As a nine year old boy on this date 18 years ago, there was a lot I didn’t know. I didn’t know what the internet was. I didn’t know I would write about sports (actually, I did know that). I didn’t know anything about labor laws. I didn’t know that 10 years later there would be no baseball team in my home city.
What I did know 18 years ago was that I was watching something special. For the first time in my life, I was watching the best baseball team in the world right in front of me. But back to what I didn’t know. I didn’t know it would be the last time.
There is a lot that is fuzzy around the summer of 1994. What I know was that I was at Olympic Stadium watching the Expos with my parents who brought me to the game for my birthday. I do remember that the Expos won. And I remember that after the game, the scoreboard showed the updated NL East standings. And there it was, the Expos had a 1.5 game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves. The crowd, which did not leave right after the game, gave the standings a standing ovation. Thanks to Baseball Reference, I am able to fill in the gaps. It was July 24 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was Montreal’s sixth win in a row and they were on their way to Atlanta. They would end up winning eight straight before losing the third game of the three-game series. By the time August came, and the strike called, they would have a six game lead. In their last 23 games, they would lose only three.
We all know what happened then. When it came to the Expos, when baseball returned in 1995 then-owner Claude Brochu got GM Kevin Malone to trade the team’s best players in a span of a few days. 10 years after the strike the team would be in Washington.
However, while the Expos are the most tragic story, they aren’t the only one. The 1994 season was the glory days of the 1990’s. Steroids were (probably) around but not prevalent like they would be later on. Superstars were on their way to record breaking seasons. The All-Star rosters read like a team of the decade.
In fact, Ranger fans like you were also affected. The team was going for their first-ever playoff berth, leading an under-.500 AL West when the strike hit. For Texas, their chance to cheer for a playoff team would come two years later instead.
The Yankees, once powerful, were going for their first playoff spot in a long time as well. They wouldn’t have to wait long, and ever since 1995, the thought of a lengthy run of playoffs without the Yankees would be laughable.
Jeff Bagwell was probably one player who was most helped by the Strike. He was having a great season and eventually won the National League MVP. However, right before the strike Bagwell was hit by a pitch and would have missed significant time. Instead, the season was over and the time missed would not affect him at all.
And so it was, 18 years ago today and the first time in almost 100 years there was no World Series played. The funny thing is, baseball may be in a better place it was then but not in the way they would have thought and they had to take the long road back with a couple of detours.
My relationship with baseball changed as a nine year old. Now, I understand why the strike happened and instead of my anger towards the players or the owners it is directed to one owner: Claude Brochu who failed to see the potential of what a 1995 run would do for baseball in Montreal.
As for the Rangers, they were in the first part of a glory days state. Then after a lull, they got back to the promise land. I wonder how fans in the mid-1990’s would have dealt with the ups and downs of a first place club coming off of two straight World Series appearances. Success spoils some of us.