The ’95 KC Royals: The last short season revisited

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The 2020 major league season won’t start on time, the first time since 1995 that a campaign will begin significantly late. Here’s a look back at the ’95 KC Royals and their short season.

The night of Aug. 10, 1994 was a perfect West Coast baseball evening, warm with a barely perceptible breeze for the KC Royals’ game against the California Angels. It was the rubber game of a three-game series; the Royals were scheduled to fly home after the contest for a day off before hosting Texas to begin a nine-game homestand.

The game was close all the way. The Angels scored first on a Gary Disarcina one-run single in the second inning and Felix Jose‘s RBI single in the Kansas City fourth left it tied going to the bottom of the ninth. Royals’ reliever Billy Brewer, in with one out after starter Tom Gordon loaded the bases, struck out Rex Hudler, then gave way to Rusty Meacham with Disarcina coming to the plate. Disarcina punched a 1-0 pitch into center and the Angels had a 2-1 walk-off.

The Royals flew home as scheduled and took their day off, but didn’t play the Rangers the next night. In fact they, like every other major league team, didn’t play at all the rest of the season–instead, the players went on strike and the entire campaign, including the World Series, was lost to labor strife.

The excruciatingly long strike didn’t end until April 2, 1995, the day before replacement players were scheduled to open the season. (A federal court injunction issued by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ended the strike, a story deserving of its own telling and one for another day). A hasty “spring training” followed and the ’95 season started for the KC Royals April 26. Opening Day came too late for a 162-game regular season, so the teams played 144.

The ’94 strike was the last baseball work stoppage and caused the last late start to a season, other than an Opening Day or two delayed by weather. Now, 25 years later, when the 2020 season will start is unknown, a necessary consequence of baseball’s prudent decision to cancel spring training and delay the season’s start for at least two weeks as the country and world grapple with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Some Royals and their fans hadn’t been born, and some were too young to remember, the last time baseball stopped. Let’s take a look back at the 1995 KC Royals, the team that returned from the long strike.

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