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1994 Strike Newsbeat

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A retrospective on the lost 1994 season

Twenty-five years ago today, the baseball season abruptly ended as the players went on strike, protesting a major overreach by ownership which attempted to consolidate too much power in the hands of the commissioner. Ownership really wanted to implement a salary cap, which then-union executive director Donald Fehr correctly said would come with no benefit to the players. It wasn’t just about that, though. Ownership had been deceitful many times in years past, so the union was distrustful and resentment festered.

There were no playoffs, no World Series in 1994. Awards were given out, but it was little solace for some of the players and teams in the midst of outstanding, potentially career- or franchise-altering seasons. Let’s take a look at exactly who those teams and players were.

A commentary on the statistical consequences of the 1994 strike- see if you can spot the major calculating error in this piece.

 


The players who crossed the picket line in 1995

When I was a kid (I’m 31 now), the term “replacement player” had a totally different meaning than it does now. To me, back then, it meant a fill-in player in a video game meant to represent somebody else. There were a handful of stand-ins in video games because certain players crossed the picket line in spring training 1995 after the work stoppage. Because the strikebreakers were rightfully not welcome in the union, their names and likenesses could not be used in MLBPA licensed products, including video games. As a result, game developers used fake names and likenesses for those players.

As Craig pointed out to me in a brief chat we had while brainstorming our strike anniversary ideas, in High Heat Major League Baseball 1999, Braves reliever Kerry Lightenberg was dubbed “Terry Lyte.” Other code names included “Ron Mayday” (Ron Mahay), and “Shawn Spengler” (Shane Spencer).

The game I religiously played back in the day was MVP Baseball 2005. In that game, Barry Bonds — who was not part of the MLBPA for reasons unrelated to the work stoppage — went undercover as “Jon Dowd.” Lightenberg was dubbed “Scott Venema.” Mahay was “Neale Genereaux,” and Spencer was “Larry Reed.” Among other notables, Cory Lidle was “Alan Hughes,” Lou Merloni was “Paul Cruz,” and Damian Miller was “Roger Chamberlain.” I remember people being so invested in making the game as accurate and up-to-date as possible that they would go into the game’s files and edit them to make, for example, Cory Lidle actually look like Cory Lidle with his actual name.

Baseball scabs — a “scab” is a pejorative term for someone who crosses a picket line — weren’t just barred from video games. Players who happened to find themselves on playoff teams were not allowed to have their names or likenesses used on commemorative merchandise. Those players included Spencer and Miller as well as Brendan Donnelly and Kevin Millar.

A reminder of an aspect of the strike that people aren’t likely to commemorate.

QLE Posted: August 13, 2019 at 04:39 AM | 15 comment(s)
  Beats: 1994 strike, replacement players, scabs

Monday, August 12, 2019

A look at fan rage from 1994 MLB strike, and those who never really came back

I don’t remember the year that there was no World Series. At age 4, I was old enough to profess that I loved baseball but young enough to not actually notice when it went away. I probably didn’t know what the postseason was and you couldn’t have explained labor strife to me if you tried.

The whole thing entered my consciousness as a fully contextualized historical anecdote sometime later. In retrospect, the story is complex. On the 25th anniversary, we look back at it with renewed resonance and wary relevance. None of which can quite capture what it feels like for there to suddenly be no baseball where baseball had just been, where you expect it to be. Even if the looming work stoppage that threatens from beyond the end of the current collective-bargaining agreement comes to pass, the experience of living through it sentiently will probably be dominated by the particularities — we’re likely looking at a preseason lockout if anything — and my professional responsibility to follow along with all the prognostication.

The 1994 Major League Baseball strike was about a bunch of things — like a salary cap and a strong union, Bud Selig and rising television revenue. Its impact on those factors, on the factions within the game that have continued to jockey with one another for power and money, is the strike’s legacy.

It was never about the fans, but still I want to understand what it felt like for those who served as leverage in that fight — because in some cases, the impact was long-lasting for them, too. How they felt, it seems, was angry.

Another perspective on the 1994-1995 strike, to go with the recent article concerning the last day of the season.

QLE Posted: August 12, 2019 at 08:18 AM | 22 comment(s)
  Beats: 1994 strike, fans

Friday, August 09, 2019

August 11, 1994: Scenes from a lost MLB season

One day there was baseball.

The next there wasn’t.

This is the story of the day with baseball. The final day of games in 1994 was an odd day, one Major League Baseball had rarely seen before and one it hasn’t seen since. While a damaging strike looked unavoidable, no one still knew for sure if it was the last day of the season and so uncertainty ruled the day.

In many ways, it was a normal day of baseball on the field. Shutouts were thrown and home runs were hit. Teams moved up and down in the standings.

A consideration of the 1994 strike, from the perspective of the last day of games- very much worth a read.

 

QLE Posted: August 09, 2019 at 07:44 AM | 52 comment(s)
  Beats: 1994 strike

Friday, May 03, 2019

‘Lords of the Realm,’ the Book That Foreshadowed the Last MLB Strike

“There was something about the national pastime that made the people in it behave badly. They were, perhaps, blinded by the light of what it represented—a glowing distillate of America. Men fought to control it as if they could own it. They wallowed in dubious battle, locked in ugly trench warfare for dominion over the green fields. The money poured into the game and men gorged and gouged over it—made damned fools of themselves over it. And the fans, ever forgiving, were still there.” —John Helyar, Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball


 

 

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