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Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Athletic: How baseball’s players hatched a plan for a wild barnstorming tour in 1995

If the owners followed through with their threat to begin the 1995 season with replacements, the established players figured they couldn’t sit around and take it. They needed to answer. So, they reached deep into the history of the sport, borrowing a concept as ancient as paying ballplayers to play. This wouldn’t be just another barnstorming tour, union head Donald Fehr said at the time, “it could be something better.” In the background, acrimony had given rise to another radical idea: the players eventually launching a league of their own. Barnstorming might serve as a useful dress rehearsal. If all went well, if Reebok could be locked in as the sponsor, if CBS could be brought in as a broadcast partner, then anything was possible.

The tour was to begin in early May. The first stop was RFK Stadium in Washington, a decade before the Nationals brought major league baseball back to the District. It would pass through places without their own teams: the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, the Superdome in New Orleans and BC Place in Vancouver, and also minor league towns like Buffalo, Louisville and Portland. And, in a delicious twist for the players, it would pass through big league ballparks controlled by municipalities. This way, the owners couldn’t flex their muscles and force out the players. They’d already tried this once with the Florida site that had been leased to be used as a spring training site ahead of the barnstorming tour. They had failed.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 04, 2020 at 10:39 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 04, 2020 at 12:47 PM (#5955320)
Why do we keep linking to articles behind paywalls?
   2. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 04, 2020 at 12:59 PM (#5955324)
Might be easier for the MLBPA to organize a barnstorming Home Run Derby. Lots of possibilities - team-based contests against traditional rival(s), AL v. NL, All-Stars against local MLB team, etc. Much less injury risk than real games.
   3. Captain Supporter Posted: June 04, 2020 at 01:18 PM (#5955332)
This would never work because fans care more about their team than they do about the players. As Jerry Seinfeld said in a famous comedy routine, "It's different guys every year. "You're rooting for clothes, when you get right down to it. We're screaming about laundry."
   4. Rally Posted: June 04, 2020 at 01:55 PM (#5955342)
If forced to choose between the best players with new uniforms or second rate players with their teams' laundry, I wouldn't take it as a given that the connection would hold.

I did not know the players were on this path in 1995. What I remember is the owners trying to push replacement players on us, turns out quite a few guys who were compelled to participate in this farce eventually made it to the majors, some having decent careers. But some of the stigma of being scabs never wore off, they couldn't get a share of some marketing money in some cases.

Makes perfect sense that some stadiums would be available, if the city paid for and owned it and weren't getting money for games. In this case, that is not an obstacle. Any field will do, doesn't matter if it even has 100 seats.

But while that obstacle - need of a sufficient stadium - is rendered meaningless, what is key is finding the right broadcast partner. ESPN and FOX might not play along, given how much they have invested in the current ownership structure. On obstacle, but not an insurmountable one. Players could hire some tech people to set up a subscription streaming service. Whether the obstacles could be overcome, I have no idea.
   5. Adam Starblind Posted: June 04, 2020 at 02:24 PM (#5955347)
This would never work because fans care more about their team than they do about the players.

You could keep the teams together. Just tweak the names. The Yankees, White Sox, and Dodgers become The Bronx, South Side, and Chavez Ravine. Like a second-tier Nintendo game. It would be fun to come up with the names actually.
   6. Adam Starblind Posted: June 04, 2020 at 02:27 PM (#5955349)
what is key is finding the right broadcast partner. ESPN and FOX might not play along, given how much they have invested in the current ownership structure. On obstacle, but not an insurmountable one.

Amazon and Google would be salivating.

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