The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. The boys of summer. The field of dreams. The smell of peanuts and stale beer. The stadium announcer’s introductions. Who’s gonna sing the national anthem? Who’ll throw out the first pitch? These are some of the images that I looked forward to every spring. Every year until 1994. When baseball went on strike, I went on strike against baseball. At the time, major league baseball (MLB), including the owners and players, forgot about the fans in their dispute, and I believed then that fans should stay away from baseball. I have ever since.
–Time August 22, 1994 cover from www.time.com
1994 was the season of no World Series. I was a die hard baseball fan then, and I have not and cannot bring myself to participate as a fan as I once did. You see, I went to opening night in 1973, the second season MLB was in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, and I was a loyal fan until the 1994-1995 strike. I was there all the years the Texas Rangers were losers. I was there the night of Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strikeout. I was there shortly after the new Ballpark in Arlington opened (at the beginning of the 1994 season). I had gone to Fan Fairs and autograph shows and charity auctions at the stadium. I had stood in longs lines to get autographs of famous players and favorite players. I have autographs by Whitey Ford, Willie Mayes, and even Leo Durocher.
The owners and the players were both at fault back then and I blamed both of them equally for what happened.
The paying public that finances the game were the ones who suffered the most. To many Americans, baseball is a national asset, kind of like the national parks. Baseball is an event that brings families together out to the ballparks, as well as companies, friends, and children. When there was no baseball, many people had no place to go and nothing to do. Their favorite pastime was stolen from them.
At the time, there were many other casualties of the strike. Think of all the employees of the bars and restaurants that surrounded all the stadiums across America and Canada. Since business was down, they had to be let go or did not make near the same amount of money as they would have if there were no strike. What about all of the apparel manufacturers and retailers all over the country? And the small vendors who sold their wares at kiosks and at the stadiums? Cab companies and other transportation companies had less business. TV and radio stations lost lots of revenue, along with the national networks. A host of suppliers and service companies lost out. And then there were the little people that also lost out: parking attendants, ushers, ticket takers, and those dedicated concession workers. Even the homeless suffered. Many caterers would give their unsold food to homeless shelters after every game.
I am sure that the owners and players lost millions of dollars. But it cost the fans 921 regular season games, as well as post season play and the World Series.
Personally, I just could not go back to baseball. I used to go to approximately 35 games a year and even went to see the Rangers on the road a few times. I paid so much attention to the sports media concerning the game. Now, I occasionally pay attention to a particular game or read about the Rangers and other teams in the sports section, but maybe attend 2 games a year, usually if someone else pays. I wonder if there are any other fans that left the game back then like I have?
I am not sorry I left MLB. Later I was disturbed to find out that many of my beloved players were using steroids then (Rafael Palmiero, Pudge Rodriguez). I am happy that I left the game when I did and have never really gone back. I have saved a lot of money over the years. I laugh at the salaries now and how outrageous they have become. Nolan Ryan is now the president of the Texas Rangers. I don’t care.