Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baseball Strike Did What Wars Couldn't

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baseball Strike Did What Wars Couldn't

Article excerpt

It's as if America was in the middle of reading a novel, a best-seller, one of the best thrillers produced in four decades . . . and someone ripped out the last 100 pages. Just stuck 'em right into the old paper shredder.

It was the book's only copy.

Who would win the 1994 World Series? How would the plots in Cleveland and Montreal unfurl? What direction did the home run story lines move? Would that emerging hero, Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, triumph against all odds?

Because of the players strike, readers of this baseball season never will know how things would have ended. Owners officially canceled the rest of the regular-season schedule and the postseason Wednesday. That left everyone hanging.

Baseball doesn't even know if it had batting champions this year.

"The biggest questions right now is if we have batting champions or earned-run average champions or home run leaders that will be called champions," said Tom Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau.

Elias is the official statistician for major-league baseball. They have the stats; for now, they remain meaningless.

"It's up to major-league baseball to decide if anyone is going to be called a champion, since without playoffs or a World Series this isn't officially a championship season," Hirdt said. "But major-league baseball has more important things to worry about today.

"There are players who have bonuses in their contracts tied into batting championships and things like that. So those things will be important later. But this day is not the day for those things.

"This is more a day of mourning."

Baseball fans inside and outside the game felt the moment coming for weeks. They had plenty of forewarning that Milwaukee owner Bud Selig, acting commissioner, would step in front of a microphone and declare the season null and void.

It still hit with a sharp, piercing blow.

"Like anything that has tragic notes attached to it," former Cardinals executive Bing Devine said. "You expect it, but that still doesn't soften the blow when it happens. You know it might happen, it could happen, it will happen. You expect to feel it, although not as much as when it actually happens."

All along, Devine didn't want to believe the players and owners would let the season end before it ever had a chance to near a finish line.

"The blame has to be shouldered by both sides," he said. "Without taking sides, they both had so much that could be lost. . . . And it's not something in the way of a war or a bomb that stopped the thing."

Wars have raged and bombs have fallen in the past. Earthquakes have shaken stadiums and scandals have rocked the faith of fans to their core. Even past labor squabbles have put players and owners in opposite corners of the ring. They fought, then they played.

"This is a unique time in baseball, considering all the major things of the past that didn't keep the game from going on," said Morris Eckhouse, executive director of the Society of American Baseball Research.

"I guess one of the positive spins we could put on it is that it's just another interesting thing to record in baseball history," Eckhouse said. "Assuming baseball continues, that is; assuming this isn't the end of baseball but just a part of the continuum. Like the strike in 1981, the 1890s Players League, the wars between the American League and National League in the early century. …

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