Twenty years ago today – Aug. 11, 1994 – baseball came to a stop.
A work stoppage ended play before the season was eventually canceled Sept. 14. The impact might not have been felt here considering Phoenix wasn’t awarded a franchise until 1995.
I was in my home state of Ohio 20 years ago and it believe me when I tell you it was a harsh reality in northeast Ohio.
The Indians were in a pennant race for the first time since 1954 and the city of Cleveland was caught up in it. Games at the brand new Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) were thrilling, they seemed to have a walk-off wins every other game and we were about to experience postseason baseball for the first time.
The strike – the eighth in 23 years - came with the Indians in second place in the AL Central at 66-47. Up to that point (I was 23) I had only seen one winning record in my lifetime so this just unreal. It was the first year of the three divisions per league and the Indians were in second place behind the Chicago White Sox but first in the wild card.
Then it ended.
So much was lost and not just in Cleveland.
Montreal had the best record in baseball at 74-40. If they go on to the playoffs and maybe win it all, does the city still have a franchise after the windfall of postseason cash?
At least the Indians got a bit of a reprieve (but never the world title) by making the World Series in 1995 and 1997, while the Expos never regained form before the franchise eventually migrated to Washington.
The late, great Tony Gwynn was hitting .394 at the time. It would have been a treat to watch the best hitter of my lifetime make a charge at .400.
Matt Williams and Ken Griffey Jr. had 43 and 40 home runs, respectively, in about 110 games meaning they could have made a run at Roger Maris’s 61 long before Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went toe-to-toe (or PED-to-PED if you prefer) in 1998.
It was a terrific season and everyone knew it would eventually be remembered more about Donald Fehr than the fearsome hitters that summer.
I felt cheated.
I had a 20-game package despite still being in college. And I went as often as I could when I didn’t have tickets. Here I was getting to see a good baseball team in my hometown for the first time and truly seeing how a winning team could transform a city.
And just like that because the two sides dissolved the season instead of putting their differences aside for the good of the game it was gone.
We’ll never know how the end of the ’94 season would have ended, but in my mind Gwynn hit .403 after going 4-for-5 in the final game and the Indians beat the Expos in six games for the franchise’s first World Series since 1948.
It’s either that or live vicariously through the movie Major League.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.