Tag Archives: baseball

The 1994 MLB Players Strike: The 20th Anniversary

On August 11, 1994 the final game of the 1994 MLB Season was played between the Montreal Expos and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates were victorious on that day winning by a score of 4-0. Twenty years ago today the history of baseball changed forever. There have been strikes in the game of baseball before but none of them were as damaging to the game as this one.

Here is the short story of what transpired prior to August 11, 1994. The MLB Players Association had been going back and forth with the MLB Oweners for almost one year over a proposed salary cap. The Owners claimed it was necessary to have a salary cap in place for small market teams to survive the current state of MLB.  The salary cap combined with local television revenues would sustain the smaller market teams and thus benefit all of MLB. The players were not willing to agree to the terms the owners had set and after numerous negotiations decided as a group to sit out the rest of the season. On top of all of the problems between the two sides there had not been an official commissioner presiding over baseball since 1992.  Baseball needed a commissioner that could moderate between the two sides.

The lock gate of a MLB stadium during the 1994 Players Strike. (Getty Images)

The locked gate of a MLB stadium during the 1994 Players Strike. (Getty Images)

On August 12, 1994 The strike officially began and America would not see Major League Baseball action until the strike ended on April 2, 1995. Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States District Court for the Southern District, New York, issued an injunction that ended the strike. Judge Sotomayor ruled that the players and owners were bound by the expired collective bargaining agreement until a new deal could be reached. The strike lasted a total of 232 days and reduced the 1995 season to 144 games from the traditional 162 games.

The sight that awaited the players when they returned to the diamond following the 1994 Players Strike. (Getty Images)

The sight that awaited the players when they returned to the diamond following the 1994 Players Strike. (Getty Images)

Throughout the 1995 MLB Season the fans showed their displeasure with the strike that had tainted the game that they love.  Many fans saw it as two greedy side fighting for more money.  Fans all over the country showed their disdain for the players in their own ways.  Many fans decided not to go to games or buy any MLB merchandise, while other fans decided to show up and let the players know how they felt by throwing objects at them and taunting them.  Baseball did not see much gain in popularity until the steroid driven home run fest of the late 1990’s.  The “Steroid Era” further damaged the game of baseball when it was made public in the mid 2000’s.

Because of the 1994 MLB Players Strike there was no World Series played that year, it was the first season without a World Series since 1904. There were many casualties of the strike of the 1994 Strike. The most notable were the Montreal Expos who were having their best season in team history and lead baseball with a 74-70 record when the strike ended. The Expos would have likely reached the MLB Playoffs and possibly even the World Series but instead faded into obscurity. The franchise would not reach the post season until the team became the Washington Nationals more than a decade later.

There are many lessons that have been learned from the 1994 Players Strike. The most important of those lessons is that no League can disregard the fans and still profit greatly from them. Many felt the financial impact that the strike had on the game due to raising the fans ire. Baseball was considered America’s most popular sport prior to the strike. It fell behind the NFL in popularity a few years after the strike and has never grabbed its old position back from football since. The game of baseball is a beautiful game but in 1994 it was tainted by greed and the fans were the biggest victims of the dispute between the owners and the players.

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“Shoeless” Joe Jackson And The 1919 World Series

On October 1, 1919 the World Series began at Redland Field in Cincinnati, OH in front of a crowd of 30,511 fans.  The teams on the field were the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. No one knew that day that what they were witnessing would later beconsidered the most controversial World Series ever.  When the Series was finished on October 9, 1919 the Reds were crowned Champions by winning five games in the best of nine Series.  Baseball fans all over the country were shocked ass the White Sox were considered the best team in baseball by many.  What unfolded in the next 2 years following the 1919 World Series has been chronicled very heavily in the last ninety years.  

In 1920 it became public the that eight players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox team might have intentionally thrown the World Series.  The allegation was that these players had conspired with gamblers to throw the Series in exchange for a payoff of $5,000 each.  The case was later investigated by a Grand Jury to determine what exactly happened and if any criminal acts had been committed.

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson. (Getty Images)

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson. (Getty Images)

The most prominent of those eight players was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.  Jackson’s involvement made the story even more interesting.  Jackson is considered one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game.  In his 23 season career he batted .375, collected 1,772 hits, 54 home runs and 785 RBI’s.  

In 1921 the Grand Jury convinced in Chicago and eventually acquitted all eight players of committing any crime.  Shortly thereafter The Commissioner Of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned all eight players from the game of baseball for life.  Landis logic was even though the players had been acquitted, they left a black eye of the game of baseball and must be thrown out in order to clean up baseball’s image.  Because of this action one of the greatest baseball players ever is not allowed in The National Baseball Hall of Fame, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

His performance during the 1919 World Series was very impressive.  During the eight games Jackson had 12 hits, batted .375 and committed no errors.  He had the most hits and highest batting average of any player on either team.  To think he was involved in the throwing of the world series is unfathomable.  His play told a completely different story, one of a man playing his heart out and trying to help his team win.

The fact that a Grand Jury acquitted the eight players is also a strong statement.  Landis felt like he had to make a statement about the supposed infraction that had occurred.  Landis went too far by banning the players for life and ruining any possibility that these players could be immortalized in the Hall of Fame.  Many baseball fans hold out hope that one day the ban will be lifted by a future Commissioner of Baseball and “Shoeless” Joe will be able to take his place where he deserves to be, the Hall Of Fame.

MLB Opening Day: The Only No Hitter

The opening day of the baseball season has been filled with historic moments and happenings.  Moments like Hank Aaron tying Babe Ruth’s home run record and Ted Williams hitting .449 in all of his opening day game appearances.  One of these milestones happened in 1940 and has yet to be repeated on the day that starts the long baseball season, a no hitter.

On April 16, 1940 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Hall Of Fame pitcher Bob Feller made the history books when he threw his first no hitter.  Completing a no hitter as a pitcher is incredible enough but there is another element that makes this feat even more incredible, this is the only occurrence of a no hitter on Opening Day.  On that day Feller pitched his Cleveland Indians to a 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.  The eventual game winning run was scored by the Indians in the 4th inning when Jeff Heath scored on a Rollie Hemsley hit.  The losing pitcher that day was Eddie Smith.

Bob Feller would have two more no hitters in his career before he retired in 1956.  Those came in the 1946 and 1951 seasons against the Yankees and Tigers.  Bob Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1962.  Feller amassed 266 wins and 162 loses and threw 2,581 strikeouts.  An interensting note to his career is that he also threw 12 one hit games on top of his three no hitters.

On This Day In 1993: Nolan Ryan Put Robin Ventura In A Headlock

Nolan Ryan was 46 years of age when the 1993 MLB season began.  He announced that he would retire at the end of the season.  Nolan Ryan had pitched magic through four decades and was ready to call it a career.  The last big moment in his pitching career came not from his pitches but from his fists.

On August 4th, 1993 the visiting Chicago White Sox were in Arlington to take on the Texas Rangers.  Nolan Ryan was on the mound for the Rangers.  After giving up 2-runs to the White Sox in the first inning he was facing young third baseman Robin Ventura.  Ventura had hit for an RBI single off of Ryan in the first inning.  On his first pitch Ryan beaned Ventura in the elbow.

Nolan Ryan fighting at age 46.  (Getty Images)

Nolan Ryan fighting at age 46. (Getty Images)

Robin Ventura appeared to be walking to first base when he suddenly threw his helmet down and charged at the mound.  Ryan calmly side stepped Ventura and put him in a headlock with is left arm.  Ryan proceeded to punch the 26 year old Ventura in the face approximately 6 times before his catcher Ivan Rodriguez could pull him away.  The teams quickly cleared the bench and a wild brawl ensued.  When the field was cleared 5 minutes later, Ventura and his manager Gene Lamont were ejected from the game by the Umpire.  Ryan would not be ejected due to the fact he never left the mound until Ventura reached him.

Nolan Ryan would leave the game in the seventh inning with his team leading 5-2.  The score would not change and Ryan received the win.  It was his third win of the season.

Nolan Ryan would only pitch for a few more times before his arm was finally thrown out in late September.  This is not only one of the many memorable Nolan Ryan moments but it was the most memorable baseball fight of the 1990s.  The fight was played numerous times on television newscasts the next day.  Everyone was happy to see a 46 year old Ryan school Robin Ventura who was 20 years his junior.  It showed how tough Ryan really was and baseball fans nation wide loved it.  This was an incredible moment for Ryan to end his final season on.

Ron Blomberg Was The First DH 40 Years Ago Today

Ron Blomberg (Getty Images)

Ron Blomberg (Getty Images)

He may not be a household name but he has become a great trivia fact.  On April 6th, 1973 New York Yankee Ron Blomberg became the first Designated Hitter (DH) in baseball history.  This first came in game against the rival Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.  Blomberg was walked in his first home plate appearance against pitcher Luis Tiant.  Blomberg finished the season with a .321 batting average in 301 plate appearances.  His career ended with the Whit Sox after the 1978 season.

To this day the DH remains exclusive to the American League.  The DH position has caused mush controversy and excitement over the years.  Many have debated through the years that the DH position hurts the game.  Most feel that in the game of baseball the pitcher should be in the hitting lineup.   The DH has been criticized for taking away from baseball’s tradition.  40 years later I think it is safe to say that it has become apart of the tradition, at least in the American League.

Hank Aaron Tied Babe Ruth’s Home Run Record On Opening Day 1974

Many know that Hank Aaron was the first player to tie and break Babe Ruth’s all time home run record.  However most don’t know that the historic tying home run came on Opening Day.  On April 4th, 1974 the Hank Arron and Atlanta Braves played the Reds in Cincinnati, Oh.  It was in that game that Aaron hit his 714th career home run.  The historic home run came in Hank Aaron’s first at bat of the 1974 season.  Jack Billingham was the pitcher that gave up the home run.

Hank Aaron being congratulated on home run 714. (Getty Images)

Hank Aaron being congratulated after home run 714. (Getty Images)

There was no better place for this incredible moment to happen in Cincinnati.  The city is home to the first ever professional baseball team, the Reds.  Everyday until 1990 the Reds had thrown the first pitch in every baseball season.  Opening Day is even an official holiday in the city, complete with a parade.

That great Opening day moment almost never happened.  Prior to the season opener the Braves management was worried that Aaron would not only tie but break the record in Cincinnati.  They were so concerned that he was going to sit out the first series of the season until the team returned to Atlanta.  The Braves were forced to play Aaron in at least two games of the three game series.

Hank Aaron would not hit another home run until April 8th, 1974 in Atlanta.  That home run would be his 715th and broke Ruth’s all time record.  Aaron retired after the 1976 season with the Brewers.  When his career was over Aaron had 755 career home runs.

How The 1994 MLB Strike Ended Michael Jordan’s Baseball Career

In November of 1993 just shortly after the murder of his father, Michael Jordan retired from basketball.  Jordan had revolutionized basketball with his high skill set and magnetic charisma. He had already cemented his position in the Hall Of Fame and was arguably the most popular athlete in the history of America. After nine seasons in the NBA and three straight NBA titles it was all over.

As 1994 began Michael Jordan soon announced that he would try his hand at professional baseball.  Mostly because it was the one sport his father wanted to see him succeed at when he was growing up.  It would be a tribute to his father he said. The owner of the Chicago Bulls was Jerry Reinsdorf and he also happened to own the Chicago White Sox.  Reinsdorf being the smart and adventurous business man he was knew that Michael Jordan would be a huge money draw in baseball.  He agreed to sign Jordan to a minor league contract and pay him the same amount that he was contracted to receive with his Bulls contract.  It was a done deal and the media and fans clamored to see Jordan make his debut in baseball.

Michael Jordan the "baseball player" (Getty Images)

Michael Jordan the “baseball player” (Getty Images)

As spring training began for the White Sox in Sarasota, Florida the Michael Jordan circus began.  The media was always around and were focused solely on Jordan.  They followed his batting practices, fielding practices and watched his every move.  The fans also swarmed him every chance they could get, hoping they could snag an autograph of one of the greatest basketball players ever.  The attendance for White Sox games that spring shot through the roof and many fans were unable to even get a ticket to the spring games.  Michael Jordan played his first official spring training game on March 3, 1994 as an outfielder.  He would play 17 games that spring and on March 31, 1994 was optioned to the White Sox minor league affiliate the Birmingham Barons.

The city of Birmingham was set on fire by the Michael Jordan experience.  They sold out more games than they had ever before and had major media at almost every game.  It was a treat for the fans of the Barons to get to see such a great athlete trying to make it in a sport he had not played since high school.  Jordan had an average season with many ups and downs.  He batted .202, hit 3 home runs and batted in 51 runs.  Jordan played 127 games in that season and struck out 114 times.  He definitely had a rough time but did make improvements by the end of the season.

Jordan being Jordan wanted to work more on his baseball skills and decided to play in the Arizona Fall League following his first minor league season.  In that short season for the Scottsdale Scorpions Jordan batted a .252.  While not great by professional baseball standards he did improve even more in the fall league and was poised to continue his development in 1995.

Unfortunately Major League Baseball was still dealing with the 1994 players strike when the 1995 Spring Training season was to begin.  As the battle between the owners and the players union intensified the lines were being drawn.  The players were deciding whether to sit out until a deal could be arranged or to play anyways.  Jordan reported to camp in Florida initially in February of 1995. He would end up deciding in March not to be involved in the drama and chose to sit out while the strike continued.

It was during this time in mid march of 1995 Jordan attended a Chicago Bulls game.  just two weeks later he was on the court playing basketball again.  Many fans where excited to have his talents back in basketball and did not care that he quite his baseball career.  Jordan would go onto win three more NBA Titles and retired from basketball for good after the 2002-03 season.

Because his basketball career picked up right where it left off in 1993 not many questioned the decision.  It makes one wonder almost two decade’s later what would have been if not for the baseball players strike of 1994.  Would Michael Jordan continued until he was either cut or made it to the Major Leagues?  That is hard to say but it was clear he was on the right track to eventually play at the Major League level.  He was only 32 when he went back to basketball and had time to develop into an even better baseball player.

We will never know where baseball could have taken Michael Jordan.  We wont ever know where Jordan could have taken baseball had he stayed.  The popularity of baseball would have likely increased after the horrible strike and maybe Jordan could have been the face of baseball.  All we can do now is imagine what could have been but it is clear to see that the baseball strike deterred Jordan from continuing his baseball dream.