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Sports Then and Now



20 Years Ago: Baseball’s Darkest Chapter 2

Posted on August 12, 2014 by Dean Hybl
The 1994 baseball strike brought out the worst in sports greed.

The 1994 baseball strike brought out the worst in sports greed.

It is hard to believe that 20 years have now passed since money and greed in sports reached a startling climax with what ultimately became the cancellation of the final two months and postseason of the 1994 Major League Baseball season.

In the coming months retiring baseball commissioner Bud Selig will receive many accolades for all he has done to support the resurgence of the game of baseball, but as acting commissioner in 1994 he oversaw the destruction of the game and while it may have recovered financially and in overall popularity, in certain pockets, things have never been the same.

On August 12, 1994 the team with the best record in baseball was the Montreal Expos with a mark of 74-40. Now if you are under the age of 25, you may not even remember that there was ever a baseball team in Montreal and for that you can thank Selig and the others who failed to save the 1994 campaign.

The Expos, who had entered the league in 1969 and went an entire decade before posting a winning season, had developed into a solid franchise having posted .500 or better records 12 times since 1979. However, ironically, their only previous postseason appearance had come during the strike shortened 1981 campaign when they lost the National League Championship Series in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was very clear that after all the close calls in previous seasons, 1994 was going to be the year for the Expos.  Despite losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 on August 11th to end a six game winning streak, the Expos were six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and clearly looked positioned to capture their first-ever division crown and potentially reach the World Series for the first time.

With a young nucleus that included future stars Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Marquis Grissom, Rondell White and Moises Alou along with several other solid major leaguers, the Expos were clearly poised for success.

It was also clear that the city of Montreal was excited and supportive of their 1994 team. Some historians will say that Montreal never really supported the Expos and that a move was inevitable. Others will tell you that the fan base in Montreal during that time was quite solid and had they been able to experience World Series joy, as had happened in Toronto in the previous two seasons, the Expos would have eventually received a new stadium and would still be there today.

It is hard to predict “what might have been”, but one thing is clear, in the weeks prior to the baseball shutdown fans in Montreal were becoming extremely excited about the prospects for their team.

Though the Expos ranked 11th of 14 teams in the National League in overall attendance at the time of the strike, that total was a little deceiving as the Expos had played only 52 home games (compared to 62 on the road) and had been averaging an extremely respectable crowd of more than 24,000 fans per game. In fact, they had drawn more than 30,000 fans (including more than 39,000 for the final game) per night for a four game mid-week (Monday-Thursday) series against the St. Louis Cardinals from August 1-4.

With 30 home games remaining as they drove toward a possible pennant, it is likely that the Expos would have continued to draw large crowds through the remainder of the 1994 season.

Of course, we will never know, as both the baseball players and owners dug in and ultimately the two sides would not settle their differences until the remainder of the 1994 season was gone and the start of the 1995 season was delayed. The end result was a 232 day work stoppage and the cancellation of more than 900 games, including the playoffs and World Series for the first time since 1904.

While it is very easy to vilify Selig and the owners for their role in the strike and some of the aftermath, you also have to give much of the “credit” to Donald Fehr and the players. Read the rest of this entry →

Hoyt Wilhem: Knuckleball Workhorse 2

Posted on April 07, 2014 by Dean Hybl

The April Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was 29-years-old when he made his major league debut, but still managed to pitch for 21 years and become the first pitcher in MLB history to appear in more than 1,000 games.

Hoyt Wilhelm made his professional baseball debut as a 19-year-old in 1942, but after serving in World War II (earning a Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge) and then spending five years in the minor leagues it wasn’t until 10 years later that he would make his major league debut. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering the Earl of Baltimore 0

Posted on January 19, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Earl Weavaltimore Orioles.er won 1,480 games in 17 seasons managing the B

Earl Weaver won 1,480 games in 17 seasons managing the Baltimore Orioles.

The baseball world has lost one of its great characters with the passing of former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver at the age of 82.

A fiery manager whose legendary arguments with umpires led to nearly a hundred ejections during his career, Weaver was the leader of baseball’s most consistent team from the late 1960s through the mid 1980s.

Weaver spent nearly 20 years as a minor league player and manager before joining the Baltimore Orioles as their first base coach in 1968.

Less than four months later with the Orioles struggling, Weaver replaced Hank Bauer as manager and the rest was history. The Orioles went 48-34 over the rest of the 1968 season and the next year won 109 games and reached the World Series.

After losing the 1969 World Series to the Mets, the O’s would not be denied the following year as they went 108-54 and defeated the Cincinnati Reds in five games to win the second World Series in team history.

Baltimore won more than 100 games for the third straight year in 1971, but for the second time in three years dropped the World Series to an underdog opponent with a seven game loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After falling back with an 80-74 record and third place finish in 1972, the Orioles rebounded with consecutive division titles in 1973 and 1974. They finished second in the division three straight years before placing fourth in 1978 despite winning 90 games. Read the rest of this entry →

Yes, The Baltimore Orioles Have An Anthem….Black & Orange (VIDEO) 1

Posted on October 06, 2012 by Joe Gill

The Baltimore Orioles are in the post season for the FIRST time since 1997. They won their first playoff game since the 90′s by defeating the Texas Rangers in the inaugural A.L. one game Wildcard game.

So has O’s MANIA taken over Baltimore yet? If not, their anthem “Black & Orange” will get you excited.

The AMAZING thing is Jay-Luv & D-Boi made this video in 2011. They knew BETTER days were in store for Baltimore’s Black & Orange!

Beat The Yankees Boys!

H/T To Reddit!

 

Enough With the Sideshow, Time For The MLB Playoffs 0

Posted on October 06, 2012 by Dean Hybl

A blown umpire call let the St. Louis Cardinals get away with a major blunder in the eighth inning on their way to defeating the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card Playoff Game.

Even after nearly eight hours of baseball, one of the worst calls in playoff history, uneven play by every team and victories by the two road teams, it is still hard to know exactly what to make of the first “Wild Card Day” in Major League Baseball history.

Since in the old playoff system the Orioles and Rangers, who were tied with records of 93-69, would have been meeting in a one-game playoff, there really was just one game that was added to the playoff schedule in the new format. And while there was some excitement, there was also controversy and ultimately a team having their season end in a one game showdown despite finishing six games better than the other team during the 162 game regular season.

For the Atlanta Braves, it marks the second straight year that they have been edged out of a trip to the LDS by the St. Louis Cardinals. However, unlike in 2011 when the Cardinals used a month-long Braves collapse to sneak ahead of them in the standings, this time they did it with a head-to-head wild card victory.

Some have used the awful infield fly call in the eighth inning as justification as to why you need more than a one game “winner take all” playoff to determine which team will advance. The thinking being that over time breaks even out and seasons shouldn’t be decided on one questionable call.

I understand the argument, but the reality is that while the eighth inning call will go down as one of the worst umpiring mistakes in playoff history (whether MLB wants to acknowledge it or not), there were many other instances that contributed to the Braves’ loss. The atypical fourth inning error by future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones directly led to three runs and erased an early 2-0 Braves lead. The Braves made three errors during the game and only two of the six runs given up were credited as “earned runs.” Read the rest of this entry →

Is the “Oriole Magic” Back To Stay? 6

Posted on June 10, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Late game celebrations have been a regular occurrence for the Baltimore Orioles is 2012.

If you are under the age of 35 you may find it hard to believe, but for nearly two decades, the Baltimore Orioles were the class of Major League Baseball and terms such as “The Oriole Way” and “Oriole Magic” were just as familiar to baseball fans as “Red Sox Nation” is today.

With the 2012 season now nearly a third of the way complete, it is way too early to declare Baltimore “back” among the upper echelon teams in baseball, but for the first time in quite a while the future in Baltimore does appear to be promising.

Following back-to-back extra inning victories over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Orioles sport an impressive 34-26 record and are right in the mix of the highly competitive American League East.

The hot early start is definitely a reason for fans of a franchise that hasn’t posted a winning record since 1997 to be excited, but this is not the first time in the last 15 years that Baltimore has teased fans into June.

In 2005 the Orioles had a 42-28 record on June 21st and a two game lead in the AL East. A 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays the next day started a stretch in which Baltimore lost 11 of 14 games and 60 of their final 92 games to end with a 74-88 record and 21 games out in the standings. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Rod Carew: Hitting Machine
      July 5, 2014 | 3:42 pm
      Rod Carew

      Rod Carew

      With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

      Few have been as good at the craft of hitting a baseball as Rod Carew. During 19 major league seasons, Carew won seven batting titles and hit .330 or better ten times.

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