It is probably a bit of an overstatement to say that Cal Ripken Jr. saved major league baseball 15-years ago this week when he passed Lou Gehrig to become baseball’s all-time “Iron Man”. However, there is no question that Ripken played a huge role in the healing process following the most contentious labor strike in baseball history.
Baseball had been riding high in 1994 when a desire by the owners to institute a salary cap and the insistence by the players never to accept one halted the sport in its tracks. The World Series was not held for the first time in 90 years, leaving many fans bitter and vowing never to return to “America’s Pastime.”
The strike carried into the offseason and wasn’t resolved until a federal injunction against the owners leading to the resumption of baseball in late April 1995. Overall, the strike lasted 234 days and cancelled more than 900 games while in essence changing very little.
As could be expected, when baseball did return the fans were not rushing back to greet the players as long-lost heroes.
Instead, fans displayed their disillusion with both sides by staying away in droves as stadiums that were typically full were suddenly seeing large swaths of empty seats. Those who did come to the ballparks often brought with them signs reflecting their frustration with sayings such as “$hame on You” or shouted comments like “You ruined the game!”
For most of the 1995 season teams across the league saw attendance figures plummet as baseball struggled to regain the interest of fans who had realized there were other things to occupy time and interest. Read the rest of this entry →