After watching the University of Dayton basketball team drop a stink bomb in Davidson, N.C. Tuesday night, it was soothing salve to follow it up by watching ‘The Nasty Boys: The 1990 Cincinnati Reds.’
The memories flooded back, memories from 25 years ago when the Reds last won a world’s championship. Has it been 25 years? Really?
AFTER FINISHING fifth in 1989, the Reds hired manager Lou Piniella and the magic happened. The team went wire-to-wire, was in first place every day of the 1990 season. Then, as prohibitive underdogs, they swept the Oakland A’s in the World Series — a team populated by Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersly.
The heart and soul of the ’90 Reds, the face of the Reds, were The Nasty Boys — the relief trifecta of Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers.
They were certifiable, all three. Crazy. Lunatics. But as Dibble said, “We had a team full of lunatics.”
They were lunatics who knew how to win, wouldn’t except losses. Losses were just that, losses were for losers. And they fought at the drop of the hat, nearly every fight started by Dibble or Charlton or Myers.
I LOVED WHAT DIBBLE said at the end of the show and it was true: “We hated losing more than we loved winning.”
After the Reds disposed of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Championship Series, a team that won more games during the season than the Reds, a team that had Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, a reporter asked Dibble who he feared most on the A’s. Said Dibble, “There is nobody alive who can beat me.”
Some example of the team’s lunacy. Charlton watched Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia fake out Eric Davis on a throw coming from the outfield, acting as if the ball was not coming. Davis held up his slide until he saw Scioscia had the ball. His late slide caued him to twist his ankle.
Charlton watched and said to himself, “If I ever have a chance to get Sciosscia for that, I will.” The chance came the next day. Charlton was on first base when a ball was hit to the left field corner.
Third base coach Sam Perlozzo put up the stop sign. Charlton saw it. Charlton ignored it. And he plowed shoulder first into Scioscia, dislodging the ball and knocking the LA catcher into a heap.
“Did I run a stop sign? Yes. Was it stupid? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes,” said Charlton.
There was a game in Wrigley Field when the Chicago Cubs led the Reds by six or seven runs late in the game. Doug Dascenzo dropped a suicide squeeze bunt. Dibble fielded it, took careful aim, then drilled Dascenso in the back of the legs as he ran toward first base.
Did he do it on purpose? Of course he did. “That pissed me off more than anything,” said Dibble, who could throw 100 miles an hour. “A bunt was uncalled for. They were beating us by six or seven and trying to rub our noses in it.”
AND, OF COURSE, there was the clubhouse fight when Piniella jumped on Dibble after Dibble called him a liar. It was a major-league skirmish.
“Bip Roberts had just joined us from San Diego,” said catcher Joe Oliver. “He was sitting next to me when the fight broke out. He gave me this strange look and I said, ‘Welcome to Cincinnati.’”
Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin described the Nasty Boys this way: “Norm Charlton was quiet (a three-major student at Rice University), Rob Dibble was scary and Randy Myers was nuts. They were all lunatics. But our team was all lunatics. Dibble didn’t want to get you out, he wanted to strike you out. And most of the time he wanted to embarrass you.”
All three Nasty Boys were capable of coming into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out and striking out three straight. Dibble once struck out the side on nine pitches.
MYERS WAS ENTIRELY off the wall. He kept two hand grenades and a machete in his locker. He wore camouflage as his civilian clothes. He hung a sign on his locker that read: “No photo’s allowed.” Nobody had the guts to tell him that photos doesn’t need an apostrophe. Everybody got the message.
“Sure, some people thought he was an idiot,” said Charlton. “If he didn’t do his job on the field he was an idiot. He was no idiot.”
While Charlton was the quietest, Larkin described him as, “The toughest guy on the team.”
All that season it was clear that if the Reds had a lead after five innings, the fans could leave the stadium and drive home safely. Charlton Dibble and Myers would take care of the last four innings.
“If we had a lead after five innings, we knew we were going to win,” said Oliver.
“The other teams knew that after the fifth inning it ain’t happening,” said Myers.
THAT TEAM BEGAN the season 9-and-0 and in mid-June they were 33-12 with a 10-game lead. “We thought we were going to win every game,” said pitcher Tom Browning.
Those were fun times, every moment of that season. As I said on the show, “People often ask me which team I covered was my favorite, expecting me to say 1975 or 1976. No, it was the 1990 team. And The Nasty Boys made it happen – whether it be with pitches or with fists.