Welcome to Part 3 of our not-at-all-offseason-fumbling, totally historically relevant series discussing each Reds appearance on the cover of the now-defunct Sports Illustrated. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.
It’s not exactly efficient to divide each discussion into decades, as the 70s would scroll on past Fiji and the majority of the 2010’s would generate exactly seven words, which isn’t exactly algorithm-friendly (“This was a baseball team that existed.”)
But this provides for us an opportunity to celebrate what we had while we had it. For example, this now-bittersweet Eric Davis story appeared on May 25, 1987:
This cover was conflated by some commenters as the World Series cover (and SI might well have included alternate covers of that issue, but I recall only the Sabo one below, and this Eric Davis one… not at all.)
I should have. It was well-earned. In 1987, Davis was the first player to accumulate three grand slams in a single month. He also joined the rarified 30/50 club.
Eric Davis is tied for 4th amongst all MLB players who have amassed the most seasons with at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. He managed this 7 times. (However, Barry Bonds occupies the #1 spot in that category, and we all know how to adjust accordingly.)
Davis was quite properly inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame with his teammate, Jose Rijo, in 2005. I hear he still bounces around the organization as a hitting coach.
This cover is connected to the next; Davis, of course, was never quite the same after the terrifying kidney injury he sustained in Game 4 of the 1990 World Series.
For all the flash-bang qualities of the 1990 team, it’s surprising that it generated exactly one SI cover, and that cover had nary a Nasty Boy or a Paul O’Neill in sight. It did, however, offer a Spuds:
This, presumably, was because Chris Sabo was one of the most immediately recognizable members of the team for those not occupying the 275 loop. This cover is notable in that it offers one of the most tepid forms of sub-heading congratulations to ever greet a morning-after World Champion team: “Chris Sabo and his Cincinnati comrades sweep the A’s.”
Considering what this team pulled off… I think I am well within my rights to assume a haughty stare over this. They went with a Communism theme? I do not recall feeling underwhelmed and borderline insulted at the time, but in the moment there was a lot of cream soda and two whole out-of-uniform days at school, so I wasn’t exactly concerned with the looming amount of shade issuing from Time Inc.
Now, though? Now that I’m a big girl who can wear whatever she wants to work (it’s a big day when I actually leave the house and a bra is necessary) I see a bit more clearly. I’m also older and much, much more easily offended.
The 1990 Reds team appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated exactly once throughout the year — after they won the Series. This was it (Joe Montana was featured twice, and yes, Doctor, that childhood wound has yet to heal.)
During the playoffs, the SI curse was benevolently distributed to the Pirates, for which I suppose I should be grateful. But given that the A’s showed up the week prior over a triumphant “THEY’RE BACK!” header, this is the most backhanded congratulations in the history of utter thumpings.
Look, I’m fond of Sabes and all, but when you go from worst to first, lead the division wire to wire, and sweep of the reigning champs, I don’t think it’s out of line to expect at least an exclamation point.
We suffer much here in Flyover Country, the perpetual middle children of the media landscape.