The 1994 baseball strike resulted in the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years. It lasted 232 days (August 12, 1994–April 2, 1995), led to the cancellation of 920 games overall, and dragged into the next spring. Baseball became the first sport in history to lose its postseason to a labor dispute. For the first time since 1904, there was no national professional baseball champion. It was the eighth work stoppage in baseball history and the fourth in-season work stoppage in 23 years.
Owners demanded a salary cap in response to the worsening financial situation in baseball (i.e. keep expenditure down). Ownership claimed that unless teams agreed to share local broadcasting revenues (to increase equity amongst the teams) and enact a salary cap, small-market clubs would fall by the wayside, a proposal that the players adamantly opposed. On January 18, 1994, the owners approved a new revenue-sharing plan keyed to a salary cap, which required the players’ approval. The following day, the owners amended the Major League agreement by giving complete power to the commissioner on labor negotiations.
The dispute was played out with a backdrop of years of hostility and mistrust between the two sides. What arguably stood in the way of a compromise settlement was the absence of an official commissioner ever since the owners forced Fay Vincent to resign in September of 1992. Incidentally, on February 11, 1994, the owners greatly reduced the commissioner's power to act in "the best interests of baseball."
Owner representative Richard Ravitch officially unveiled the ownership proposal on June 14, 1994. The proposal would guarantee a record $1 billion in salary and benefits. But the ownership proposal also would have forced clubs to fit their payrolls into a more evenly based structure. Salary arbitration would have been eliminated, free agency would begin after four years rather than six, and owners would have retained the right to keep a four or five year player by matching his best offer. Owners claimed that their proposal would raise average salaries from $1.2 million in 1994 to $2.6 million by 2001.
Major League Baseball Players Association leader Donald Fehr rejected the offer from the owners on July 18. Fehr believed that a salary cap was simply a way for owners to clean up their own disparity problems with no benefit to the players. Many observers believed the strike put Fehr in over his head. Some claimed that given the mercurial mentality of the owners Fehr was matched against, even Disraeli would have been in over his head.
On July 13, 1993, Fehr said that if serious negotiations between the players and the owners did not begin soon, the players could have gone out on strike in September of that year, threatening the postseason. On December 31, 1993, Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement ran out with no new agreement yet signed.
As negotiations continued to heat up, the owners decided to withhold $7.8 million that they were required to pay per previous agreement into the players' pension and benefit plans. The final straw fell came on June 23 when the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to approve an antitrust legislation by a vote of 10-7. According to Donald Fehr, the action left the players with little choice but to strike.
- "We felt in '94 we were pushed into it," said Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. "I still think that's a justified conclusion."
Strike in effectEdit
On August 31, three-and-a-half hours of negotiations with federal mediators produced no progress in the strike, and no further talks were scheduled as the strike went into its 4th week. According to then-acting commissioner Bud Selig, September 9 was the tentative deadline for canceling the rest of the season if no agreement was reached between the owners and players. The MLBPA offered a counterproposal to ownership on September 8 calling for a two-percent tax on the 16 franchises with the highest payrolls to be divided among the other 12 clubs. Teams in both leagues would share 25% of all gate receipts under the MLBPA's plan. The owners responded by claiming that the measures wouldn't meet the cost.
The rest of the season, including the World Series, was called off by Bud Selig on September 14. Selig acknowledged that the strike had torn an irreparable hole in the game's fabric. The move to cancel the rest of the season meant the loss of $580 million in ownership revenue and $230 million in player salaries. In 1994, the average MLB salary was an estimated $1.2 million.
Many baseball fans lament that, while the Spanish Flu, two World Wars, the Great Depression, earthquakes, and other disasters could not cancel a World Series, financial issues could and did. Many analysts blame the strike and the cancellation of the World Series for baseball's sharp drop in popularity in the ensuing years.
The then-Montréal Expos' best season in their history was interrupted by the strike. They had the best record in baseball, 74-40, and were six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East despite having the second-lowest payroll in the Majors (only the San Diego Padres had a smaller payroll). Some baseball writers were considering the Expos as major World Series contenders. (With no official division champion, the Braves were able to continue building their record streak of consecutive division championships, at 14 through 2005.)
Chicago White Sox star Frank Thomas, who wound up winning the American League's Most Valuable Player Award in 1994, said "I've had a career year, but I'm not going to finish it." Tony Gwynn had a chance to be the first finish a season over .400 since Ted Williams, as he was batting .394 at the time of the strike. The strike also cost Matt Williams of the San Francisco Giants a chance to beat Roger Maris' single season home run record - he was on pace for over 60 homers when the strike hit with 47 games left to play and already had 43 homeruns. Cleveland Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga was unable to extend his record two-year streak of 20 home runs, 200 hits, and 100 RBI by a second baseman because of the strike. Seattle Mariners star Ken Griffey, Jr., who led the American League with 41 home runs at the time of the strike summed it up best by saying "We picked a bad season to have a good year." Kevin Mitchell of the Cincinnati Reds, Julio Franco of the Chicago White Sox, and Shane Mack of the Minnesota Twins, all .325 hitters in 1994, opted during the strike to play in Japan in 1995.
One of the few positive notes was that fans were spared from witnessing one of the worst division races in history. The Texas Rangers were leading the newly reformed American League West despite being 10 games under .500. The last-place California Angels were only 5 ½ games out despite having the second-worst record in the majors at 21 games under .500 — on pace for 96 losses.
By the third day of the strike, Cleveland Indians owner Richard Jacobs directed that all souvenirs being sold at the Indians' gift shop carrying the words "inaugural season at Jacobs Field" be sold at half price.
On December 5, it was announced that Richard Ravitch would step down as negotiator for the owners on December 31, 1994. Ravitch instead resigned on December 6, 1994. On December 14, labor talks headed by federal mediator Bill Usery broke down. The next day, the owners approved a salary cap plan by a vote of 25-3, but agreed to delay implementing it so that another round of talks with the players could be held. On December 23, with negotiations at a standstill, the owners unilaterally implemented a salary cap. Then they started to discuss the uses of highschoolers as pros.
On January 1, 1995 five bills aimed at ending the baseball strike were introduced into Congress. Four days later, Donald Fehr declared all 895 unsigned Major League players to be free agents in response to unilateral contract changes made by the owners. On January 10, arbitrator Thomas Roberts awarded 11 players a total of almost $10 million as a result of collusion charges brought against the owners. On January 26, both players and owners were ordered by President Bill Clinton to resume bargaining and reach an agreement by February 6. Unfortunately, President Clinton's deadline came and went with no resolution of the strike. Just five days earlier, the owners agreed to revoke their arbitrarily imposed salary cap and return to the old agreement.
See also: List of Major League Baseball replacement players After the deadline passed with no compromises, the use of replacement players for spring training and regular season games was approved by baseball's executive council on January 13. Replacement players (among them, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd), were reportedly guaranteed $5,000 for reporting to spring training and another $5,000 if they made the Opening Day roster.
- "We are committed to playing the 1995 season and will do so with the best players willing to play." – Bud Selig
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos on the other hand, announced that his team wouldn't use replacement players. On March 20, Angelos' Orioles cancelled the remainder of their spring training games because of the team's refusal to use replacement players. The next day, the Maryland House of Delegates approved legislation to bar teams playing at Camden Yards from using replacement players.
In addition to Peter Angelos' problems, Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson was put on an involuntary leave of absence as he refused to manage replacement players. Two days after Anderson's punishment, the Toronto Blue Jays assigned manager Cito Gaston and his coaching staff to work with minor league players so that they wouldn't have to deal with replacement players. On March 14, the players' union announced that it would not settle the strike if replacement players were used in regular season games, and if results were not voided. On April 28, the Ontario Labor Board announced that replacement umpires would not be allowed to work Blue Jays home games. Under the Ontario labor law then in force, replacement workers were not permitted to be used during a strike or lockout.
On March 29, the players voted to return to work if a U.S. District Court judge supported the National Labor Relations Board's unfair labor practices complaint against the owners (which was filed on March 27). By a vote of 26-2, owners supported the use of replacement players. The strike ended when federal judge Sonia Sotomayor issued a preliminary injunction against the owners on March 31. On Sunday, April 2, 1995, the 232 day long strike was finally over. Judge Sotomayor's decision received support from a panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which denied the owners' request to stay the ruling. Sotomayer later became an Appeals Court Judge herself in 1998 and was nominated by Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court (to replace Retiring Justice David Souter) on May 26, 2009. After some partisan dispute, Sonia Sotomayor, the Baseball Judge, was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 68-41 on August 6, 2009, and she was sworn in on Saturday, August 8, 2009 in a ceremony carried on national TV. Sotomayor, the Baseball Jude, was honored on June 4, 2010 when Bronxdale Houses, where she grew up, was renamed Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses.
The 1995 season, which was revised to 144 games instead of the normal 162 (a decision that was made on March 26), resumed April 25 under the conditions of the expired contract despite the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. The regular officials continued to be locked out until May 3.
On Opening Day in 1995, three men, who were each wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word "Greed", leaped onto the field at Shea Stadium and tossed more than $150 in $1 bills at players. In Cincinnati, one fan paid for a plane to fly over Riverfront Stadium that dragged a sign reading "Players and Owners — To Hell With You!" The meager crowds at the openers often booed at the players for their rusty fundamentals, shoddy defense, and in response to frequent high-scoring contest. Fans in Pittsburgh disrupted Opening Day by throwing sticks on the field, and holding up the action for 17 minutes. Despite just 6,300 fans at the New York Yankees' pre-opening workout, 50,245 show up for the opener, the smallest opening crowd at Yankee Stadium since 1990. Incidentally, the opening games were played with replacement umpires, the first time since 1984 that replacement umpires were used.
On August 3, 1995, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a bill calling for the partial repeal of baseball's antitrust exemption to the full Senate. The vote was just 9-8. On August 9, George Nicolau, baseball's impartial arbitrator since 1986, was fired by Major League owners.
On September 29, 1995, a three-judge panel in New York voted unanimously to uphold the injunction that brought the end to the strike in April 1995. The owners had appealed the injunction issued last March 31, but the panel said the Players Relations Committee had illegally attempted to eliminate free agency and salary arbitration.
The strike is largely blamed for the ultimate demise and relocation of the Montréal Expos. The team was forced to release many of its players to deal with the loss of revenue following the strike, and never again reached the same level of success they had in 1994. After the 2004 season, they moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals.
Some political analysts believed the 1994 mid-term elections were influenced by the strike as a negative connotation towards labor unions, and the dangers of the labor unions led to voters turning out against labor unions.
It also allowed Japanese baseball to develop into a legitimate showcase for players. Many members of the American baseball media went to Tokyo to cover the 1994 Japan Series, which made the cover of Sports Illustrated, as the magazine decided to cover as the Fall Classic.
Ichiro Suzuki of the Orix Blue Wave and Hideki Matsui of the Yomiuri Giants became well-known to American audiences through coverage of Japanese baseball which replaced MLB coverage in some media outlets. Matsui, a young 20-year old star, was part of the kyojin's championship run.
In 2001, 2002 and 2004, players who were part of the World Series winning Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angels and Boston Red Sox were not permitted on commemorative merchandise because players on the teams were declared replacement players for their participation in spring training. The players who were noted are Damian Miller of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, Brendan Donnelly of the 2002 Anaheim Angels and Kevin Millar of the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
W = Wins, L = Losses, GB = Games Behind, PCT= Winning Percentage
NOTE: There are no official champions, all teams finished in last place. For purposes of the 1995 All-Star Game, however, the managers of the unofficial league champions (best record) were awarded the customary role of an official league champion as manager of that league. Note also that each of the teams in the American League West had a below 0.500 winning percentage at the time of the strike and that the Atlanta Braves were in second place behind the Montreal Expos on the strike date, which would've cut short the Braves' record of consecutive NL Eastern division championships.
|New York Yankees||70||43||.619||0||$47,512,342|
|Toronto Blue Jays||55||60||.478||16||$42,265,168|
|Boston Red Sox||54||61||.470||17||$36,337,937|
|Chicago White Sox||67||46||.593||0||$40,144,836|
|Kansas City Royals||64||51||.557||4||$40,667,375|
|New York Mets||55||58||.487||18½||$30,903,583|
|St. Louis Cardinals||53||61||.465||13||$29,622,052|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||58||56||.509||0||$38,837,526|
|San Francisco Giants||55||60||.478||3½||$42,260,538|
|San Diego Padres||47||70||.402||12½||$13,774,268|
- Quoted from:Cincinnati Reds homepage