Friday, August 13, 2004
By Albert Greenland, guest blogger for The Galvin Opinion
I never got over it. The strike of 1994 broke me
Growing up a Brooklyn kid, no one loved baseball more than I did. Baseball was my ether, my love potion, a panacea for the few ills of childhood. My team was the Yankees, and, as far as I was concerned, my heroes could drub the gods on their home field at Mt. Olympus. Don Mattingly, could’ve hit a home run even if Zeus were pitching. Yes, Mattingly, Winfield, "Pags", Righetti, and all the Yanks (even Paul Zuvella), those were my idols. Throughout the 1980’s, I would sit, enraptured, worshipping in the House that Ruth Built, imagining the Yankees’ ballplayers to be gladiators ready to die with honor. Yes, the 80’s, the great decade of Ronald Reagan, was the decade during which I grew from boy to young man (from 5 to 15 years old). There was only one problem, the Yankees never managed to win anything. Not one world series, not even a Pennant. Each year was a letdown. I often wonder what my adulthood would be like if I had grown up, as New York children of today, watching the Yankees win the World Series—like every year. That would have given me such a boost of confidence that I could’ve taken on the world, batted against Zeus himself. But don’t worry, I still have enough fight in me to take on liberals every step of the way. And Albert Greenland only goes down swinging, he never gets caught looking.
No matter whom the Yankees managed to trade during the 80’s, they never obtained consistently good pitchers. But that didn’t bother me, and I only chuckled when Steinbrenner fired managers as coolly and often as Trump fires “Apprentice” candidates. The one fly in the ointment, a depressing aspect of childhood, was that I could not watch every Yankee game on free television, and I was nonplussed by that little bugaboo each baseball season. For, of course my father would not let us have cable television. He believed that we would watch “sinful shows,” even though I only wanted to watch Yankee games on the, then, MSG Network. If I wanted sinful programming, I could watch re-runs of Benny Hill or Three’s Company (with Suzanne Somers!), and I watched those shows whenever I could. Every night I, guess.
Each year I would hear that a lower percentage of Yankees games would be broadcast on Channel 11, free television. I remember, Phil Rizzuto, who announced games for Channel 11. There will never be another announcer like him. Through the years the number of games on free television may have fallen below 30%, and I was crestfallen, really. I did not understand the money-angles and industry aspects of baseball. For me, each diamond was part of a field of dreams.
The 1994 baseball season rolled around and I was a freshman in college. Luckily cable television was fed into my dorm room, and my father couldn’t do anything about that, so I could watch the Yankees all the time (when I wasn’t studying with nice young coeds). And who woulda thunk it, the Yankees were even winning during the early part of the season. It looked like they could go to the World Series against the Montreal Expos. Wow. It would have been something to behold. I rearranged my schedule so that I could watch all the games! Camelot.
But then, one day, the music died. We all heard rumors about a possible strike, that the players were unhappy. But who thought it would ever happen? No, not this year, after I had been patiently waiting more than a decade for the Yanks to break out of their slump. The players would not let it happen, of course they wanted to play. I had faith in my guys until August 12, the day the strike began. As the first few games were lost, I kept my head up. The drought would pass. The music would go on again. My childhood was not yet over.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
An arbitrary magic number was set up so that as long as “X” games were not lost, the season could still go on. But, no dice, it was “The Millionaires vs. the Billionaires.” To my surprise and chagrin, members of the Yankees were even big shots in the Baseball Players’ Association! No way. I would have expected it from the Mets, but not the Yanks. Anyhow, things eerily and inexorably progressed, and Steinbrenner made his fateful offer, that the World Series should be played anyway. Yes it should have been the Yanks vs. Expos, for the sake of the fans and for the continuity of tradition. It was my last hope to enjoy a Yankee victory and to avoid an ignominious finale. But it never happened. For the first time in the history of baseball, the show did not go on. Paradise was lost for me, and I was, to say the least, seething with anger. Rancor. Fury. I was betrayed, big time, and it was the worst betrayal I had known. “Where had you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turned its lonely eyes to you.” Simon and Garfunkel must have felt my pain. I turned my eyes to that American icon. They were bloodshot and he was no more.
To make a long story short, I never got over it. The strike of 1994 broke me. I had no taste for the players, the owners, for “the Man” (the industry that was and is baseball). I was like a dog beaten by the master, never to trust again. Today, a little wiser in the ugly ways of the world, the world of Theodore Dreiser (“its shores strewn with human wrecks”), baseball still holds no allure for me. Baseball, plain and simple, is not a game anymore. There was no honor it in 1994, or else the World Series would have been played, and I don’t think there is much honor in it today. Andrew Jackson would not have turned down that 1994 duel, but baseball had changed forever. Just a bunch of “girly-men” (sorry Arnold”).
Inner city teachers slug it out in the classroom, conservatives fight for our rights, and Thomas Galvin continues to be one of the finest “citizen reporters” on the net. However, like Sonny in the movie a "A Bronx Tale" said, “What did Mickey Mantle ever do for you? Do you think he cares about you?”
I can’t go back to baseball, she cheated on me and it is over forever.
Moreover, there are real wars going on right now. A battle on a baseball diamond is less important than the one in Najaf. Of course, I don’t affirmatively want to see the Yankees lose, and I guess that the Bronx Bombers will always be my team. But, I take no interest in the game anymore, period. Paradise was lost the day the music died...
See: NYTimes: by Murray Chass, The Longest Work Stoppage: One Mistake After Another
Editor's Note: I am still a big baseball fan even though I too was disheartened by the baseball strike. I prefer to see baseball improved in many ways because I hate the way that the game (and business is run.) [-TG]
Here are many great baseball blogs for you to check out (there are a lot here, it's up to you to check them out according to what team you are a fan of)... Baseball Musings, RedBird Nation (fellow Holy Cross grads), Baseball News Blog, Hardball Times, Bronx Banter, Braves Journal, Saber Mets, The Raindrops, Shea Hot Corner, Go Cardinals, Royalties & Cardinalate, The Big red C, Astro in Exile, Reds Daily, Blissful Knowledge, Yankees, Mets & the rest, and Red Sox Nation.