The longest, most destructive and possibly the nastiest work stoppage in professional sports history ended Sunday when major league baseball’s 28 team owners accepted the players’ unconditional offer to end their nearly eight-month strike.
The players will report to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona this week. A shortened regular season, with 144 games rather than the usual 162, begins April 26.
The owners, who met Sunday afternoon at a Chicago hotel, accepted the players’ return-to-work offer because they had little choice.
It had become clear even before the Major League Baseball Players Association offered on Friday to end its strike - after a federal judge in New York issued an injunction restoring terms of the sport’s expired collective bargaining agreement - that there would not be 21 votes among the 28 owners to lock out the players.
Players will be permitted to begin reporting to spring training on Wednesday, the day after a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York will hear arguments on the owners’ request for a stay of the injunction.
So, 234 days after the players walked out, the strike ended without a new labor agreement in place. The owners and players are relatively close; the major issue separating them is formulating a system for taxing teams’ player payrolls. That is a formidable stumbling block.
In the meantime, the players will be on the field.
The sport has been ravaged. The strike caused the cancellation of the final 52 days of the 1994 season and the expanded postseason - including the World Series, which was called off for the first time in 90 years.
Both sides have suffered enormous losses. The players last year lost about $230 million in income. The owners, according to the brief they submitted to the district court last week, lost approximately $700 million in revenue. Those tabs will increase in the next few weeks.
According to Boston Red Sox general partner John Harrington, the owners would have suffered operating losses of $400 million to $600 million if they had played the entire 1995 season with replacement players, and $600 million to $800 million if they had shut down the industry for the entire year.