Origin of the long-standing hostility between MLB, union


It was front-page news on April 1, 1972, because it was still a novelty, of sorts. Baseball had never endured a regular-season work stoppage before. No sport had. But at 12:01 a.m., almost 50 years ago, baseball’s players announced they were going on strike. And later that day, when they failed to show for any of the 12 exhibition games scheduled for Florida and Arizona, it was official. 

BASEBALL OUT!” screamed the front page of The Post. 

Surprise, Anger Greet Baseball Shutdown,” yelled the back. 

In those days, folks on both ends of the great divide had looser lips and rawer feelings. 

“This is not a strike over money,” Jack Aker, the player rep from the Yankees, said that morning in St. Petersburg, Fla., echoing a common theme the players have espoused for as long as there has been labor rancor. “This is merely an attempt by the owners to break the [union].” 

Tigers general manager Jim Campbell didn’t see it that way. 

“I think the players are damn greedy,” he said, echoing a common theme the owners have espoused for as long as there has been labor rancor. “This game has been pretty good to those guys, and I think baseball deserves better.” 

Said August Bush of the Cardinals: “I wouldn’t give a damn cent more to the players.” 

And Charlie O. Finley of the A’s: “The players have 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 of America,” he said, echoing a common theme commissioners have espoused for as long as there has been labor rancor. 

MLB
Former MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn announces the 1972 baseball strike has ended.
Getty Images

But this was new ground. So, though the players offered a united front, they were also open with their concern about an uncertain future. Danny Cater, who a week earlier had been traded by the Yankees to the Red Sox in what became an all-time steal deal for the Yankees, put it simply: “I feel sick.” 

Another Red Sox player, Ken Tatum, expanded the thought: “You don’t know what to expect without a paycheck coming in and you have a family. Everybody thinks that all of us make $30,000 or $40,000 a year — and we don’t.” 

(Pause here for acknowledgment of quainter, simpler days) 

In New York, the full impact of the strike was almost immediately muffled because the very next day, April 2, Easter Sunday, Mets manager Gil Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack after playing a round of golf with his coaching staff. That sad news, and the subsequent elevation of Yogi Berra as manager, obscured the very real fact that nobody really knew how a labor negotiation like this was supposed to go. 

The strike dragged on for 13 days. There was talk that some weaker franchises might not be able to survive a protracted stoppage. There was talk that players were at their wit’s end, not knowing when their next payday might be. They settled. They agreed to a shortened season. There were hard feelings all around, residue of which lingers still, on both sides. 

In The Post, on what would have been Opening Day 1972, columnist Larry Merchant took a tour of a half-dozen places where baseball was, in fact, being played. In 1972 you could find that — I’m not sure you could in 2022. But Merchant ended his column in a way that could easily apply 50 years later. So I shall 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 all about. Whether either side or neither side is right in the rhubarb, baseball will go on. It’s pointless to get dyspeptic over the baseball strike. Just look around. The season has begun.” 

Vac’s Whacks

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

Suns Knicks
Cameron Johnson drills the bame-winning, buzzer-beater shot to beat the Knicks.
AP

It is, impossibly, now six years since we lost Shannon Forde, who in 22 years in the Mets’ PR office managed to have an equal impact on players, media, owners, front office folks, managers and coaches. She was just 44 when she passed, yet her spirit lives on in so many who knew her. 


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

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

Kyle Neptune
Kyle Neptune
Richard Ulreich/CSM/Shutterstock

Whack Back at Vac

Bruce Welsch: Don’t understand the crazy money going to Tony Romo and now Troy Aikman. The next time I watch any game because of who’s announcing will be the first. Now on the other hand, there are plenty of announcers I would like to turn off. I just don’t get it. 

Vac: I’m old enough to remember when NBC broadcast a Jets-Dolphins game without any announcers, around 1980 or so. I don’t recall the world ending that day. 


Matthew Frank: Ex-Nets great Micheal Ray Richardson had the famous quote, “The ship be sinking.” It certainly seems to be the case for the 2021-22 Nets. I know the script as a long-time Nets fan! “A Tree Dies in Brooklyn,” Kevin Durant is going to ask out. And we head into land of irrelevant again. 

Vac: It’s actually comforting to see Nets fans can experience the same waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop terrors as Jets fans and Mets fans. 


@nyse575: Baseball fans should boycott the first series after they officially come back. 

@MikeVacc: 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 hammer out a deal? To paraphrase the great Jimmy Breslin: “MLB could learn something from the Mafia. No one leaves the table until the problem is solved.” 

Vac: And may their first child be a masculine child.



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