1981 strike

From BR Bullpen

The 1981 Baseball Strike caused a strike-shortened season. Teams played between 102 to 110 games, since games were canceled from June 12th to August 10th and not made up to even out the schedule.

The second half of the season began with the All Star Game on August 9th. The playoffs featured the winners of each half season (before and after the strike) in each division facing each other in the first round, creating an extra tier to the playoffs, much like the current Division Series.

The major issue behind the strike was that of free agent compensation, or, in other words, what compensation teams would receive if one of their star players was signed as a free agent by another team. The owners wanted a system whereby teams would receive a player of similar value, while the players were opposed, seeing that this would void their newly-acquired right to become free agents after playing out their contract. The example of the National Football League and National Hockey League, where compensation of this time had nipped free agency in the bud was very much on the players' mind. The resulting compromise was the Free agent compensation draft, which functioned for the next four years.

Relations between the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association, led by Marvin Miller, were very contentious and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn refused to intervene to help usher an agreement. However, in what was a summer of contentious labor negotiations on many front (the postal workers and air traffic controllers also went on strike that summer), President Ronald Reagan asked Ken Moffett, deputy head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to intervene, with the support of Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan. Moffett used tactics akin to shuttle diplomacy, as the two sides refused to meet face to face, to iron out the framework of an agreement which was finally accepted (after being initially rejected by the owners), thereby saving the season. The players were very appreciative of Moffett's work and a little over a year later, named him executive director of their union, replacing Miller.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chris Bumbaca: "Explaining the 1981 MLB season: How baseball survived shortened year", USA Today, March 15, 2020. [1]
  • Jeff Katz: Split Season: 1981: Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, NY, 2015. ISBN 978-1-2500-4521-8
  • Jeff Katz: "Split Season 1981, Chicago Style", in Stuart Shea, ed.: North Side, South Side, All Around Town, The National Pastime, SABR, 2015. ISBN 978-1-93359987-8

See Also[edit]