The 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers were the second (after the runner-up 1962 squad) Dodger team to win at least 100 games since moving west from Brooklyn; they won the National League West division after a season long battle by four games over the Cincinnati Reds, then defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, three games to one, in the National League Championship Series. The Oakland A's won the American League West division by five games over the Texas Rangers, then defeated the Baltimore Orioles, three games to one, in the American League Championship Series.
The Oakland A's, dynasty or not, had become something of a running joke in the American League, consistently matching their on-field heroics with locker-room meltdowns and intra-squad theatrics. After yet another banner year (Catfish Hunter won 25 games, Reggie Jackson knocked in 105 runs, and Billy North stole 54 bases), the team seemed to be winning more attention for its dysfunctional communication patterns than for its superior lineup. Hunter was threatening to file for free agency in 1975 if owner Charles O. Finley didn't come through with back pay Hunter claimed he had coming. Traumatized former second baseman Mike Andrews was considering legal action for the shabby treatment he received in the previous year's World Series. Teammates Rollie Fingers and Blue Moon Odom had gotten into a fistfight. And the Series-winning manager of the previous year, Dick Williams was long gone, having had one personality clash too many with the A's front office. Despite all the melodrama, or perhaps because of it, the A's won the A.L. pennant for the third straight year, dispatching the Baltimore Orioles in a four-game ALCS. Despite all of the off field troubles, between the lines. They were fundamentally sound, had strong pitching, and combined speed and power.
The businesslike Los Angeles Dodgers, for their part, looked downright corporate, and seemed, to many, to be the better team. On paper, at least, they were. L.A. won 102 games, boasted the best team ERA in the National League, and led their league in runs scored. Steve Garvey hit .312, Jimmy Wynn knocked in 108 runs, Bill Buckner hit .314 in one of the best years of his career, Davey Lopes stole 59 bases, Andy Messersmith won 20 games, and Don Sutton won 19. It was all very brisk and efficient—Big (Dodger) Blue, with the unflappable, perennially studious Walt Alston, in his twenty-first year as manager of the club, holding everything together. Unlike the Oakland squad, nobody in the Dodger clubhouse appeared to need therapy to work out any simmering interpersonal issues. The Series promised, at the very least, to be a memorable conflict of worldviews. However, as the World Series would prove, there was no substitute for experience; the A's did not beat themselves and the Dodgers made a number of mental errors.
AL Oakland A's (4) vs. NL Los Angeles Dodgers (1)
Reggie Jackson put the A's on the board first with a solo homer in the top of the second off 20-game winner Andy Messersmith. The A's added another run in the fifth when starting pitcher Ken Holtzman, batting for the first time all season because of the designated hitter rule, doubled to left, went to third on a Messersmith wild pitch, and scored on a Bert Campaneris suicide squeeze bunt.
The Dodgers crept back with a run in their half of the fifth when Davey Lopes reached first on an error by shortstop Campaneris. Bill Buckner then bounced a single to right that Jackson misplayed, allowing Lopes to score.
The A's scored their final run in the eighth when Campaneris singled to shallow center, was sacrificed to second by Bill North, and scored when Dodger third baseman Ron Cey threw wildly to first on a grounder hit by Sal Bando. Bando reached third on the error, and attempted to score on a flyout to right by Jackson, but right fielder Joe Ferguson gunned him down at the plate.
In the bottom of the ninth, with Rollie Fingers on the mound, Jimmy Wynn hit a solo homer that just escaped the reach of Joe Rudi and North in left center. Catfish Hunter relieved Fingers and made the final out by striking out Ferguson. Fingers got the win with 4 1⁄3 innings of relief, having relieved Holtzman in the fifth.
Don Sutton pitched superbly, shutting out the A's on four hits through eight innings. The Dodgers scored first in the second off Vida Blue when Ron Cey walked, Bill Russell singled, and Steve Yeager singled home Cey. Joe Ferguson slammed a two-run homer off Blue in the sixth to make it 3–0.
The A's threatened in the eighth when pinch hitters Jim Holt and Claudell Washington hit back-to-back singles with one out. Bert Campaneris reached on an infield error to load the bases. The rally was squelched when Bill North hit into a double play in which first baseman Steve Garvey made an exceptional pickup of a low throw by Russell.
In the ninth, the A's finally got on the board when Sal Bando led off with being hit by a pitch, Reggie Jackson followed with a double, and Joe Rudi singled both runners home. Mike Marshall then relieved Sutton and struck out Gene Tenace. Herb Washington was sent in to pinch-run for Rudi, and Marshall picked him off. Herb Washington was the only "designated runner" to appear in a World Series. Washington was a track star with no baseball experience whom the A's Charles Finley signed solely to appear as a pinch runner in late game situations. His stats for 1974 were 92 games, zero at bats, 29 runs scored, 29 stolen bases, but he was caught stealing 16 times. Sure enough, with the A's trailing 3–2 in the ninth inning of Game 2, Washington pinch ran. Just after announcer Vin Scully said that Washington better be careful because pitcher Mike Marshall has a good pickoff move, he was promptly picked off first base. Marshall then retired Ángel Mangual for the final out.
With the Series shifting back to Oakland, it was A's ace Catfish Hunter's turn to be brilliant. Hunter shut out the Dodgers on four hits through seven innings, and his teammates provided him with two runs in the third when Bill North scored on an error by catcher Joe Ferguson and an RBI single by Joe Rudi. The A's added another run in the fourth on Bert Campaneris' RBI single.
The Dodgers got their only runs on solo homers by Bill Buckner in the eighth and Willie Crawford in the ninth.
Rollie Fingers was not awarded the save because in 1974, tougher criteria were adopted for saves where the tying run had to be on base or at the plate when the reliever entered to qualify for a save.
The A's struck first on a solo homer by the surprising Ken Holtzman in the third. The Dodgers came right back in their half of the fourth on a two-run triple by Bill Russell. Holtzman settled into a groove after that, surrendering no runs before yielding to Rollie Fingers in the eighth.
The A's took control of the game with four runs in the sixth off Andy Messersmith. Bill North led off with a walk and went to second on a wild pickoff throw by Messersmith. Sal Bando singled home North to tie it. After a Reggie Jackson walk, a Joe Rudi sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk to Claudell Washington, Jim Holt pinch-hit for Ray Fosse and singled in two runs. An RBI groundout by Dick Green capped off the rally. Fingers pitched the final 1 2⁄3 innings for his first save of the series.
The A's staked Vida Blue to a 2–0 lead with single runs in the first and second innings on a sacrifice fly by Sal Bando and a solo homer by Ray Fosse. The Dodgers tied it in the sixth with two runs on a sacrifice fly by Jimmy Wynn and an RBI single by Steve Garvey.
Joe Rudi got what would turn out to be the game-winning RBI when he tagged Dodger ace reliever Mike Marshall with a solo homer in the seventh. On a cool, damp night in Oakland, Marshall, who always pitched in short sleeves, disdained his allowance of eight warm up pitches after coming in from the bullpen. Rudi hit his first pitch out. In the Dodgers half of the eighth, Bill Buckner led off with a base hit to center that got past center fielder Bill North. Buckner had an easy double, but tried to stretch it to a triple and Reggie Jackson, backing up North, fired a perfect throw to Dick Green, who relayed to Sal Bando at third to nail Buckner and squelch the last Dodger threat. In his youthful exuberance, Buckner broke the unwritten baseball rule to never make the first or third out at third base. It was even more critical given that he was the potential tying run. Rollie Fingers got his second save and was named Series MVP.
Four of the five games had the score of 3–2, and in all five games the losing team scored two runs. Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the only pitcher to appear in all five games of a five-game World Series, as of 2014.
The Dodgers got six more hits than the A's but scored five fewer runs, showing their lack of timely hitting. They also made six errors in five games, in addition to a number of mental errors.
The A's won the Series despite batting only .211 in the Series, the lowest in a five-game Series since the Baltimore Orioles hit .146 in the 1969 Series.
As of 2015, the A's are the only non-Yankee team to win three consecutive World Series.
1974 World Series (4–1): Oakland A's (A.L.) over Los Angeles Dodgers (N.L.)