OCTOBER 28, 1989 – World Series Game 4
The Bay Area had been wanting to see an Oakland A’s versus San Francisco Giants World Series since the Athletics arrived in the East Bay in 1968. When they finally faced off in 1989, the region was buzzing. I was a senior in High School living in Palo Alto and witnessed the palpable excitement for the match up nicknamed “The Bay Bridge Series.”
Little did any of us know that the Bay Bridge would become the symbol of the 1989 World Series for reasons nobody wanted. The earthquake hit the region moments before the first pitch of Game 3. By the time the World Series resumed 10 days later, there was little enthusiasm for it and virtually compelling or exciting played on the field.
The one time the Giants put up a fight against the mighty A’s, relatively unknown reliever Todd Burns put an end to it.
The series began in Oakland where Dave Stewart tossed a complete game in Game 1. Mike Moore was solid in Game 2 and the A’s held the mighty Giants attack to a single run.
When the series crossed the Bay Bridge to Candlestick Park, the Giants had their best shot to tie the series. Bob Welch and Storm Davis could be hit and there was no way Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and company could be shutout for much longer.
But the earthquake wiped out the third game and destroyed the upper level of the Bay Bridge. 10 days later play resumed. Dave Stewart pitched game 3 and once again beat the Giants.
Game 4 seemed like the joyless grind to the inevitable. The A’s hadn’t trailed for a single inning and when Rickey Henderson led off the game with a homer, the whole affair felt like a formality.
San Francisco starter Don Robinson got shelled. Reliever Mike LaCoss did not fare much better. By the 6th, the A’s were up 8-0 and the Giants were not even putting up a fight in their first World Series appearance since 1962.
In the 6th, however, the Giants got off of the matt. Kevin Mitchell homered off of Mike Moore. Then in the 7th, San Francisco’s long dormant offense woke up. With Mike Moore out of the game, the usually steady Oakland bullpen became vulnerable. Greg Litton smacked a 2 run homer. Candy Maldonado then tripled. Brett Butler doubled and Robby Thompson singled him home.
Suddenly the tying run was at the plate in the form of Will Clark. While a Giants comeback in the series might have been far fetched, the possibility of the A’s blowing an 8-0 lead was very real.
And with Welch and Davis scheduled to pitch a potential Games 5 and 6, the Giants making the series competitive was stirring in the imagination of the fans at the Stick.
Rick Honeycutt got Will Clark out, but up stepped Kevin Mitchell, the man who would go on to win the 1989 NL MVP.
Oakland A’s manager Tony LaRussa was not about to bring in closer Dennis Eckersley in the 7th. So he turned to Todd Burns.
The 25 year old reliever and spot starter did a little bit of everything for LaRussa. This point he was asked to stuff out any potential San Francisco spark.
With the count 2-2, Mitchell hit a deep drive that for a moment looked like it was about to tie the game. But Rickey Henderson camped right in front of the wall and the rally was stopped.
After the A’s picked up an insurance run in the 8th, Burns came out and threw a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 8th. Burns did not get the honor of closing out the series. Eckersley pitches a scoreless 9th and the A’s won their title with a muted celebration.
But Game 4 had the lone moment of drama. It was a glimmer of hope that was stopped short, not by one of the team’s many Cy Young contenders but by a pitching Jack of all Trades. That makes Todd Burns the unsung post season hero of October 28.