OAKLAND, OCT. 20 -- The Cincinnati Reds last played a World Series without Pete Rose in 1961. Yet it seemed almost as if Rose still were around for this showdown with the Oakland Athletics, for Chris Sabo proved to be an updated, begoggled -- and slightly more powerful -- version of their longtime franchise centerpiece.
"I think they're the same guy, in fact," Cincinnati reliever Rob Dibble said, "except I don't think Chris bets very much. Other than that, they're carbon copies."
Teammates say Sabo may have been the most adversely affected of the Reds throughout the Rose gambling scandal last season. Rose was Sabo's childhood hero -- which is evident from even the most perfunctory examination of his hard-driving, single-minded approach.
Sabo is a marine masquerading as a baseball player. He sports a crew cut and wears goggles that have prompted comparisons of his appearance to various forms of amphibian life. He is ceaselessly intense about the game -- to the exclusion of virtually everything else.
"He thinks about baseball all the time," Reds shortstop Barry Larkin said. "I don't know that I've ever heard him talk about anything else."
Said Sabo: "This is my job, and I'm serious about my job. I'm not the most gifted player out there, but I'm going to get the most out of what I have. . . . I'm proud to be compared to Pete Rose, because he did the same thing and he was a great player."
A telling example of Sabo's grit came during Game 3. Not only did he hit two homers, he also offered some smash-face defense, setting a Series record by handling 10 chances.
Several of those plays were highly difficult, but his no-frills style makes it difficult to describe any as spectacular. "I do the job," he said. "When I get to the ball, I usually make the play. No big deal."
He always has been a tough, slashing hitter, but he entered this season with just 17 home runs in two big-league seasons.
Reds Manager Lou Piniella and hitting coach Tony Perez adjusted Sabo's swing ("We just got him to use more of his body than his wrists," Perez said) during spring training, and the result was a 25-homer, 38-double campaign. He scored 95 runs and had 71 RBI and 25 stolen bases despite knee problems.
He was the NL's starting third baseman in the All-Star Game, and only Jose Rijo's exploits kept him from being a World Series most valuable player. Sabo was nine for 16 with five RBI, going three for four tonight and just missing another homer. . . .
Piniella said he was undecided about removing Rijo when he went to the mound in the ninth inning of the 2-1 game. When he asked how Rijo felt, the pitcher responded: "I feel fine, but do what you want."
Said Piniella: "Anytime a pitcher doesn't tell you he feels the best he's ever been, you'd better go to the bullpen." He called for Randy Myers, who got the two outs.
Rijo's 0.59 ERA was the lowest by a starting pitcher with 10 or more innings in a World Series since Bret Saberhagen's 0.50 for the Royals in 1985. . . . . . . The Reds are the first team to sweep consecutive World Series appearances (in 1976 and '90) since the New York Yankees in 1938 and '39. . . .
Cincinnati relievers threw 13 scoreless innings during the series, and the A's did not score after the third inning. . . . Reds outfielder Billy Hatcher had the highest World Series batting average of any player with at least 10 at-bats, going nine for 12 (.750) to eclipse Babe Ruth's 10 for 16 (.625) in 1928. Sabo had eight hits in his last 11 at-bats to rank third on that list at .563. . . .
The A's lost four straight games only once during the regular season. Rickey Henderson's 15-game postseason hitting streak ended.