1994 strike

From BR Bullpen

The 1994 Strike was a traumatic event in baseball history. In 1994 approximately the last 50 games of the regular season and the post-season were cancelled due to a player's strike called by the MLBPA and their leader Don Fehr on August 11th. The World Series was not played for the first time in 90 years. This led to a tumultuous off-season during which the owners, whose lead negotiator was originally Richard Ravitch but who was dismissed in December, declared an impasse and attempted to implement their own rules, bringing in replacement players to spring training and threatening to begin the season with these, just as the NFL had done on previous occasions. The strike was ended by a ruling from US District Court judge Sonia Sotomayor, at the end of March, 1995, as she granted an injunction by the MLBPA to prevent the use of replacement players. The ruling forced the two sides to come to an agreement, and the 1995 season was amputated by 18 games as a result, beginning at the end of April with a slate of 144 games. Ironically, the umpires decided to go on strike just as the two parties settled their dispute, so the 1995 season opened with regular players - but replacement umpires.

The main issue was - as had been the case in previous labor disputes - the supposed out-of-control rise in salaries that was threatening the financial survival of many teams, or so the owners argued. The strike left bitter feelings all around, and did not really resolve the underlying problems. However, the damage caused by the stoppage was recognized by everyone, and as a result, when the next showdown came, in mid-2002, the two parties proved to be ready to make concessions in order to avoid a similar outcome, leading to an extended era of labor peace and growth of revenues - and salaries.

The biggest losers of the strike are generally considered to be the Montreal Expos, who had the best record in the majors at the time the strike was called, but had to dismantle their great team through a fire sale before the 1995 season, a decision that eventually led to the franchise's relocation within a decade; Tony Gwynn, who lost his best shot at hitting .400 (he was at .394 for the season and had been hitting at a .417 clip in the 25 games leading up to the stoppage of play); Matt Williams, who had hit 43 homers and had a legitimate shot at Roger Maris' record of 61; and Michael Jordan, who was playing in AA and would likely have been given a chance to play for the major league Chicago White Sox in September. Others like future Hall of Famer Rich Gossage saw their career end on a sad note. The Strike also marked the end of the independent Commissioner era, as the owners, unwilling to have to deal with a commissioner who would question their maximalist positions, decided to appoint one of their own, Bud Selig, as acting commissioner.

Further Reading[edit]

  • William B. Gould IV: Bargaining with Baseball: Labor Relations in an Age of Prosperous Turmoil, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2011.
  • Bob Nightengale: "1994 strike most embarrassing moment in MLB history", USA Today, August 11, 2014. [1]
  • John Pessah: The Game: Inside the Secret World of Major League Baseball's Power Brokers, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY, 2015. ISBN 9780316185882
  • Nikco Riesgo and Russ Cohen: "Strike Three!" - A Player's Journey through the Infamous Baseball Strike of 1994, Long Ball Publishing, Wilmington, DE, 2010. ISBN 9780557246434
  • Bryan Soderholm-Difatte: The Reshaping of America's Game: Major League Baseball After the Players' Strike, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2021. ISBN 978-1538145951