Jockbeat: Baseball's Striking Anniversary
Do you remember where you were 15 years ago today? Wherever you were, you probably woke up, like me, to the startling revelation that "There's no baseball today!"
In fact, as we'll never forget, there was no baseball for the rest of the year -- none in fact until April of 1995.
A lot of fans at the time said they felt betrayed and would never come back to the ballpark again. Some probably didn't. It wasn't until 2007 that attendance climbed back to the pre-strike high. But even though most of us have let bygones be bygones, let's think back for a moment on what the strike took away from us.
-- San Diego's Tony Gwynn lost big. He was hitting .394 at the time, and with a majority of the remaining 47games to be played at home, stood a good chance to become the game's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941.
-- San Francisco's Matt Williams, with 43 home runs, was on pace to hit 60.6 for the season and perhaps tie or break Roger Maris's single season record of 61.
-- Julio Franco, Kevin Mitchell and Shane Mack, all hitting .325 or better at the time the games were halted, lost negotiating muscle for the following season and ended up playing in Japan.
-- The biggest losers of all were the Montreal Expos, who had the game's best record -- 78-40 -- and were odds-on favorites to go all the way. If they had, they may not have had to relocate to Washington ten seasons later.
-- The strike also produced baseball's all-time looniest trade: the Minnesota Twins sent Dave Winfield to Cleveland for the traditional "player to be named later" before the end of the season. As the season was never resumed, the front offices of the Twins and Indians went to settle the deal over dinner. They never did agree on a player, but the Cleveland executives picked up the tab -- so essentially Dave Winfield was traded for a dinner.
Perhaps there was an upside to the '84 strike after all. A Canadian team had won the 1992-1993 World Series, and if the Expos had won the Series in 1994, America's pastime might never have recovered from the blow of three straight Canadian world champions.
Trivia question: Who was the last "scab" player hired by the owners to still play major league baseball? Answer: Kevin Millar currently plays, fittingly, in Canada for the Blue Jays, who won the last two World Series, 1993-1994, before the strike.
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