Image via WikipediaOpening Day is almost here...3 days left! Continuing our countdown, and remembering that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it, we celebrate the fact that we have baseball by looking back on a few times when we didn't: 3 of baseball's official player strikes:
1. April 1, 1972 - April 12, 1972
For the first time in MLB history, the players refused to take the field and it looked as though we might be faced with no MLB season. Thankfully, players and owners came to an agreement fairly quickly, that saw $500,000 increase in MLB pension fund payments and Salary Arbitration added to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. 86 games were lost to the strike, with each team's season shortened by about 5 or 6 games.
2. June 12, 1981 - July 31, 1981
The Players Union would strike again nine years later, this time taking a chunk out of the middle of the season's schedule. This time, the agreement that eventually brought the season back favored the owners: teams that lost a "premier" player to Free Agency would now be able to be compensated by selecting a player from a pool of the unprotected players on all other teams (not just the team that signed that the Free Agent), and Free Agent status would be limited to players with six or more years of Major League service. But 713 games were lost to the strike, and an inelegant split-season format was used for the playoffs which saw the teams with best overall records for the year sitting on the sidelines. Attendance dropped precipitously as the fans indicated their frustration by simply not showing up for much of the second half of the season and into the next.
3. August 12, 1994 - April 2, 1995
The infamous strike of 1994 basically revolved around the idea of a salary cap. The owners wanted one, claiming that otherwise small-market teams could simply no longer compete in the Free Agent Era; the players did not want one, fearing that it would simply be a tool for the owners to artificially manipulate player salaries. between 931 and 948 games were lost to the strike, including the entire 1994 post season (which accounts for the imprecise number of games lost, based on the minimum and maximum number of post-season games that might have been played). It was the first time in 90 years that no World Series was played. The owners threatened to play the 1995 season with replacement players ("scabs"), further infuriating the players union and seemingly bringing all attempts to reach agreement to an end, until then Federal Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a preliminary injunction against the owners, effectively bringing the strike to an end. The players returned to the field on April 2. However, the fans stayed away in droves, to paraphrase Yogi Berra. Plummeting attendance meant plummeting revenues for each team and for the league. Three strikes and you're out, the saying goes - that may well have been the case for the MLB had the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run race of 1998 not brought the fans back.
Here's hoping we never need to live through another strike again!