The first Big Red Machine member entered the Hall of Fame in 1989, and another ensured he’d never make it into baseball’s hallowed grounds. Johnny Bench was voted in on his first ballot, with only Hank Aaron and Ty Cobb having received a higher percentage at the point in time.
After 4 years of winning seasons and 2nd place finishes, the Reds took a step back in the 1989 season. Except for a couple of instances, most of the Reds’ players took steps back in 1989. A big part of this had to be the controversy surrounding Pete Rose – the controversy that was the #1 story in all of baseball.
In February, outgoing commissioner Peter Ueberroth and incoming Bart Giamatti questioned Pete Rose on his gambling associations. Giamatti hired John Dowd to investigate these associations. Just before the season, a Sports Illustrated article linked Rose to gambling on baseball games. In May, Dowd filed a report with the commissioner that detailed 52 specific games where he bet on the Reds in 1987. Giamatti demanded Rose answer to these with a hearing in front of the commissioner’s office, but Rose responded with a lawsuit and earned a temporary restraining order.
In the meantime, it wasn’t all bad – some Reds had noteworthy seasons. The Reds again had 3 All-Stars. Eric Davis started the All-Star game in the place of his injured childhood friend, Darryl Strawberry. Davis also paced the National League to the home run derby crown, sharing the individual title with Ruben Sierra. He finished the season with 34 homers and 101 RBI. Shortstop Barry Larkin made his second consecutive All-star game, while closer John Franco made his 3rd overall. Larkin hit .342 in 350 at bats, and Franco saved 32 games. Young Paul O’Neill was also a bright spot for the team – he knocked in 74 runs in only 428 at bats. And Rob Dibble had an incredible season – striking out 141 batters in 99 innings – Dibble actually led the team in K’s.
*****Note – this is one of those weird nuggets you could find in baseball history. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Dibbs was the only ever. But I did a quick search of all pitchers over 100 K’s with 0 GS on BBRef, and in 1964 Dick Radatz struck out 181 batters in only relief appearances. This is a truly incredible stat. Dibble is actually 9th all-time in K’s without starting a game. I looked at others – and from what I can tell, here are the pitchers who also led their team with no GS (Tyler Clippard almost did it last year):
- Radatz – 1964 Red Sox
- Mark Eichhorn – 1986 Blue Jays
- Dick Selma – 1970 Phillies
- Rich Gossage – 1977 Pirates
- Dibble – 1989 Reds
- Duane Ward – 1991 Blue Jays
- B J Ryan – 2004 Orioles
After the Reds had seen solid starting pitching in 1988, Tom Browning was the lone starting pitcher with double-digit wins, and he didn’t have quite the season he had the year before. Danny Jackson followed up his 23-8 season with injuries and only won 6 games. Browning almost became the first pitcher in MLB history with two perfect games. After hurling a perfect game in 1988, he took another into the 9th in a game at Philadelphia on June 8th. Despite the disappointment in the starting rotation – Jackson and Browning would combine with Jose Rijo to have a much better 1990.
After Giamatti was able to get Pete’s case moved to federal court, Rose agreed to a settlement announced on August 24. He was banned from baseball for life, but didn’t have to admit guild and could apply for reinstatement 1 year later. Unfortunately, Giamatti died of a heart attack 8 days later. His deputy commissioner Fay Vincent took over as commissioner, and Vincent intended to uphold his friend’s ruling.
Team MVP: Eric Davis (.281/34/101, 21 SB, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove)
Best Pitcher: Rob Dibble (10-5/2.09/141)
Davis, Silver Slugger & Gold Glove
Larkin, Silver Slugger
Davis (starter, replaced injured Darryl Strawberry)