1988 Cincinnati Reds season

29 03 2011

The Reds finished in 2nd place for the 4th consecutive year under manager Pete Rose. This season may have shown the most promise as the team won 87 games, though the Reds started off slow.  Going into the All-Star break, they had a losing record – 42-45 positioned them in 4th place and 7.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.

Rose wasn’t at the helm for an entire month after he shoved umpire David Pallone during an April 30th game against the Mets.  After a frenzy in Riverfront Stadium causing a delay of the game and harsh comments toward Pallone by Reds announcers Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall, Rose was suspended 30 games by then-NL President Bart Giamatti.  This is still the largest suspension of a manager ever for an on-field incident.

In 1988, Cincinnati took center stage over All-Star weekend, as Riverfront Stadium hosted the Mid-summer classic.  Yours truly attended that game with my dad, and we used to watch the VHS tape of it over and over again.  The Reds had 3 representative in the All-Star game.  Rookie third baseman Chris Sabo, aka “Spuds”, played as a reserve, as did his infield mate and former University of Michigan teammate Barry Larkin.  Danny Jackson was also named as a reserve, but didn’t pitch.  Riverfront didn’t get to host the Home Run Derby – that was canceled due to rain.  However, the game itself was a well-played, 2-1 pitching duel in which starting AL catcher Terry Steinbach was the game’s MVP. Steinbach accounted for both AL runs, with a sac fly and a homer that that bounced off the top of the wall and just past Darryl Strawberry’s glove.

In previous years, the team had an offense of young developing stars (Eric Davis, Kal Daniels) augmented with a few veteran former All-Stars (Dave Parker, Buddy Bell, Bo Diaz).  The team boasted an excellent bullpen but mediocre starting pitching.  This year, the youngsters came into their own – Parker and Bell were traded away by the end of the year, and 7 of the 9 starters were 26 or younger.  Sabo’s emergence enabled the trade of Bell to Houston, and he would go on to edge Mark Grace out for Rookie of the Year honors.  In addition to Sabo and Larkin making the All-Star game, Davis and Daniels had seasons that were worthy of All-Star consideration.

The starting pitching was improved – Danny Jackson and Tom Browning formed a 1-2 punch that could go up against the Dodgers and the Mets as the best in the National League.  Jackson was truly dominant – if not for a historic season by Orel Hershiser, he would have likely won the Cy Young.  Jackson matched Hershiser’s 23-8 record and 15 shutouts, while posting an ERA of 2.73 with 6 shutouts.  Browning went 18-5 with 2 shutouts of his own – both of which were particularly notable.  Additionally, Jose Rijo, who had come over from Oakland in a trade from Parker, moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation in June and finished with season totals of 13-8 with a 2.39 ERA.

The bullpen was again formidable.  John Franco led the league with 39 saves and won the Rolaids Relief award, while rookie Rob Dibble struck out a batter per inning and had an ERA under 2.  Rob Murphy (2.59) and Frank Williams (3.08) were solid in middle relief.

As mentioned, Browning had 2 memorable outings during the year.  On June 6th, Browning took a no-hitter into the 9th of a 12-0 blowout against the Padres, before giving up a trademark single to left by Tony Gwynn with 1 out.  He’d come back to get that no-hitter and more on September 16th.  Pitching in Riverfront against the Dodgers, Browning threw 72 of his 102 pitches for strikes and never went to a 3-ball count in hurling the 12th perfect game in ML history.  It was the first (and still only) in Reds history.

Reds pitcher Ron Robinson also had a near miss – this one a near-perfect game.  I watched this game in its entirety in my parents’ upstairs attic on rabbit ears.  On May 2, Robinson retired the first 26 Montreal Expos.  However, he gave up a single when Wallace Johnson pinch-hit for pitcher Pascual Perez, and then Tim Raines immediately followed with a home run.  Robinson was relieved, and the Reds held on 3-2.

Team MVP & Best Pitcher: Danny Jackson (23-8/2.73/161, 15 CG, 6 SHO)

Award Winners:

Chris Sabo, Rookie of the Year

Barry Larkin, Silver Slugger

Eric Davis, Gold Glove

All-Stars:

Jackson

Larkin

Sabo

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