Cooperstown, Jan. 31, 1999 — Ladies and gentlemen, before I introduce the commissioner of baseball, Pete Rose, and his lovely wife, Margo, I think we should take a moment to look back on the decade we are about to complete. Weren’t the ’90s something? Those of you who agree, press “yes” on your armchair sensors.
Just think of the wonderful changes we’ve seen these last 10 years! Ten years ago, baseball was still played outdoors. Ten years ago, the Russians weren’t even in the major leagues. Ten years ago, Senator Kirk Gibson was still a leftfielder.
Let’s reminisce, shall we? We’ve prepared this little highlight video of the baseball years, 1990-1999. Just punch it up on your screens, slip in your 3-D contact lenses, and let’s reflect back on a kinder, gentler decade, when they actually thought chewing tobacco was bad for you. Achhh-ptuuuey!
Roll ’em. 1990: Tigers manager Sparky Anderson finally achieves his goal of a team with no player under 35. “If you ain’t losing your hair, you ain’t no ballplayer,”
Sparky declares. His team leads the American League East until the last week of the season, when the entire pitching staff departs for a shuffleboard tournament in Miami Beach. Meanwhile, Wade Boggs, no longer popular in Boston, is traded to San Diego. He is rumored to be involved with six cocktail waitresses and half the staff of the Naval Hospital. He hits .390 and wins the batting title. George Steinbrenner fires Dallas Green as Yankee manager, hires Billy Martin, fires Billy Martin, and hires Steve Fisher as interim coach. The New York Mets clinch the NL East in June and take the rest of the season off. Willie (Guillermo) Hernandez, suffering through a terrible slump, changes his name to Keith. His pitching does not improve, but he has a strange desire to kiss Darryl Strawberry. And on the TV front, Brent Musburger takes over as the voice of Baseball’s Game of the Week.
“Did you see that!” he exclaims in his opening broadcast. “That was absolutely marvelous! I mean, it was marvelous! Wow. Talk about marvelous!”
“Brent,” says his co-host, “it’s batting practice.” 1991: Oakland’s Jose Canseco becomes the first player to hit 60 homers and steal 60 bases. “I . . . do . . . not . . . use . . . steroids,” he insists. He is, however, offered the role of Lurch in the new “Addams Family.” Meanwhile, a shakeup in the front office: A. Bartlett Giamatti resigns as commissioner because, during his three years in office, no one understood a word he said. “His last name was Italian, his first name was a letter, and his middle name was a pear,” complains Angels owner Gene Autry. “He ain’t no cowboy, I tell you that.” Steve Garvey takes over the job and declares every Tuesday Ladies Day; wives get in free, limit three to a customer. The Orioles win their 60th game — in two seasons. Wade Boggs, no longer popular in San Diego, is traded to Texas, where he is rumored to be involved with six Cowboy cheerleaders and the entire Mayo Clinic. He hits .410 and wins the batting title. And in Los Angeles, the inevitable finally happens when Tommy Lasorda eats one last plate of lasagna, and explodes. He is buried at Pizza Hut. 1992: Pitcher Tommy John, age 48, starts Opening Day for the Yankees. He wins, 5-0. Afterward, he falls asleep during the interviews. The doctors tuck him in and ask everyone to come back in the morning. Pete Rose, forced out of baseball for gambling, comes up on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. Odds in Rose’s new Atlantic City casino are 3-1 he gets it. When the big day comes, however, he misses by two votes. “FIX!” yell the critics. Rose is last seen boarding a plane for Switzerland with a large sack. Meanwhile, new advances in baseball technology: Sony invents a tiny radio transmitter to ease signal-calling between catcher and pitcher. With the Pitchman, the catcher need only whisper into the tiny cellular microphone inside his mask. Unfortunately, a problem develops when San Diego’s Benito Santiago accidently crosses the frequency and lands a Northwest jet at second base. 1993: Strike year. 1994: George Bell takes over as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, replacing long-time rival Jimy Williams, who goes home in search of his other m. The Blue Jays, meanwhile are still waiting to make their first trade since 1987. “Something will come up,” says GM Pat Gillick. The first fuel-injected bullpen cart is introduced in Oakland. Canseco is arrested for going 115 m.p.h. across rightfield. Boggs, no longer popular in Texas, is traded to the expansion London Bobbies, where he is rumored to be involved with Princess Diana and the royal scone maker. He hits .453 and wins the batting title. Major changes in Detroit, where the new Tiger Stadium is finally opened by Tom Monaghan. Critics note that it is the first ballpark built in the shape of a pizza. Actually, two pizzas. You enter the second stadium free. Monaghan also orders new dough-colored Tigers uniforms, complete with cheese stains. Says a smiling Sparky Anderson: “Cheese don’t hurt. Now, tomato sauce . . . ” Willie (Guillermo, Keith) Hernandez, suffering through a terrible slump, changes his name to Julio Iglesias. The Mariners and Padres meet in the World Series. CBS ratings are just slightly behind ABC’s “Wild Kingdom.” 1995: Strike year. 1996: Former Tiger Jack Morris buys the Pittsburgh Pirates for an undisclosed sum, becoming the first ex-player to own a major league franchise. “We’re finally gonna run a team right,” Morris promises. He raises the minimum player salary to $650,000. The manager makes $4.25 an hour, plus tips. Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, frustrated with 20 years of losing, de-colorizes his team and makes them play in black and white. Texas Ranger Nolan Ryan is moved to the bullpen when his fastball slows to 91 m.p.h. “Hey,” he says, shrugging, “You know how it is when you turn 50.” And in October, the Chicago Cubs finally win the World Series, prompting new club owner Bill Murray to say, “It’s a Cinderella story . . . former greenskeepers . . . ” 1997: Steve Garvey is ousted as baseball commissioner when he admits he is actually the father of Ricky Schroeder, Tiffany, and Pete Rose Jr. “I expect to live up to my obligations,” he says, “I’m buying a bigger house. . . . ” The jet pack in introduced to baseball, increasing stolen-base statistics and prompting Brent Musburger to say: “Boy, that Bo Jackson can really fly! Marvelous!” Orel Hershiser, one of the great pitchers of the ’80s, finally retires, turning down the Dodgers’ offer of a one-year contract worth $26 million. “It’s not worth it for that little money,” he says. “I can make more as a TV analyst.” CBS proves Hershiser correct by hiring him for three years at $99 million, a standard contract. Newspaper writers also get a salary hike, to $23,000 a year. 1998: Strike year. 1999: Sparky Anderson comes out of spring training saying, “You know, this is the best team I’ve ever had.” The Yankees make fashion history with the combination pinstripe suit/pinstripe uniform. “It makes a statement,” says designer Halston. “You can negotiate your contract in the morning, and pitch a shutout in the afternoon.” Boggs, unpopular in London, is traded to the new expansion Moscow Red Sox, where he is rumored to be involved with six Kirov ballerinas and a babushka vendor. He hits .534, wins the batting title, then drops dead with a smile on his face. In a Little League game, Darryl Strawberry Jr. picks a fight with Keith Hernandez Jr. The two have to be separated.
“Why don’t you grow up?” says Hernandez.
“Why should I?” says Strawberry. “I’m 10 years old.”
Pete Rose returns from Switzerland with a French accent, a university degree, and a new bride, Margo Adams, who had been working in a Zurich coat factory until the inventory was mysteriously depleted. The over-under on the marriage is six months; Rose takes the under. He is voted in as new commissioner of baseball after promising expansion teams in Nassau, Monaco and Lake Tahoe. The Indians win the World Series. Bob Uecker, their manager, is given a five-year deal. And Willie (Guillermo, Keith, Julio Iglesias) Hernandez, in a terrible slump, changes his name to Mitch.
He goes 17-2 and wins the Cy Young Award.