The Associated Press
NEW YORK Ä What wars, scandals and even an earthquake could not stop, money has.
Baseball, its history and lore so deeply woven into the fabric of America, is in shreds. The World Series, played without fail for 89 years and 524 games, is canceled.
A $2 billion battle between owners and major leaguers proved to be the game's undoing Wednesday, the 34th day of the players' strike.
"There cannot be any joy on any side," acting commissioner Bud Selig said in Milwaukee.
The end, though expected by millions of fans who have since turned their attention to football, was no less stunning when it finally came Ä via fax machine following a telephone conference among owners.
"This is a sad day," Selig's statement said. "Nobody wanted this to happen, but the continuing player strike leaves us no choice but to take this action.
"We have reached the point where it is no longer practical to complete the remainder of the season or to preserve the integrity of postseason play."
And with that an enduring game, played by Civil War soldiers more than a century ago, was halted with 18 days left in an extraordinary season. And along with it went the new, expanded playoffs and the Series.
Twenty-six of the 28 teams voted to cancel. Baltimore owner Peter Angelos agreed in principle, but didn't sign the resolution; Cincinnati owner Marge Schott refused to go along, saying that perhaps minor leaguers should be used, according to Selig.
As a result, for the first time since professional baseball leagues began in 1871, a major league season was played with no conclusion. And for the first time since 1904, when it was just a year old, there will be no World Series.
"This is a sad day, a disappointing day, and a terrible day," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda said by telephone from his home in Fullerton, Calif. "When you don't have the playoffs and World Series, this is unbelievable. Who would have ever thought it would come to this?"
Said former commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who negotiated an end to the 1985 strike after two days: "Baseball games are won and lost because of errors Ä and this will go down as the biggest 'E' of all. The losers are the fans and there is no winner. 1994 Ä the season that struck itself out."
1994 will also go down as the season that left fans wondering whether:
ù Tony Gwynn, batting .394 when the strike started on Aug. 12, might have become baseball's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941.
ù Frank Thomas or Albert Belle would have been the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
ù The long-suffering Cleveland Indians or below-.500 Texas Rangers could have climbed through the new, expanded playoffs to a championship.
The strike had already ruined a banner year for record chases, most notably the run by Ken Griffey Jr., Matt Williams and others at Roger Maris' mark of 61 home runs set in 1961.
Little did they know that the shiny, gold shoulder patches they and other major leaguers wore to celebrate 125 years of pro baseball would also mark the year their game was left in chaos.
Among the many questions:
ù When will there be baseball again?
ù Will there be a new league?
ù What happens to potential free agents such as Jack McDowell, Gregg Jefferies, Orel Hershiser and Paul O'Neill?
ù What about spring training?
Perhaps the biggest question is what may happen to baseball's antitrust status.
Lamenting the premature end of "what could have been the best baseball season in 50 years," President Clinton said the government should consider removing baseball's antitrust exemption.
Clinton, who calls himself a baseball fanatic, said he had not conducted a thorough study of the antitrust issue. But he added: "If this is just turned into another business in America then that's an issue it seems to me that has to be examined."
In Florida, Marlins manager Rene Lachemann said he was convinced baseball would lose some of its fans forever.
"It's that simple. And we can't get them back. I've talked to them. In a certain way, I can't blame them. To me it's probably the darkest day I know in baseball, when you say there's not going to be a World Series," he said.
As if to confirm that, Stuart Becker, a tavern owner in Madison, Wis., said: "I hope they don't play next year. I'm sick and tired of it. They're both wrong as far as I'm concerned."
Players said they were willing to continue talks and say an agreement by Sept. 26 could have saved the postseason. Selig, however, didn't address the issue of future talks.
No negotiating sessions were scheduled between union head Donald Fehr and owners' representative Richard Ravitch. The two sides have met only three times since the strike started, and not at all in the final five days.
"What people will remember is that it ended in this fashion with Bud gnashing his teeth at a news conference," Fehr said.
Ravitch said the goal was now to negotiate "without harming next year."
"Hopefully we can work something out, whether it's a cap or a tax or a widget," he said.
The issue of a salary cap remains at the heart of the dispute. The owners claim a cap is necessary because spiraling costs have put the industry in peril; the players, whose average salary is nearly $1.2 million, counter that owners are trying to restrict the marketplace.
Now, however, owners have the right to declare a bargaining impasse and impose a cap.
Selig's declaration followed more than 25 years of labor strife between the players and owners. In December 1975, players won the right to free agency and owners have never completely come to grips with it, leading to a series of strikes and lockouts Ä eight in all Ä without precedent in American sport.
"Maybe we've been headed for this for a long, long time," Selig said.
Read Next Article