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Oct 2, 2023

We explore the traumatic events of Major League Baseball's notorious 1994-95 players' strike - with Chico State history professor Bob Cottrell ("The Year Without a World Series: Major League Baseball and the Road to the 1994 Players' Strike").

More than 900 regular season games, the entirety of the playoffs, and, for the first time in 90 years, the sport's signature World Series - were all lost to the work stoppage, which began on August 12, 1994.  

The strike ended late into the 1995 preseason, when then-US District Court judge Sonia Sotomayor granted an injunction sought by the players' association to prevent club owners from using replacement players.  The ruling forced both sides to come to an agreement, and regular-season play resumed with a delayed and truncated 144-game schedule at the end of April. (Ironically, MLB umpires decided to go on strike just as the two sides settled their dispute, so the 1995 season opened with regular players - but replacement umpires!)

Among the strike's biggest victims (besides the fans!):

  • The Montreal Expos had the best record in baseball when the strike was called in 1994. They were forced to dismantle their expensive squad in a fire sale before the 1995 season, a decision that ultimately led to the franchise's relocation within a decade.

  • Tony Gwynn missed his best chance to achieve a .400 batting average in 1994. He was hitting .394 for the season and had maintained a .417 pace in the 25 games leading up to the suspension of play.

  • Matt Williams had a legitimate opportunity to break Roger Maris' single-season home run record of 61 in 1994. Williams had hit 43 home runs when the strike halted the season, ending his pursuit of the record.

  • The Colorado Rockies, in their final season at Mile High Stadium in 1994, were drawing impressive crowds, averaging 57,570 fans per game. They were on track to potentially break baseball's attendance record of 4.48 million, set by the team the previous year.

  • Michael Jordan, known for his basketball career, was playing for the Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons when the MLB strike began in 1994. There was speculation that he might have been given the opportunity to play for the Chicago White Sox, his major league parent team, that September if the strike had not occurred.

The strike also marked the end of the "independent Commissioner" era, as the owners, hesitant to contend with an arbiter who might challenge their unwavering stances, opted to appoint one of their own, Bud Selig, as acting Commissioner.

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