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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

The Game that Never Happened in a Season that Never Concluded

Every August 11, I feel sadness tinged with anger.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the final day of baseball in the 1994 season. The battle between wealthy owners and wealthy players over issues about which most baseball fans do not care – how to split an ever-growing money pie – reached an impasse that led to an extended player walkout.

August 11, 1994 was an especially painful day for me, personally, as well, with the St. Louis Cardinals’ just-completed series in Baltimore this past weekend providing another reminder.

My brother in law is a dedicated Baltimore Orioles fan destined to live in the Midwest. Not only did he get to see his favorite club and player, Cal Ripken, rarely, it was almost always on the road at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

The first of the new breed of stadiums, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, had opened in 1992 and was a smashing success. Against the backdrop of the club having set a new major league record for consecutive sellouts, in the spring of 1994, my brother in law told me how much he really wanted to see a game there.

I called in a major favor to arrange to buy a block of seven tickets to an upcoming Baltimore home game. To be a bit less intrusive, I offered that a mid-week contest would be fine. We made our flight and hotel reservations and planned a vacation to the area, with the ballgame the highlight.

While I would have preferred to see St. Louis play, there was at least one former Cardinal outfielder on each of the clubs. Tom Brunansky was a member of the visiting BoSox, while Lonnie Smith was on the Baltimore roster.

As the labor unrest in MLB grew that summer, the line for a strike was drawn in the sand. Without a resolution, the players would walk out following the games of Thursday, August 11.

That happened to be the very day printed on our tickets. At least we were going to get to see a game, even though it could be the last for some time.

It did not work out that way.

Rain crept into the Baltimore area that afternoon. Though the O’s and Red Sox managed to get the contest underway and play 1 ½ innings in the sprinkles, heavier rain halted the action. We huddled under the concourse roof for hours as the Orioles tried to the get in what would have been their final game of the 1994 season.

The game was finally called off around midnight, making our visit to Camden Yards officially non-existent. Canceled, not resumed, the play that night never officially happened.

The remainder of the regular season was eventually axed, as was the 1994 World Series. The battle between labor and management raged on until April 1995, causing significant damage to the game. Many fans stayed away for some time; others never came back.

Interestingly, that was also the case for the two ex-Cardinals. The game that did not officially occur turned out to be the final time both Smith and Brunansky suited up as major league players.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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26 Responses to “The Game that Never Happened in a Season that Never Concluded”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Aside from the lack of offense (again) it appeared to me the critical play in this game tonight was when Matt Holliday let Casey McGehee take an extra base by playing with his head up his posterior end.

    I really have nothing else to say at this point. This team just puts me to sleep.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Yikes, what a dismal game tonight. How strange is it to give Adams an off day against a RHP and in his stead start Ellis, who has been having a dismal season? This makes sense inside the brain of Matheny, but is disheartening to a lot of fans, who know they could do a better job with the lineup card.

    I want to think positively about upgrading the coaching staff for 2015. I would love to see Chris Carpenter as the pitching coach. We need some star power. Down in the first base coaching box, I would recruit Willie McGee, who can also serve as a hitting coach, on a team with a woeful lack of hitting. Willie won some batting titles. It would be exciting to add Chris and Willie.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      It was hard replacing a Hall of Famer in TLR. Mo probably went with Matheny for continuity. Mike had played under TLR.
      TLR had a big time side kick in Dave Duncan. TLR was not afraid to add Mark McGwire, another big time guy, as hitting coach. TLR wanted to add Barry Bonds. TLR loved high profile athletes.
      The Cards need to move beyond care-takers and cultivate some personality, now the TLR era is gone. We need some leaders, both among players and the coaching staff. Too many earnest followers right now.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Anytime Jon jay is batting 5th, that’s not a good sign.

      How about the odd ending? Mike gives Adams a night off for rest, but then brings Matt off the bench with two down, to pinch hit for another left swinger. Who thinks up this wacko stuff, Mike or Aldrete?

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Adams and Pierzynski both should have been in the starting lineup, given the Marlins started an RHP. This is not rocket science.
        Yes Adams has been in a slump, but so what? Matheny thinks nothing of using Rosenthal night after night, but needlessly gives Adams a night off, when we need every left bat. Adams needs to play. Cruz has an OPS in Kozma territory. No way Cruz should start a game against Cosart, since we lucked out and landed Pryzinski.
        According to Bw, Matheny has been making goofy decisions all year. Glad I do not watch games much, because its hard enough to win, even with a good manager.

      • Brian Walton says:

        The other lefty swinger was Taveras. That could have had something to do with it.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          1. Starting Ellis against Cosart is off scale dopey.
          2. If Adams is rested, then really rest him and leave him on the bench to accomplish the purpose of rest, don’t bring him into the game later.
          3. Treat Taveras like a man. Let him hit against the RHP. If the Marlins switch to a southpaw, pinch hit with Shane Robinson. Pinch hitting for a left swinger with a left swinger is disrespectful or shows flop-sweat desperation.
          4. Its ok to lose like a man, take your bitter medicine. But pinch hitting one lefty for another seems lame. Then the Marlins bring in a lefty reliever and really make Matheny look astoundingly clueless.
          5. Matheny is not a good tactician, nor good handler of relief pitchers. Matheny presents a problem for Mo.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Chris Carpenter is incredibly wealthy and has a young family. Why would he take this job?

      Willie McGee is a beloved former player who just got back into part-time coaching. Why is that a fit for what ails the offense other than a recognizable name?

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Why is Chris Carpenter listed as an assistant to Mo, if so wealthy? Carpenter is a competitor and might be lured back into the game as a coach. It would not be for money, for the challenge.

        McGee must have been part of the coolness of 1980s players, owing to the Busch family and then owing to TLR’s fallout with Ozzie. Great of Mo to woo Wlllie back into part-time coaching. That’s a good first step.

        The next logical step is to get Wllie onto the coaching staff. We need some star power. For too many years, there was McKay, TLR’s buddy, down at first. Now its the ex-Memphis manager down there. First base coach is a very visible role for the team. McGee would offer a better image. Past Cardinals star lets bygones be bygones and starts advising Wong about how to nab second base.

        I can hardly wait to see this in 2015. It will be awesome.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I shouldn’t have tried to engage on this subject seriously with you. Continue the cheer-leading.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Johnny Lewis was the first African-American who was a coach for the Cards. I believe Mr. Lewis was first base coach between 1973-1976.
            I do not recall another African American in an “on field” position. There were a succession of hitting coaches, from Don Baylor in 1992, Chris Chambliss, George Hendrick, Dave Parker, Mike Easler, Mitch Page, and Hal McRae, through 2009. Among these, only George Hendrick was an alum, IIRC. All were at least good ML hitters, however.
            Bob Gibson had a single season as Cards pitching coach in 1995, after multiple years of service to the Braves.
            I am thinking Willie could contribute a lot. He knows how to hit and switch-hit. He could defend and was fine basestealer. McGee played for the Cards. He’d be a nice fit down at first base. Mo should give the idea serious thought. The team could use a more interesting and illustrious coaching staff.

            • Brian Walton says:

              I don’t understand drawing a distinction between “on field” coaches and “off field” coaches with the implication the former is more valuable somehow.

              But to play along, Tommie Reynolds was TLR’s first 3B coach with StL. Like Duncan and McKay, he came along from Oakland.

  3. Bw52 says:

    This one of the most frustrating seasons in a while.For a team that is supposed to be very talented 62-56 just don`t cut it.This team lacks heart or something.Seems like a shake up might be needed this offseason.Cards need to get the deadwood off the roster and bring up or obtain some players with heart and fire.This team is a bunch of zombies or laidback dudes.I sure hope Mo does something either before the deadline or this offseason (most likely)This team plays uninspired baseball.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I think your feelings are typical. The question will be which moves to make? Apparently, trading away Craig and Kelly and bringing in the others was not it – at least not yet.

      • crdswmn says:

        I think none of us can make suggestions as to what to do since none of us really know the heart of the problem. Is it a leadership fail? Is it faulty coaching? Is it simply players who are not as talented as we thought they were? Are there internal issues that need addressing? If so, we would have no way of knowing that, so that would be something Mo needs to address if they indeed exist.

        I only know this team bores me. I see nothing from them that gives me the impression that they have any fire in them. That doesn’t mean they don’t, but I just can’t see it. We hear the same things from Matheny, night after night. We hear the typical Bull Durham platitudes from the players. Whatever the thoughts and feelings in that clubhouse, fans are not seeing anything that gives them hope of a turnaround. Most fans are finding more excitement in the minor leagues.

        • Brian Walton says:

          It may be a combination of things, but I wonder if anyone can figure it out. The buck stops with Mo.

          • crdswmn says:

            Yes, it does. What will he do about it? Try to make more changes? September call ups are around the corner, but this team could be in a deep hole by then. No guarantee anyone from the minor leagues would make a difference. Big leap from Memphis to the big leagues.

            Or will he just do nothing and let the team sink or swim as is? Make big changes in the offseason?

            Guess we will find out soon enough. If I can stay awake until then.

            • blingboy says:

              Whatever the problem(s) is (are), does anyone think it will spontaneously fix itself?

              The offense died (compared to last year) for no obvious reason, so if Mo does nothing, could it revive itself?

              What if Mo doesn’t know what the problem is either? He could change out some players without solving anything.

              I’ve been watching bits and pieces of most games. I agree the team is boring. Mike’s post game Tony TV thing is horribly boring. No life or emotion. The team seems to be just like him.

              • crdswmn says:

                I have no idea what Mo thinks. I have no idea what Mo knows, if anything, that you and I don’t know.

                I can only speculate. Maybe Mo is in a situation where there isn’t anything he can reasonably do other than let it all play out. Could be there are no good options available to him.

                September 1st is around the corner and rosters can expand. Bring up some guys from Memphis. Bringing up Piscotty or Pham would require a 40 man roster move. There are always many considerations when adding and subtracting from the 40 man. Even if Mo brings up guys from Memphis, there is the issue of whether or not Matheny will play them. We have all seen guys come up and then not be used. Grichuk, Garcia, Butler, etc. He wouldn’t even use Taveras much until his hand was forced.

                Personally, I think Matheny is very stubborn and wants to do it his way with no interference from Mo. He believes his “guys” will turn it around eventually. That’s just my impression. If that is the case, maybe Mo figures it is just best to let him do it his way.

                • blingboy says:

                  I guess the 3 year extension Mike got last winter give’s him enough security to blow off the boss.

                  • Bw52 says:

                    Matheny is determined to pitch Rosenthal until his arm falls off.If you are going to keep using a 7 man bullpen then damn well use them and quit keeping the damned weak bench even weaker.A 12 man pitching staff and a 4 man bench because Matheny won`t use the backup catcher.So the team is trying to play with a 23 man roster most of the time.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      I get your Rosenthal point, but I’d be fine seeing less Tony Cruz. Since 6/25, he is 10-for-58 (.172), the worst BA on the team during that time.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      It’s my opinion that Matheny is incapable of thinking outside the box. The only way he knows how to manage is to stick to formulas that he thinks works for him (and they really don’t) and players that he feels comfortable with. Pitchers have “roles” and they must pitch in those roles. As far as Matheny is concerned, Rosenthal=closer= save situation=Rosenthal must pitch. Until Rosenthal becomes completely ineffective and blows multiple saves, Matheny will continue to use him this way, regardless of any damage he might be doing to Rosenthal. It’s the same thing he did to Mujica.

                      Folks are already starting to compare him to Dusty Baker. Dusty had a terrible reputation for abusing his pitchers.

                      I could go on about the awful way he platoons position players (he sticks to handedness rather than looking at splits, which is a better indicator), but I will stop here. It could get into territory that would start a pointless argument.

                    • JumboShrimp says:

                      The Cards have enjoyed the good fortune of respected managers: Whitey Herzog for a decade; Joe Torre for approaching 5 years; and TLR for 15. Anyone following behind such illustrious predecessors could be second-guessed and criticized.
                      Its probably troubling for Cards fans to experience a manager who is a fall-off from what they have become used to experiencing.

                      Herzog had much minor league experience, IIRC. Torre, like Matheny, played catcher, and managed the Mets and Braves, IIRC, prior to the Cards. TLR had two prior ML managing gigs. Matheny did not have prior managing experience, an educational disadvantage for him.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      Not arguing your overall point, Jumbo, but Torre was not highly respected as a manager until he won titles with the Yankees. He did not get another manager’s job for well over five years after getting fired in Atlanta.

                      At St. Louis, he was the guy who essentially had to replace Whitey.

  4. Bw52 says:

    If this team is still a serious contender September 1st it will be because the teams ahead of the Cards are playing like crap.This team doesn`t have the heart to comeback and win the division.

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