Monday, August 11, 2014

20 Years Ago — When Baseball Changed

Twenty years ago today the game ended and I was able to say “I told you so,” to two of my friends.

The 1994 baseball season abruptly stopped on August 12 that year and didn't resume until the following spring, some 232 days later. It was the worst baseball strike; the World Series was cancelled for the first time in 90 years — the contest wasn't played in 1904 because New York Giants' owner John Brush felt his American League opponent, the Boston Red Sox, were “inferior.”

Two weeks earlier, on July 31, 1994, I called it as I and two friends drove around Busch Stadium in an endless loop while the Cardinals played Chicago inside. I begged my pals to go to the game, saying it would be the last chance that year we would have to see them. The Cards were scheduled to hit the road after playing the Cubs, heading to Montreal, Pittsburgh and then Florida. I knew it would be over soon.

They made it to Miami when the game ended.

My friends and I drove up to St. Louis for the day. We stopped at the train station just to the west of the stadium and saw the crowd decked in their Cardinals' wear preparing to head to the last game of the team's home stand.

I asked my friends if we could go, too. We weren't in my car, even though I drove. (One of the Guys Rules is that you do what the owner of the car wants, regardless who is behind the wheel.) They both wouldn't go and they placated me, saying I could go some other time that year. That's when I told them there would be no “other time.” It was either that day, or forget it. The baseball season would soon end. I may have even forecast the cancellation of the World Series.

But they still held back. I went for a more direct approach, asking them if they maybe had a quilting bee they needed to attend then, or some cooking show they wanted to watch. I said they could drop me off and then pick me up a few hours later after they stopped at their favorite dress stores. I asked the guys if their husbands knew they were out.. that sort of thing. You know. Hit 'em where it hurts.

Still, no game.

So, I drove around the stadium several times, peering inside in hopes of catching even a slight glimpse of baseball. Eventually, we left downtown, went to some inane mall and headed home, defeated, dejected and depressed.

And baseball changed. When the players returned in April 1995, attendance dropped by 20 percent, according to U.S Bureau of Statistics. Regardless of who was wrong in causing the strike, fans stayed away. It took the 1998 baseball home race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire to bring them back. And then we learned those home runs were aided by steroids and, perhaps, baseball commissioner Bud Selig may have turned a blind eye toward PED usage in an effort to garner more fan support.

I, like a lot of people 20 years ago today, lost a part of the love of baseball I had since I was a kid. As we get older, we lose trust in lots of things, but we shouldn't lose it in the sport that is supposed to keep us young. I still embrace the history of baseball and that's where our APBA games come in. We can replay seasons of ago that still maintain that trust and, if we want, we can replay the 1994 season and ignore the strike and keep it going like it should have done.

Rolling the dice in our APBA game — sure beats driving around a stadium all day.

1 comment:

  1. I know baseball has had it's ups and downs recently. But it's a great game no matter what. Watching the extra innings between Detroit and Toronto the other day was fantastic. Saw some things happened there that I've never seen before.

    I'm also fortunate enough at 61 years old to still be playing baseball (not softball), but baseball. It's called Roy Hobbs baseball. There are some days that I don't feel like to going to play, but once I get to the diamond and play begins, it still a marvelous feeling and always reminds me what a great game it is.

    I hope over time your feelings change back to what they once were.