For all of its successes, the 1994 season remains one of the darkest years in Major League Baseball history. On Aug. 12, a labor dispute between MLB and the MLB Player’s Association resulted in a strike that would cancel the rest of the season, including the postseason and World Series.
While the Montreal Expos were infamously the best team by far in the National League that season, the Los Angeles Dodgers were leading the much weaker NL West, looking for their first playoff appearance since they won the 1988 World Series.
The Dodgers that year possessed a veteran pitching staff led by ace Orel Hershiser along with a lineup powered by budding young stars Mike Piazza and Eric Karros.
Hershiser knew as well as anyone that a strike was very possible. He was the Dodgers’ MLBPA representative, so the stalemate of the labor negotiations between the league and its players was constantly on his mind.
Hershiser, now the Dodgers’ lead color analyst on SportsNet LA, was honest when reflecting on the reality of what could happen that season, per Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“I knew about the labor strife coming and I knew we had set a hard date on when something needed to be done and I knew there wasn’t much movement going on,” Hershiser said last week. “So I didn’t predict anything. I was just kind of sending out a possibility.
“You’re talking about it with your friends and family. You’re talking about it with your agent. You’re talking about it with your teammates. You’re talking about it with the clubhouse guys. It’s not just the economy of baseball and players. It’s the economy of the concession people, it’s the economy of the people working in the parking, it’s the economy of the clubhouse kids. It’s everybody. It relates to everybody.”
Karros was not overly optimistic about the Dodgers’ chances against the loaded Expos, but did not anticipate how long the strike would drag on:
“We clearly weren’t the best team that year,” said Eric Karros, the Dodgers’ first baseman. “So it’s not like ‘Hey, man, that was our best Dodger team that could’ve won a World Series.’ But we were good.
“We just thought it would be a work stoppage of a week, maybe, or two weeks or whatever. Nobody anticipated the season to be over.”
The Dodgers were barely over .500 by mid-August and trailed the Expos by double digits for the best record in the NL. But a rematch of the 1981 NL Championship Series would at least conjure memories of when the Dodgers upset a similarly favored Expos squad en route to Tommy Lasorda’s first World Series championship as manager.
The Dodgers would make the playoffs under the new Division Series format in each of the next two seasons, but get swept both times in the NLDS.
Hershiser departed in free agency for the Cleveland Indians and help lead them to the American League pennant the very next season, winning 1995 ALCS MVP. Hershiser finished his career with the Dodgers in 2000, though by then he was a shell of his former self.