Record: 91-71, finished 1st in 6-team National League West. Beat Pirates in 6-game NLCS. Swept 4-game World Series over the A’s.
Did this team matter?: At the risk of overemphasizing two personal details, I think the answer to this has to be Yes. Risk #1: this remains the only championship by the Reds in my sentient lifetime. Risk #2, I had not yet entered high school when this season concluded, meaning baseball was still occupying as large a place in my brain as it ever would. So, I think it was a big deal that the underdog Reds swept the heavily favored A’s. I think it was a big deal that the jingoism of 1990 was portrayed via American flag patches on the uniforms. I think Billy Hatcher and Jose Rijo and Randy Myers and Eric Davis’s kidney were big deals. I also think that baseball maybe held a bigger place in the national zeitgeist pre-1994 strike, pre-internet, pre-cord cutting. It feels like a very distant and different place, 1990. And so I think I elevate the importance of that season accordingly.
Performances to remember: Way too much of my memory of Chris Sabo ends after his second season. He was a hot commodity in 1988, stealing our hearts and 46 bases en route to the Rookie of the Year award. He was injured for much of 1989, ensuring that Sabo would never again be a threat to steal so many bases or to be as rangy a third baseman as he was in ’88. I guess he was a shooting star of a disappointment, the end.
But he was really good in 1990! 25 homers and 25 steals! An All-Star! 13th in the MVP voting! And in the World Series, he had as many hits as Billy Hatcher (9), and was the only Cincinnati batter to hit a homer (Sabo hit two in Game 3) after Eric Davis’s Game 1, Inning 1 blast. He was so much more an integral part of the franchise’s last championship than I seem to remember or mentally give him credit for…
Wikipedia says: “Starting with a club best nine straight wins to open the season, as well as holding the top spot in the National League West every game during the season, the Reds went 41-21 after 62 games, splitting the remaining 100 games 50-50 to end up with a 91-71 record.”
Uniform notes: These uniforms are the wind-down of the Riverfront Stadium era of jerseys: pullovers with the uniform number over one side of the chest and the wishbone C logo over the other. The only practical difference between the 1990 version and the 1972 version (when this style first appeared) is the addition of red and white stripes down the pant leg. The inclusion/addition of the American flag patch (as best as I can remember) was introduced for the World Series.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “I like the American flag <giggles>.”
Record: 91-63, finished 3rd in 8-team National League.
Did this team matter?: The Redlegs finished third in a 3 team race, finishing just two games back of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Two weeks prior to the end of the season, Cincinnati dropped both games of a 2-game series in Brooklyn, losing each contest by one run. The team ripped off eight wins in its final nine games, but ultimately couldn’t recover from the head-to-head matchups with the Dodgers. This team mattered in one of the most painful ways possible.
Performances to remember: Roy McMillan had a really good year with the glove in 1956. Zone Runs says he saved 20 runs more than the average shortstop, a figure that ranks something like 40th best since 1953. That’s really, really good. Like a typical Ozzie Smith season, or something.
And with the bat, he was a good defensive shortstop: .263/.366/.344 (89 OPS+). Not a player you’re clamoring to replace, but also not someone who’s going to strike fear into opponents’ hearts. 3 homers, 4 stolen bases, 126 hits.
I’d love to understand, then, what possessed three separate sportswriters to list McMillan at the top of their MVP ballots that year. Ahead of Hank Aaron, Duke Snider, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn, Stan Musial, and so on. Weird times, man.
Wikipedia says: “On Sunday, June 24, following a doubleheader sweep of the Brooklyn Dodgers, eleven Redlegs players appeared on the panel quiz show What’s My Line?.”
Uniform notes: 1956 kicked off an eleven year run of sleeveless jerseys, with the 1956 version being the only uniform in team history to feature the Mr. Redleg depiction on the front of the uniform.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “Ew. What’s up with the sleeves? It has a picture and a number on the front, but it also has a number on the back. Weirdo.”
This poll is closed