“History-Bad History-Don’t Repeat Bad History”
An anniversary, never to be celebrated, never to be forgotten.
The 25th Anniversary of when it all stopped. It was like an atomic bomb being dropped. It wiped out a lot. It caused enormous damage.
Today, the 25th Anniversary of the bitter shutdown of major league baseball in 1994.
A culmination of ill-will, distrust, greed, and a power struggle that nearly ruined the game.
The Players Union, fighting to prevent the use of a ‘Salary Cap’, called the owners bluff, they struck on August 12th shutting down the season.
The Owners, at war with militant Union Chief Donald Fear, called the players bluff, cancelled the World Series.
It might have been as dark a moment as the game had seen since the 1919 Black Sox scandal and the expulsion of 8-players from the game forever.
On one side of the barbed wire fence was Fehr, famous for getting gains for his clients for a decade and a half. On the other side was milquetoast Commissioner Bud Selig, an owners pawn.
There was bitter mistrust on both sides. The owners had been found guilty of free agent collision years before, and had to pay the damaged players over 210M in cash.
The venom from the other side was directed at Fehr for blocking drug testing, as baseball records were shattered, big bats aided by syringes and steroids.
The anger went on and on as August went to September, and then the unfathomable, as I said on my talkshows on XTRA-690….’Can you believe it-they cancelled the World Series-God Damn Them’.
A total of 984-games were wiped off the books. The industry lost over 1B-in revenue. The two TV networks, bathed in red-ink, canceled their contracts with MLB.
The collateral damage was everywhere. It was an all time low in the game.
The Montreal Expos were (74-40), in first place, headed to their greatest season ever, and likely a World Series with Moises Alou, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez. They saw the season end. If they had gotten there, it might have saved the franchise in Quebec.
Tony Gwynn was flirting with a .400-batting average all year, chasing another great San Diegoan, Ted Williams magical .406 mark in 1941. He finished at .394 when the season shutdown.
Matt Williams of the Giants had 43-homers, and was on track to crash the Roger Maris 61-homer plateau, all this earned before the steroid era took over the game.
Houston’s Jeff Bagwell was en-route to a record 171-RBI season that would have erased Hack Wilson’s modern day runs batted in mark set back in the 1930s.
The bombastic owners carried the grudge thru the off season, announcing plans to launch the next season with replacement players ‘scabs’ if a deal didn’t get done.
The Union kicked their ass in court, when a judge ruled, MLB could not invoke any rule changes, scab players, salary cap, unless it was negotiated with the union.
It took two years to get a new deal done, but the scars remained forever, the damage took a decade to overcome.
The NFL took over in the mind’s eyes of fans. The NFL became more important on Sunday’s than going to church. The NFL became a 14B-industry, on TV everywhere.
It was disgraceful.
Baseball survived the Black Sox Scandal, survived the horrors of the Depression, played on thru the Great War in 1917-1919, got the Green Light Letter to continue to play thru World War II.
Baseball was so important to families, friends, soldiers, sailors, pilots serving in the European and Pacific Theatre. It led to the Golden Era of the game.
Baseball survived all that. The only thing that shut the game down, the greed of the Owners and the Players.
The fans were held hostage. The game suffered a catastrophic blow.
It should be a cautionary tale for Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, who head baseball and the union, as they go back to the negotiating table now. Protect this 11B a year industry. Don’t destroy or repeat the damage was done 25-years ago.
If you don’t learn from history, you repeat history.
Baseball should never go there again.