By Daniel Johnson, Staff Writer
Published in print Aug. 27, 2014
On August 11, 1994, the final games of the 1994 Major League Baseball season were played. The next day, every professional player walked out his locker room, not to return until April 25, 1995.
This was the first work stoppage in the league’s history and for the first time since Teddy Roosevelt was President, no World Series was played that season.
The success of the strike made the MLB Players Union the strongest in professional sports. Even today, the Players Union has helped MLB players earn the highest salary in any major sport.
However, it came at a cost to the players, teams and most importantly, the fans.
Prior to the abrupt end to the 1994 season, two players seemed to be on pace to rewrite history.
The late, great San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn had a batting average of .394 and was potentially set to become the first player since Ted Williams in 1941 to have a batting average of .400.
The second player, San Francisco Giants infielder Matt Williams had hit 43 home runs up till the final game in August. Williams was seventeen homers away from breaking the single season home run record set by Roger Maris in 1961.
Separately from individuals, no team suffered more from the strike than the Montreal Expos.
The franchise had been established in 1969 and at that point, only made one postseason appearance in the strike shortened 1981 season that saw baseball play two halves of a season.
By the end of the season due to the strike, the Expos had the best record in the league, and with all their potential, could not play in the postseason. Larry Walker,
their best player, was a free agent after the 1994 season, and signed with the Colorado Rockies. Over the next three seasons, the once promising roster, which featured All Stars Pedro Martinez and Moises Alou, had been gutted throughout the league.
A decade later, the Expos played their final game in Montreal and relocated to become the Washington Nationals.
Still, in the strike of 1994, the greatest casualties were the fans of baseball. In the year after the strike, game attendance dropped an exponential 20 percent.
Even today, the effects are still felt. Out of the ten students I interviewed if they followed or watch baseball, only one said yes. Professional sports such as the NBA and NFL have seem to surpassed the MLB in popularity domestically.
For baseball to build its way back to prominence, the game has to make two adjustments that were a common issue I found during in my survey.
First, the games are too long. Unlike other sports, there is no clock to baseball. Games can be as short as two and a half hours or go on for four hours. They are also slowed by pitching changes, unlimited mound visits and pitchers who take long to deliver pitches.
Another problem I noticed was a lack of young faces to the game. During the interviews, I asked each student if they knew who Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen are, the past two MVPs. All but one gave me a confused face.
But when asked if they knew who Derek Jeter was, the retiring veteran New York Yankees shortstop, everyone at least heard of the name. Despite other players like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw having national commercials, their names are not as well known as other young sport stars such as Russell Wilson in the NFL or Kevin Durant in the NBA.
20 Years later, a dwindling popularity among young fans and failure to advertise its superstars have seen baseball sadly regress into the national consciousness. Attempting to revitalize the national pastime, new commissioner Rob Manfred will seek to build the game back to its once high position in the country’s culture.