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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) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: 1994 strike, fans

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   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 12, 2019 at 08:42 AM (#5870457)
I didn't "come back" until 1997. I got interested in Japanese ball during the interim, followed as well as I could with the information available then. I think that Baseball America did a separate NPB annual at that time?

That stretch away from baseball seems to have broken my habit of going to games. The number of tickets I've bought since then has probably been under ten.
   2. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: August 12, 2019 at 10:50 AM (#5870508)
I came back pretty much right away, but the strike -- and the Mets' ineptitude leading up to and immediately after it -- had me less than passionate: I can barely remember the 1995 season and sometimes I'll look at BB-Ref and go "Oh yeah, Jim Lindeman was on the Mets that year" or something similar. I was in kind of a fog that didn't really lift until '97 or '98.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: August 12, 2019 at 10:53 AM (#5870515)
we had a 3rd-year AL offshoot Rotisserie baseball league that was still maturing.

that strike killed it - though the original NL version is now in its 36th year.

   4. Wayne Newton's pet monkey (gef, talking mongoose) Posted: August 12, 2019 at 10:59 AM (#5870519)
My mixed-league fantasy team was dropping like a rock when the strike stopped the plummet. I barely held on to finish in the money (4th place).
   5. MNB Posted: August 12, 2019 at 11:09 AM (#5870524)
I grew up as an Expos fan. It's the first thing I remember being as a kid. It took about seven years for me to start paying attention to baseball again. '94 felt like the beginning of the end for baseball in Montreal.
   6. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: August 12, 2019 at 11:12 AM (#5870527)
I understand why people wouldn't come back, but I was always going to be back.

I never did return to the NHL or NBA after their extended labor stoppages. It's not that I was angry, it's more that I found other stuff to do with my time. Same thing has happened for me now that MLS has committed to Columbus long-term. I'm back, mostly, but during the ~15 months the league spent crapping on my city and I spent ignoring the league, I found other things with which to concern myself.
   7. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: August 12, 2019 at 11:15 AM (#5870530)
Five years for me. Paid a little attention again in 99-00. But what really got me interested in baseball again was finding Primer. (c. 2001?) Sabermetrics is much more interesting than the usual sports blather, and even more interesting than watching the game or following a team.
   8. Lassus Posted: August 12, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5870533)
I was two years out of college in 1994, and despite die-hard Met fandom prior in elementary and high school quite literally didn't notice the strike until someone told me in 1996 that it had happened.
   9. Master of the Horse Posted: August 12, 2019 at 11:20 AM (#5870534)
If you read toward the end the fans interviewed really #### all over Selig.
   10. Mefisto Posted: August 12, 2019 at 11:59 AM (#5870553)
I didn't really come back until 2000. I was interested in the Great '98 Homer Chase, but more as a spectacle than as a rabid fan. What really got me watching again was Bonds.
   11. Greg Pope Posted: August 12, 2019 at 12:12 PM (#5870555)
My mixed-league fantasy team was dropping like a rock when the strike stopped the plummet. I barely held on to finish in the money (4th place).

My team was in second place and rising. The first place team's best player was Jeff Bagwell, who broke his hand 2 days before the strike.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 12, 2019 at 12:38 PM (#5870568)
I lost some interest in baseball, but I think it had more to do with the fact that I was a HS senior/freshman in college, was far from my local team (which sucked anyway) and was distracted by about 1,000 other things.

But what really got me interested in baseball again was finding Primer. (c. 2001?)


Me too! I think I started reading Neyer around '99 or so, which led me to Bill James and Rany Jazayerli, which led me to Primer.
   13. JAHV Posted: August 12, 2019 at 01:10 PM (#5870588)
I came back right away. I was 12 and remember being really upset that there was no World Series. But all I remember about 1995 is being happy there was baseball again. I would have been old enough to understand some of the issues, but I didn't really care. I just wanted to see guys play ball. As it turned out, that year was an emotional roller coaster for me as an Angels fan:
- They're still striking
- No they're back!
- The Angels are good!!!
- No, wait, they suck and blew the biggest lead in history
   14. Mefisto Posted: August 12, 2019 at 01:18 PM (#5870591)
Primer was a factor for me too.
   15. Zonk, your King of All that Is Real Posted: August 12, 2019 at 01:51 PM (#5870612)
I never really skipped a beat - though, within the bounds of a normal ebb and flow. The Cubs were thoroughly mediocre around the bookends and I was discovering the wonders of college life (which included plenty of train rides to Wrigley).

I think it was the internet as much as anything that pushed me back into 80s era fandom -- even in the early internet days, I could suddenly gorge myself on as much baseball writing as used to cost me my HS teen paychecks in magazine subscriptions... Time I no longer wanted to spend laboriously doing my roto league stats and league management was suddenly sourceable (at reasonable prices!) to emerging services.
   16. Man o' Schwar Posted: August 12, 2019 at 03:51 PM (#5870661)
I never stopped. I was bummed that the 1994 season was cut short, and happy when it was resolved for 1995. But I was also busy in graduate school and not paying a lot of attention to some pretty lousy Cub teams in the mid-90s.

Like some of the others here, I started following baseball more closely in general with the rise of the internet and the ease of access to daily updates, highlights, etc. Having a place to talk about it helped as well. I remember starting on Primer in 2002. I was never in the Usenet group or on the old ESPN or Yahoo! boards, but I did like it here back in the pre-OTP, pre-let's make everything about PEDs, pre-registration days.
   17. Zonk, your King of All that Is Real Posted: August 12, 2019 at 05:06 PM (#5870672)
It's pretty amazing to me now that I can get a site to run my fantasy league for free.... Even in the very early internet days - ~$100 for a league was a friggin' bargain.

I remember BITD when USA Today offered Tuesday/Wednesday only subscriptions specifically for the stats and you had to do everything by hand.... Services back then were offering "deals" at 30 bucks PER TEAM to fax you weekly standings.

Whenever I hear people complain about the internet or modern technology now.... I always bring up the fact that I no longer have to spend ~10 hours a week laboriously using my pad, paper, and calculator (plus typewriter plus our copier!) to deliver everyone weekly standings.
   18. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 12, 2019 at 05:32 PM (#5870677)
I remember BITD when USA Today offered Tuesday/Wednesday only subscriptions specifically for the stats and you had to do everything by hand.... Services back then were offering "deals" at 30 bucks PER TEAM to fax you weekly standings.
My summer job in high school was working for one of those services! Custom Stat, Inc. It was one guy who had designed a software program that would manage rosters, and I would take leagues' transactions over the phone from commissioners and make the moves in the software tool, and then we would import the stats (from Stats, Inc. I think?), print out the reports, package them and mail them. It was a great job for a kid like me, as you might imagine, and I even came back to it after my first two(?) years of college.

My boss was a great combination of computer nerd and baseball fan, and we had a good time working together. I assume his business didn't last much longer after I left. I looked him up a while back and he's now a database admin for the university press, so I'm glad he landed on his feet. Good guy.
   19. Esoteric Posted: August 12, 2019 at 07:12 PM (#5870701)
I'm a Marylander (well, was a Marylander, I'm a Chicagoan now) so for me it was Ripken and The Streak which brought me back. But nothing truly cemented forever my love of baseball quite like Washington finally getting a team back in 2005. It was a pretty remarkable season for them too, even if they finished 81-81.

Prior to the Nats (RIP, Expos) coming to Washington, I was more a fan of the Seattle Mariners than the Baltimore Orioles, weirdly enough. My post-strike/pre-Nats mental highlights are things like Edgar and "The Double", early Ichiro, Bret Boone (!) and Junior.
   20. Zonk, your King of All that Is Real Posted: August 12, 2019 at 07:43 PM (#5870718)
My summer job in high school was working for one of those services! Custom Stat, Inc. It was one guy who had designed a software program that would manage rosters, and I would take leagues' transactions over the phone from commissioners and make the moves in the software tool, and then we would import the stats (from Stats, Inc. I think?), print out the reports, package them and mail them. It was a great job for a kid like me, as you might imagine, and I even came back to it after my first two(?) years of college.


Ditto in college -- though, I worked The STATS, Inc.... but yeah - it was a late shift college job where I spent ~4 hours a night doing one of two things: A)taking the phone messages and making roster changes, generating reports, etc* and B)comparing box scores from multiple sources (usually newspapers) to their database and correcting errors.

It was a dream job when I got it - I thought sure I'd run into Bill James around the office (OK, not really... I was 19 so I was smart enough to recognize that Bill James likely wouldn't be stopping by what amounted to suburban office space at 9 PM on a Wednesday).

*One cool thing - we (the four of us who were late shift data entry drones) got to manage teams in leagues, both currently roto but more fun, the occasional "replay" leagues (historical sims that I'm pretty sure used strato cards in db form) that were needed to fill out leagues and/or owners who quit paying. Getting paid - even minimum wage - to consider a Rogers Hornsby for Frankie Frisch + Zack Wheat trade is awesome... so long as you're only getting paid to buy beer, save for spring break, and order coupon pizza.
   21. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: August 12, 2019 at 07:52 PM (#5870725)
a Rogers Hornsby for Frankie Frisch + Zack Wheat trade


Dude, DO IT. The throw in in the real trade was Jimmy F'ing Ring!
   22. Howie Menckel Posted: August 12, 2019 at 10:39 PM (#5870798)
we joined All-Star Stats in what I think was its first big year - 1990 - after 6 seasons of primitive.

at first we got once-a-week stats by fax - awesome, and I think it was $45 per team, which made no economic sense given our spending levels.

but stats every week? what kind of futuristic society were we living in?
the team pages had every single stat for each player, there was a list of available players, etc.
what a revolution that was.

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