A Striking Baseball Story

•  40 years ago, ballplayers saw a strike coming without being tipped off

•  Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt and Dallas Green talked to me about unemployment and gardening

•  Come the World Series and I’m unemployed

The drumbeat in the spring of 1980 – louder than a Houston Astro banging on a trash can – was heard throughout baseball: a labor dispute over compensating teams for losing free agents was escalating and a strike by the players was imminent.

Indeed, the players sat out the last 8 games of spring training. Only a handshake deal between the owners and the players’ union allowed Opening Day to arrive on schedule. 1980 was known – as the subtitle of a post-season book put it, as “The Season that Almost Wasn’t.”  Throughout the early weeks of the season, the threat of a work stoppage persisted.

I went down to Veterans Stadium that spring with my WMMR-FM tape recorder as a deadline for a strike loomed and the Philadelphia Phillies – like all baseball fans – were brooding about the possibility of a cold, lonely summer:

But deadlines came and went and the 1980 season played out in full. (The ’81 season would see a 50-day strike and a split season with team standings from each half factoring into a jury-rigged playoff scheme.)

Who took Luis Tiant’s jersey? That story here.

The ’80 post-season brought delirium to Philadelphia. The Phillies won a gripping five-game series over the Astros, with four of the games going extra innings. Then they won their first-ever World Series, 4 games to 1, over the Kansas City Royals.

By that time, I was unemployed, having had my own labor dispute with WMMR that you can read about here. So, having had a press pass for the Cincinnati Reds’ two World Series championships in 1975 and ’76, I was a man without credentials in 1980, reduced to watching on TV. But at least, instead of having to file from the Stadium after Tug McGraw’s Series-winning save and jump for joy, I was able to head straight to Broad Street and join in the wild celebration.


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