Baseball down to its final strike


May 28, 2002|BY AL DITZEL

Growing up, baseball became my favorite sport - more than football or basketball or any other. Maybe it was because it was the only game I enjoyed in which I participated that I had any success or maybe it's because I understood it so.

I can remember the first time I saw Brooks Robinson field a bunt bare-handed and throw out a runner at first or when Mark Belanger came straight over the top with a throw from the shortstop's hole.

Those are my early memories of the major league game. Baseball has always been very good to me.

That was until 1972 when baseball was halted by a work stoppage. Opening Day was pushed back. I can't really rememeber if it was owners' or players' greed that stopped it then.

In 1981, baseball stopped again. It forced the rescheduling of the All-Star Game and brought about the infamous first half and second half division winners. It was the year that Fernandomania ruled. Despite the fact Tom Seaver had the best statistics and the Cincinnati Reds had MLB's best record, Seaver was overlooked for the Cy Young and the Reds didn't qualify for the playoffs.


Again, can't really recall who was more greedy - players or owners.

Then, in 1994 MLB did the worst thing it could - it didn't have a World Series because of a work stoppage. Again, who was to blame? Owners, players? I don't recall.

Somehow, each of those times fans, me included, returned to the game. Each time more fans went to ballparks than ever and MLB made more money than ever. These aren't inflated numbers, either. Baseball became more popular each time around.

So, now there's some talk about another work stoppage.

I'm pledging right here, right now. If MLB stops for any reason other than a natural disaster (World Series 1989) or criminal act (Sept. 11), I'm done.

I'm going on record saying that, if there's a work stoppage, I will never attend, watch or participate in any way, in Major League Baseball again.

Every year I plan a baseball trip to see some of MLB's best fields of play - PacBell, Wrigley, Fenway. Every year I set aside a decent amount of money to watch baseball either at stadiums or, like this year, with the purchase of MLB Extra Innings. Every year I play fantasy baseball where I pit my knowledge (and luck) against others' knowledge and luck.

That will all end if there's another work stoppage.

I admit that MLB has provided me with many thrills.

Watching Tug McGraw strike out Willie Wilson to give the Philadelphia Philles their only World Series championship back in 1980.

Seeing the mastery of an Orel Hershiser season in 1988 when he first baffled the National League before stumping the Oakland A's.

Watching Cal Ripken Jr. circle the field at Camden Yards when he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive game-playing streak back in 1995.

Seeing Mark McGwire rip an incredible 70 home runs in 1998 while he and Sammy Sosa dueled for the title. And, yes, watching McGwire and Sosa exchange hugs when Big Mac broke Roger Maris' home run mark.

Finally, seeing the Arizona Diamondbacks beat Mariano Rivera and end the New York Yankees' stranglehold of the World Series title just last year.

All those memories and much more are with me. If there is a work stoppage, I will not allow any more MLB memories to be made.

I will hold all of MLB accountable. I will blame players, owners and Bud Selig. I will never remember who holds the new single-season mark for anything. I won't know who won the World Series or who was the MVP of the regular season.

No, Major League Baseball is not concerned whether I watch any more games. And I don't think they care if you, as individuals, will watch either.

But, what I do think is that we, MLB fans all across this country, can do is make sure they understand that the next work stoppage will be our last. Yeah, they might settle their differences, but I won't care.

This will be one stoppage they can't control.

Al Ditzel is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext 7520 or by e-mail at

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