Programming Note: Watch Games 1 through 4 of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and A's this week at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports California and streaming here, beginning Monday and wrapping up Thursday.
Former A’s manager Tony La Russa had a really good team in 1988.
The A's won 104 games, but lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Midway through an injury-riddled 1989 season that saw stars like Jose Canseco and Dennis Eckersley missing dozens of games, the acquistion of Rickey Henderson in June was an instant game-changer.
“Rickey put us over the hump, far as going from really good, to great,” La Russa told NBC Sports California on Friday via FaceTime.
Including Henderson, the A’s were known for high-profile talent on that 1989 roster, including staff ace Dave Stewart and slugger Mark McGwire.
But there were also plenty of unsung heroes to deliver Oakland’s last World Series title.
“You’ve got to start with Carney Lansford right away,” La Russa said. “Carney is the hardest, most intense guy I’ve ever been around. And the players just admired him. He never had a bad day, energized about playing the game and being part of a team.”
There were more.
“A guy like Dave Henderson got a lot of attention for always having a smile, and care-free attitude,” La Russa said. “But when the game was on the line he was really paying attention, and was the quarterback of the outfield.”
And still, more.
“Dave Parker was a great influence on young guys like Jose [Canseco] and Mark [McGwire] because he had already done it,” La Russa said. “He was already a true superstar. He really was a great mentor for these guys.”
The A’s swept the 1989 World Series, yet were never fully recognized for their accomplishment, which came less than two weeks after devastating Loma Prieta earthquake on Oct. 17.
“As we got close to Game 4, there was a decision that we would really respectfully celebrate and not go the whole route,” La Russa recalled. “We didn’t have a parade because we didn’t think it was appropriate.
“Compared to what was happening in the Bay Area, the loss of life, the injuries and property damage, and emotional scars on the community both sides of the Bay … putting that into perspective and making sure that we struck the right balance.”