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Ringolsby: The 11 Previous Times The MLB Season Was Interrupted

The American sporting world came to a standstill in mid-March.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball joined with other leagues and colleges and put spring training on hold, while announcing that Opening Day would be delayed, possibly for two months or more.

That marked at least the 11th time the game has been put on hold, the first time for medical reasons.

Baseball was played from start to finish during World War II, president Franklin D. Roosevelt determining that it was good for the American public to have a sense of normalcy.

Baseball was easily the most popular sport in the U.S. in the 1940s, and 500 major leaguers, including future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Pee Wee Reese and Hank Greenberg, along with 2,000 minor league players, left to join the military, according to the American Veterans Center.

The game, however, went on.

World War I

While World War I began in August 1914, it was not until after the 1917 season that the U.S. joined forces with its European allies in a war that would come to an end on Nov. 11, 1918. As a result of the loss of key players, including future Hall of Famers Pete Alexander, Harry Heilmann, Red Faber and Jud Wilson of the Negro Leagues, baseball shortened its season. The final game was played on Labor Day. Teams finished the regular season having played as few as the 123 games.

1972 Players Strike

In its first major move, the fledgling players’ union ignored the recommendation of leader Marvin Miller and went on strike over MLB’s contribution to the players’ pension plan. The 13-day strike resulted in lost dates that affected the American League pennant race. The Tigers won the AL East, finishing a half-game ahead of the Red Sox.

1973 Owners Lockout

This was much ado about nothing. The players were pushing for arbitration, and the owners resisted, locking players out of spring training. Eventually the two sides were able to work out a three-year working agreement, the players winning the right to arbitration.

1976 Owners Lockout

The owners lost their fight to retain the reserve clause, first when arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled in favor of the players on Dec. 23, 1975, granting free agency to pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, opening the way to free agency. Six weeks later, federal judge John Oliver ruled in support of Seitz’s ruling. Ownership locked the players out for the first two weeks of the 1976 spring training but finally relented. No regular season games were missed.

1980 Players Strike

The players wiped out the final eight days of spring training by going on strike but agreed to be ready Opening Day with the contingency that a new basic agreement had to be reached by May 23. While the two sides never agreed on free agent compensation, they did agree on everything else, and baseball avoided an in-season stoppage.

1981 Players Strike

The disappointment of not landing an agreement on free agent compensation left baseball with an ugly scene in 1981. When ownership instituted free agent compensation of a draft choice and a player, without approval from the players, the players went on strike on June 11 and stayed out through Aug. 10. The result was a postseason determined by split-season standings, and one that didn't include the Reds or Cardinals despite those National League clubs having the best overall records in their divisions.

1985 Players Strike

This was a battle over a salary cap to arbitration and the owners’ contribution to the pension fun. The owners dropped the salary cap idea, increased the minimum salary from $40,000 to $60,000 and made a contribution to the pension plan of $33 million in 1986, 1987 and 1988, and $39 million in 1989.

1989 Earthquake

As the Athletics and Giants went through pregame workouts for Game 3 of the World Series, an earthquake shook the Bay Area, measuring at 7.1 on the Richter scale. It forced a 10-day delay between Games 2 and 3, much to the advantage of the A’s. Dave Stewart started and won Games 1 and 3, and Mike Moore started and won Games 2 and 4. The two dominated, pitching 29 of a possible 36 innings.

1990 Owners Lockout

With players locked out in spring training, the start of the season was started a week late, but a full 162 games were played. The owners wanted to create a fund for the players that included 48 percent of the gate revenue, and all revenue from radio and television broadcasts that was to fund a pay-for-performance system. The players balked, and after 32 days of spring training were lost, the sides reached an agreement that raised the minimum salary from $68,000 to $100,000. The start of the regular season was pushed back one week.

1994-95 Players Strike

The owners took a hard stand on the demands for a revenue-sharing plan tied to a salary cap. The players’ union was having no part of. On Aug. 12, 1994, the players went on a strike that wiped out the remainder of the season—including the World Series—and delayed the start of the 1995 season. The stoppage lasted a total of 232 days before an agreement was reached on April 2, 1995, when spring training camps were opened. Teams lost about 50 games apiece in 1994 and then played a 144-game season in 1995.

Sept. 11, 2001

Terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and carried out dual attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, resulting in the collapse of the Twin Towers. The major league season halted for a week while the U.S. mourned and regrouped. That year’s World Series turned out to be an all-time classic that pitted the Yankees against the Diamondbacks, with Arizona winning on a Game 7 walk-off hit by Luis Gonzalez against Mariano Rivera.

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