s had one more postseason run left in them, making the ALCS in 1975. But their championship streak ended that year, and the arrival of free agency saw the lineup strip-mined soon after. Their next World Series appearance wouldn’t be until 1988, against this same Dodger franchise. And the next championship would be in 1989. The 1974 World Series was the end of an era in major league baseball.