Detroit Tigers: Remembering the return after the 1994-95 strike
The Detroit Tigers returned to the field in Detroit after the long players’ strike on May 2, 1995. It was a dark day in the history of the team.
Since we’re not going to have any Detroit Tigers baseball for at least a few weeks, and since we’ve reached the 25th anniversary of the end of the Major League Baseball players’ strike of 1994-95, now may be a good time to look back on when baseball returned to Detroit for the first time since the strike ended, on May 2, 1995.
It was a bleak time in our national pastime’s history. Players were returning to the field after an unprecedented work stoppage that saw the World Series cancelled in 1994, the first time we had no Fall Classic in 90 years. The league used replacement players to start the 1995 campaign, and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson refused to manage the players out of protest. It was a tumultuous time in more ways than one.
Many longtime fans turned away from the game, while many of those who remained expressed their anger that the billionaire owners and millionaire players couldn’t get along over just a game. For example, at Shea Stadium in New York, fans were sarcastically throwing $1 bills at the players.
The Tigers were on the road when play resumed during a shortened 1995 season, and their first home game was scheduled for May 2 against the Cleveland Indians. The Indians pounded the Tigers, 11-1, but that wasn’t the worst part of the day. It was the Tigers’ smallest Opening Day crowd in 23 years, while Cecil Fielder was booed by the hometown fans after he was an active part of the negotiations.
It got even uglier when fans started throwing objects from the outfield bleachers onto the field, including “metal napkin dispenser, a hubcap, whisky bottles, cans, a battery, lighters and baseballs.” About 20 fans also ran onto the field during the game. Indians manager Mike Hargrove thought it was just young adults acting crazy and had nothing to do with the strike, yet in any case, it heightened already strong tensions throughout the league.
I was ten years old at this time, and reading about this incident served as a reminder of what a difficult time this was in our game’s history. Trying to understand what was happening as a child was especially difficult. There was serious doubt as to whether our game could recover, but thankfully a quarter of a century later, it appears that it has.
Now, we face a much different threat to the game with the coronavirus outbreak. Though the circumstances are so much different, I’m still confident that baseball will survive this as well. If we can get through what happened 25 years ago, we can get through anything.