Twenty two years ago, replacement players almost opened the baseball season

Twenty two years ago, the 1995 Opening Day that no one wanted loomed over Major League Baseball. The reason? After the games were completed on August 11, 1994 major league baseball players went on strike forcing MLB to cancel the remaining games in 1994 and for the first time since 1904 there was no World Series. I remember how disappointing it was back then and I hope that we never see it happen again. What is Fall without the World Series? Not to mention how it messed up my fantasy baseball league with me at the top of the standings.

As spring training approached the majority of the teams signed replacement players, players that had retired, career minor league players and anyone that could pitch or hit a baseball was signed. A few major league players crossed the picket lines and some active minor league players also thought the risk was worth the effort. Wannabee baseball players all over the country left their families and jobs behind to see if they could become the new stars of major league baseball. A few teams said they would not play with replacements and some major league managers and coaches said they wanted no part of this charade. 

Some replacements received a reported $5,000 at the beginning of spring training with a bonus of $20,000 if they made it to Opening Day. Salaries reportedly were set at $115,000, with each team permitted to have three players making $275,000.

The Minnesota Twins had been unwilling to release the names of players they have signed to replacement-player contracts. When they did release their spring training roster they did not denote which players have signed addenda to their minor-league contracts that made them replacement players. The Twins have taken this approach because they hoped to blend the replacement players in with their minor leaguers’ during spring training.

They do not want to call attention to replacement players, partly to keep the replacement players from drawing criticism from the players’ union, which was on strike, and partly because even players signed as replacement players might not make the regular-season replacement team. The Twins also want to keep secret the identities of their regular minor leaguers who decide to play as replacement players.

Here is one list of players that supposedly had signed with the Twins with the possibility of becoming replacement players: (Note: # denote former major league players)

Catchers – Greg Iavarone, Andy Skeels, Mike Vogel.

First baseBrian Brady#, Paul Jackson, Bubba Smith, Willie Tatum.

Second base –  Chris Malinoski.

Shortstop – Joe Aragon, Greg Jelks#, Kelly Paris#, Sean McKamie.

Third base – Tom Houk.

Outfield –  Brad Bierley, Brad Komminsk#, Jay Kvasnicka, Chris Priest, Cory Schaefer, Pat Wright.

Pitchers – Phil Bryant, Scott Centala, Russ Fandel, Tom Fischer, Carl Grovom, Judd Johnson, Daren Kizziah, Mike Loynd#, Joe Lynch, Jay Maldonado, Mike Pavelka, Tom Powers, Steve Spurgeon, Mike Warren#, Don Welchel#, David White, Barry Wohler, James Wray.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

The replacement players almost made it to Opening Day. But then, on March 31, just days before Opening Day 1995, baseball’s owners took a called third strike against their use of replacement players and the 232-day strike was effectively ended when a temporary injunction by then District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor put a kibosh on the owners plans.

The temporary injunction by Sotomayor was upheld by an appellate court, preventing the owners from unilaterally implementing a new collective-bargaining agreement. The landmark ruling was cited by President Barack Obama in 2009 when he nominated Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. “Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball,” Obama was quoted as saying. Sotomayor’s Baseball Ruling Lingers, 14 Years Later

Most of the replacement players never did get a chance to play in a regular season game but they had an interesting experience that they will never forget or in some cases, they will not be allowed to forget. There are many stories written about the 1995 replacement players, here is one that I ran across that I thought was interesting. Five years later, replacements still feel the heat  . The last known replacement player to play in the majors is Ron Mahay who pitched for Minnesota in 2009-2010 and then pitched in the minors for several organizations in 2011-2012 before hanging up his spikes.

Identifying all the replacement players is difficult because a number of them played under assumed names. I once asked former Twins GM Terry Ryan about these players since he was the Twins GM at the time of the strike but his response was that “he didn’t have that information any more”. Since that time I have been able to acquire a Twins team picture of the replacement players but I am not sure that all the replacement players are in the picture. It is odd also that no members of the coaching or training staff are in this picture. Never the less here is a picture of the Twins replacement players back in 1995.



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