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.