Origin of long-standing enmity between MLB, Union

It was on the front pages on April 1, 1972 because it was still sort of a novelty. Baseball had never seen a regular-season downtime before. Had no sports. But at 12:01 am, almost 50 years ago, baseball players announced they were going on strike. And later that day, when they didn’t show up for any of the 12 exhibition games scheduled for Florida and Arizona, it was official.

BASEBALL OUT!‘ yelled the front page of the Post.

Surprise, Anger Salute Baseball Shutdown‘ cried the back.

Back then, people at either end of the great divide had looser lips and rawer feelings.

“This is not a money strike,” Yankees players’ representative Jack Aker said This Morning in St. Petersburg, Fla., reiterating a common theme players have campaigned for since resentments against workers have existed. “This is just an attempt by the owners to break that [union].”

Tigers CEO Jim Campbell saw things differently.

“I think players are bloody greedy,” he said, echoing a common theme owners have championed since resentments arose. “This game was pretty good for these guys, and I think baseball deserves better.”

Cardinals’ August Bush: “I wouldn’t give the players another damn cent”

And Charlie O. Finley of the A’s: “The players just shot the goose that laid the golden egg.”

And Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had this to say:

“Obviously, the losers in the strike action are the sports fans in America,” he said, echoing a common theme that commissioners have campaigned on ever since workers rancored.

Former MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn announces the end of the 1972 baseball strike.
Getty Images

But that was new territory. So while the players offered a united front, they also expressed their concern about an uncertain future. Danny Cater, who was traded from the Yankees to the Red Sox a week earlier in what became an all-time steal deal for the Yankees, put it simply, “I’m sick.”

Another Red Sox player, Ken Tatum, expanded on the thought: “You don’t know what to expect when there’s no paycheck coming in and you have a family. Everyone thinks we all make $30,000 or $40,000 a year, and we don’t.”

(pause here for appreciation of quaint, simpler days)

In New York, the full effect of the strike was dampened almost immediately because Mets manager Gil Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack the next day, April 2, Easter Sunday, after playing a round of golf with his coaching staff. That sad news and the subsequent appointment of Yogi Berra as manager obscured the very real fact that no one really knew how collective bargaining like this was supposed to work.

The strike lasted 13 days. There was talk that some weaker franchises might not survive an extended shutdown. There was talk that the players were at their wits’ end and didn’t know when their next payday might be. You have settled down. They agreed on a shortened season. There were hard feelings everywhere, the remnants of which are still present on both sides.

In The Post, on Opening Day 1972, columnist Larry Merchant took a tour of half a dozen locations that actually played baseball. You could find that in 1972 – I’m not sure you could find that in 2022. But Merchant ended his column in a way that could easily apply 50 years later. So I’ll borrow it to end this column:

“The people who own the teams and the players who play the game for money are not what the game is about. Whether one side or neither side is right in the rhubarb, baseball will go on. There’s no point getting dyspeptic about the baseball bat. just look around The season has started.”

Vac’s Whacks

After staying up late to watch this Knicks lose to the buzzer on a 30-foot bank shot Friday night, I think it’s pretty clear that they just can’t have nice things anymore.

Sun curtsy
Cameron Johnson wields the award-winning buzzer beater shot to beat the Knicks.

Impossible it’s been six years since we lost Shannon Forde, whose 22 years in the Mets’ public relations office managed to influence players, media, owners, front offices, managers and coaches alike. She was only 44 when she died, but her spirit lives on in so many who knew her.

I’m going to give the Bonnies a puncher chance at the Atlantic 10 Tournament next week, in case you were wondering.

That brings us to Kyle Neptune, who has done a remarkable job at Fordham this year and should be right there in the talks with Davidson’s Bob McKillop for A-10 Coach of the Year. He did well.

Kyle Neptune
Kyle Neptune
Richard Ulreich/CSM/Shutterstock

Hit back on Vac

Bruce Welch: Don’t understand the crazy money goes to Tony Romo and now Troy Aikman. Next time I watch any game who announces will be first. On the other hand, there are now many announcers that I would like to eliminate. I just do not understand.

Vacuum: I’m old enough to remember when NBC aired a Jets-Dolphins game with no announcer around 1980 or so. I don’t remember the world ending on that day.

Matthew Frank: Ex-Nets great Micheal Ray Richardson had the famous quote “The ship is sinking”. For the 2021-22 networks, that certainly appears to be the case. I know the script as a longtime Nets fan! “A tree is dying in Brooklyn,” Kevin Durant will ask. And we go back to the land of insignificance.

Vacuum: It’s actually reassuring to see that Nets fans can experience the same horrors as Jets fans and Mets fans.

@nyse575: Baseball fans should boycott the first series after its official return.

@ Mike Vacc: It’s an excellent idea. But baseball fans love baseball. Many of them can’t help themselves.

Damian Begley: For three months, the owners and players couldn’t negotiate a deal? To paraphrase the great Jimmy Breslin, “MLB could learn something from the mafia. Nobody leaves the table until the problem is solved.”

Vacuum: And may her first child be a male child. Origin of long-standing enmity between MLB, Union


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