Old man Fernando Cruz might have rolled over on the night of October 20th, 1990. He was nearly six months old at that point, and we know he turned out to be an athlete, after all.
Nick Martini might well have discovered he had fingers that day. Derek Law, at roughly five weeks old, may have let someone set him down for a four-nap day for once.
It was on that day in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum that the Cincinnati Reds brushed aside the superstar lineup sported by the Oakland Athletics and won Game 4 of the 1990 World Series, completing a sweep over the likes of Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Stewart, farm director Walt Jocketty, and manager Tony La Russa. The Wire to Wire Reds had cemented themselves into team (and league) lore, and they had somewhat avenged any lingering frustrations remaining from the 1972 World Series between the same two clubs - a World Series that went Oakland’s way during the go-go days of their franchise.
We know it’s been an arduous journey for the Reds as a franchise since then. The strike in 1994 cut short what seemed destined to be a magical season, and the 1995 club was summarily dismissed in an NLCS sweep that marked the end of that multi-year run of excellence. Little did we know at the time that 28 years later we would still be waiting for their next postseason series win despite the postseason expanding at an ever-increasing rate.
As for Oakland, the 1990 frustration was relative - they had won the 1989 World Series, after all, and were in their third straight fall classic. And while they hit a notable stumble in the latter La Russa years that took a half-dozen seasons to correct, they mounted an impressive run after the turn of the century in making the playoffs in eleven out of twenty seasons, with seven American League West division crowns to their credit. All of that, mind you, came on shoestring budgets during the height of Moneyball, their front office not only revolutionizing the way talent is recognized and acquired but fundamentally altering the play we saw on the field through its implementation.
That was, of course, before the few years of limbo, their crumbling stadium no longer up to snuff as their owner, John Fisher, used that as leverage to seek a move to a more ‘promising’ locale to house his billion-dollar franchise.
The Oakland Athletics, as of this morning, are setting sail for the undying lands. MLB owners officially approved their relocation to Las Vegas, giving Fisher the green light to wipe that organizational history off the white board and start over in more lucrative pastures.
MLB owners vote to approve John Fisher’s relocation to Las Vegas. Vote was unanimous.— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) November 16, 2023
I don’t know whether they’ll remain the Las Vegas Athletics, or not. What I do know, though, is that while the focus is, and should remain on the fact that Oakland was completely jobbed by their owner out of a baseball team the city and surrounding area adored, our little pocket of Reds baseball fandom has also lost one of the few remaining threads of relevance we’ve been able to hold on to during the last three and a half decades of futility.
Cruz, Martini, and Law are the only players currently on the Reds 40-man roster who were alive when the Reds won their last World Series that day in Oakland. Noelvi Marte was born eleven years to the day after the Reds victory in Game 1 on November 16th, with Elly De La Cruz - the youngest member of the Reds current 40-man roster - arriving almost two months later. The most recent real success we’ve been able to celebrate as Reds fans is, in itself, already bygone, and the loss of the team they beat in that series only seems to further push into the past what this Cincinnati franchise has ever been able to accomplish.
It’s a sad day for baseball, though not the first sad one the Athletics have seen in their trek across the baseball world. This will close the third chapter in their franchise’s history, the team having originated in Philadelphia in 1901 and staying there through 1954, only to move on to Kansas City for a baker’s dozen of years before further departing for Oakland in 1968. Both Philadelphia and Kansas City still have Major League Baseball these days, however, and don’t for a second try to sell an A’s fan on how easy the hour to seven-hour drive across the Bay Bridge is to catch a Giants game.
It’s the first time we’ve seen ‘new’ baseball emerge at the MLB level since the Montreal Expos were gobbled up from Jeffrey Loria and played first, for a bit, in Puerto Rico before refashioning themselves as the Washington Nationals in late 2004. When the A’s finally land in Las Vegas - something that won’t happen until 2028 at the earliest since there’s no home stadium for them to occupy there yet - it will give Rob Manfred and the rest of the cadre of owners a chance to cash-in on another new, marketable prize.
As of today, though, it calls time on an existing one, one filled its trophy case with three consecutive World Series titles before the Big Red Machine stole their crown, and another in 1989 before the Wire to Wire Reds did it to them again. As such, Cincinnati and Oakland became intertwined in their respective histories in a way that no two other franchises have in the last 50+ years of the sport, and today that book closes for good.
Oakland deserved better, and the old tales of the Cincinnati Reds glory days just got a disclaimer.