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Dec 23, 1994 – THE DARK DAYS

NEW YORK, NEW YORK • It was not a good time for major league baseball. As a players’ strike dragged into its fourth month on this date in 1994, the owners declared an impasse and imposed a salary cap just before Christmas.

The strike had abruptly ended the previous season in August. For the first time since 1904 there was no World Series. Fans were not pleased.

As far as the owners were concerned, “players had attained a position of bargaining power that inflated salaries beyond reason.”

As Leonard Koppett describes in Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, “distrust was the central issue.” As far as the owners were concerned, “players had attained a position of bargaining power that inflated salaries beyond reason.” The players’ position was that the owners reneged on an earlier agreement, lied about MLBs finances and were simply trying to break the union.

The strike ended in April of 1995. As the following list indicates, average salaries went down, considerably for some teams immediately after the strike.

Team…………………………….1994…………..1995
Detroit Tigers……………$1.3M………..$225,000
New York Yankees……$1.3M………….$531,000
Atlanta Braves………….$750,000…….$550,000
Chicago White Sox……$750,000…….$775,000
Philadelphia Phillies…$750,000…….$250,000
Kansas City Royals……$700,000…….$300,000
San Francisco Giants…$700,000…….$325,000
Boston Red Sox………….$650,000……..$282,500
Cleveland Indians………$650,000…….$725,000
Baltimore Orioles………$637,500……..$387,500
Los Angeles Dodgers….$600,000…….$287,500
St. Louis Cardinals……..$587,500…….$300,000
Toronto Blue Jays………$530,000……..$425,000
Cincinnati Reds………….$500,000……. $600,000
Texas Rangers……………$475,000……. $270,000
Oakland Athletics……….$413,500……..$235,000
Los Angeles Angels…….$400,000……..$185,000
Milwaukee Brewers……$350,000……..$158,000
Houston Astros…………..$340,000……..$185,000
Chicago Cubs………………$300,000……..$240,000
New York Mets……………$290,000……..$210,000
Seattle Mariners………….$275,000……..$275,000
Minnesota Twins………..$262,500……..$167,500
Florida Marlins…………..$230,000……..$185,000
Colorado Rockies…………$224,000…….$350,000
Washington Nationals…$200,000…….$185,000
Pittsburgh Pirates………..$192,500……..$225,000
San Diego Padres…………$167,500……..$200,500

But it didn’t take long for average player salaries to skyrocket again. They are  in another stratosphere today. The average player salary in 1995 was just over $1-Million. An Associated Press study of salaries at the start of the 2016 season showed average player salaries had more than quadrupled to $4.4-Million.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES: 
CBSsports.com  
Leonard Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 1998

Comments welcome:

Dec 22, 1915 – THREE’S a CROWD

CINCINNATI, OHIO • The upstart Federal League‘s attempt at being a third major league came to an end on this date in 1915. The official word was National League, American League and Federal League bosses settled their differences at a meeting in Cincinnati. What in fact happened was the NL and AL flexed their muscles, and the Federal League ceased to exist. The rise and fall of the renegade league also put the wheels in motion to exempt major league baseball from competition.

The Federal League came about as a minor league in 1912. It declared itself a “major league” in 1914 and had a couple successful seasons with close pennant races, stars lured from the National and American Leagues and good attendance. It was an eight-team league competing in the major league cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Brooklyn and Pittsburgh (it also had teams in Baltimore, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Buffalo).

What brought about the events of this day in 1915 was the Federal League had filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National and American Leagues claiming they were illegal monopolies. The case stalled in the court of federal judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis while the future baseball commissioner urged negotiation. The Federal League’s position weakened as the delay drained it of funds. Several FL owners were bought out and some teams absorbed into the NL and AL.

But the Baltimore franchise of the Federal League was not happy with the agreement and sued. The lawsuit went all the way to the United States Supreme Court which ruled in 1922 that major league baseball was exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act, a decision in affect to this day.

Ironically, the episode gave a glimpse of what was to come 60 years later – free agency. Not only would the 1915 agreement bring amnesty for National and American League players who had jumped to the Federal League, but they would be able to sell their services to the highest bidder.

Another legacy of the defunct Federal League was Chicago’s Weeghman Park, built for the now defunct Chicago Whales. It was taken over by the National League franchise Chicago Cubs and renamed Wrigley Field, the same park they play in to this day.

 

Contributing sources:
Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, December 23, 1915
Wikipedia

 

Dec 21, 2005 – LESS IS MORE

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA • ‘If you take away seats, they will come,’ seemed to be the intention when the Oakland A’s announced on this date in 2005 that they will no longer sell seats to the upper deck in McAfee Coliseum (now called Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum).

At a time when ballparks like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are squeezing more seats into their venues, the A’s are trying to pretend an upper deck of empty seats doesn’t exist. The move reduced the A’s ballpark’s capacity, at the time, to the lowest in the major leagues.

It was another act in the drama playing out in the East Bay over a new place for the A’s to play. Team president Michael Crowley told reporters back in 2005, “Our goal is to create a more intimate ballpark atmosphere and bring our seating capacity in line to what we have proposed for our new venue.”

While the team seems to annually over-achieve on the field the A’s have struck out on a new ballpark deal. But as of December 2016 the A’s have restructured their leadership with the goal of making it happen this time.

Stay tuned.

Contributing sources:
Comcast SportsNet, “Futuristic, Transforming Stadiums offer Intriguing Solutions For Oakland,” by Andy Dolich, December 19, 2016
San Jose Mercury News, December 16, 2013

Comments are welcome

Dec 19, 2003 – BLOW IT UP!

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • A die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and restaurateur paid in excess of $106,000 on this date in 2003 for a baseball so he could have the pleasure of destroying it.

With all due respect to Cub fans who want to blame Bartman, none of the “fans” around him appeared to have the foresight to clear the way so Alou could catch the ball.

Grant Deporter got custody of the ball Chicago Cubs’ left fielder Moises Alou was trying to catch before Steve Bartman got in the way. Deporter, a managing partner of Harry Caray’s restaurant, had the ball blown to smithereens on the former Cubs announcer’s birthday in February ‘04 as an act of exorcism.

With all due respect to Cub fans who want to blame Bartman, none of the “fans” around him appeared to have the foresight to clear the way so Alou could catch the ball, and help the Cubs get to their first World Series in almost 60 years. Everyone was focused on the souvenir. Bartman just happened to be the closest to it.

Had Alou caught the ball, the Cubs would have been four outs from the World Series. The Florida Marlins would have had two outs in the eighth with a man on second and the Cubs ahead 3-0. Instead, the Marlins had one out and Luis Castillo had new life. He ended up walking, and then the flood gates opened, aided by a botched double play ball to the Cubs’ shortstop.

The Marlins ended up scoring 8 runs beating the Cubs 8-3. The Marlins won again the next night and took the series. For Cub fans, wait till next year, again.

The exorcising of the ball may have worked. It took another 13 years, but, as we all know, the Cubs not only made it to the World Series in 2016, they won it.

Contributing sources:
The Chicago Tribune, October 20, 2003
“Price surpasses even Buckner’s ball,” by Darren Rovell, ESPN, Dec 19, 2003

Comments are welcome:

Dec 12th in baseball history-LEAGUES FLIP OVER DH

1928 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – The designated hitter, that polarizing rule one league loves and the other hates, was initially suggested on this date in 1928, but the tables were most distinctly turned.

NL president John Heydler pushed the idea at the 1928 winter meetings in Chicago because, “the public has tired of the endless shifts in lineups due to the inability of pitchers to hit.”

American League owners got a big laugh from the idea suggested by the president of the National League – yes, the National League! “After laughing themselves sick,” Edward Burns wrote in the next day’s Chicago Daily Tribune, “the magnates went on record as being officially against the idea.” The idea was the designated hitter, the “DH,” although at the time it was referred to as the “Ten-Man Team” rule.

NL president John Heydler pushed the idea at the 1928 winter meetings in Chicago because, “the public has tired of the endless shifts in lineups due to the inability of pitchers to hit.” Heydler went on to tell his fellow owners, “The average pitcher not only is helpless at bat, but when they happen to get to base they are not inclined to run. They want to conserve their energy for pitching purposes.”

How ironic that 45 years later, in 1973, the American League would enact the DH and the National League would want nothing to do with it.

Contributing sources:
“Magnates give Heydler idea a great big laugh,” by Edward Burns, Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 13, 1928
“Heydler tells details of ‘Ten Man Team’ idea,” by Irving Vaughan, Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 15, 1928