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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Uncool Dodgers during the 1994 MLB Strike - Bob Costas Tells it Like it Is

In early August of 1994, major league baseball players went on strike, which resulted in the cancellation of the rest of the season and of the World Series. They remained on strike as spring raining began and some minor league players came to camp as replacement players. One such player was Mike Busch of the Dodgers system. The strike ended the week before opening day and all the regular players returned. Busch did not play a regular season game as a replacement player.

On August 29, with the Dodgers barely hanging on to first place, GM Fred Claire called Bush up from AAA. When Busch got to the clubhouse, the players told him to leave and voted to return him to the minors. Claire refused to buckle so they refused to play catch with him before the game and refused to take batting practice with him. When he took infield practice at third base, there was no one standing at first base for him to throw to. No one got in Busch's face, however, as he was 6'5", 220 pounds and had played college football.

I still remember Brett Butler, my favorite Dodger, sounding like a complete jerk as the Player Rep for the Union. I really liked what Bob Costas had to say about the situation when interviewed years later for the book True Blue by Steve Delsohn:

I think it's an indication of how totally lacking in perspective the Players Association has become and the payer as a group are. If your team acquires a felon, here are guys who, literally, say, "Hey, it's okay with us. Everyone deserves a second chance. As long as he can help us, we're happy to have him n the clubhouse."
 These are guys who happily dress next to multiple-time drug offenders. Next to some of the biggest horse's asses who've ever walked the earth in any walk of life. Next to guys who have beaten their wives, showed up late, and tanked on their team in big games. I'm not saying these guys are universally popular, but you don't hear anyone publicly condemning them.
 But the single greatest pariah is a replacement player. "We couldn't possibly play catch before a game with a replacement player. We'd sooner come in proximity with Typhoid Mary." I mean, this is so intellectually bankrupt that it's a joke. My God, a replacement player! Oh, the most odious of individuals. And hey, you know, we'd love to have Albert Belle. We have no problem with Albret Belle. But my God, do we have to hang around with Mike Busch?
Albert (don't call me Joey) Belle
was sort of Manny before
Manny was being Manny
You go Bob!

Butler and the other vocal Dodgers eventually publicly (and insincerely) kissed and made up with Busch because they were getting hammered by the public and some of the press. Butler was getting booed at home.

I remember sitting in the back of an Ohio Legislative subcomittee as Eddie Murray and Kenny Lofton of the Indians testified during that same strike. And the legislators fawned all over them, practically knocking each other out of the way to kiss their behinds. I was a big Eddie Murray fan before that, but not after. These guys, who made over a million dollars a year, at a job every little boy dreams of, not only didn't want to show up for work, they wanted to punish anybody else who did.

Darryl Strawberry? Sure! But
not that horrible Mike Busch
Busch, who had a wife and newborn daughter, had 105 plate appearances over the 1995 and 1996 seasons for the Dodgers, hitting .220 with 7 homers. He made about as much money for that 1995 spring training as he would for an entire season in AAA.

Brett Butler was crossed off my list of favorite Dodgers in 1995.

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