Baseball is back! And it’s really weird! While this might be the weirdest season in MLB’s 151 year history, there have certainly been some equally bizarre years. Labor strikes, World Wars and pandemics have all hampered seasons before. Let’s study them now, and maybe feel a little less alone.
Champion: Red Sox (4-2 over Cubs)
I’m sure you haven’t read anything about this, but in 1918 there was also a pandemic that ravaged the world. How did baseball handle the 1918 Flu Pandemic? They didn’t! Mostly, aside from shortening the schedule from 153 games to 130. And guess what? People died!
Most notably Silk O’Laughlin who, beside having an incredible name, was one of the top umpires of the day. Admittedly Silk contracted the virus away from the diamond, but it’s still a great example of the risks of sports during this time. Particularly with managers, coaches, and the often super-old-and-constantly-winded umpires. Let’s be careful out there.
The last of so many labor strikes in the game, baseball almost didn’t recover from the 1994 strike. Then a bunch of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots started cranking home runs like they were steroids, and America’s Pasttime was back! Kind of!
Not only did we miss playoff baseball, we also missed the chance to see Tony Gwynn hit .400. If you ask me, watching an objectively out of shape man have one of the greatest seasons in the sport’s history is what baseball is all about. Could he have been the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams did it (with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth)? The world will never know.
Thankfully, MLB eventually ended their labor disputes, had a shortened 1995 season and players and owners never had another issue again…
Go here for World Series Odds.
Champion: Dodgers (4-2 over Yankees)
The OTHER season with a major gap over player unrest, 1981 saw MLB break its season into two halves. It also introduced the divisional round of the playoffs. Then it went away. For a few years. These split seasons gave the Montreal Expos their first ever playoff birth and left them a game away from the World Series. I pretty much can’t imagine anything weirder than that.
Montreal lost the NLCS in five but if they had won…maybe they never leave? Maybe we’re talking about the 2019 World Series champion Expos. And there wouldn’t be an official team for senators who look like they were made out of cottage cheese and hate or lobbyists that want to give gun rights to pharmaceutical companies.
And we’d get to see those badass hats way more. I love the Expos hat. You love the Expos hat. And the fact that we don’t get to see it on Juan Soto’s head makes me cry a little inside.
Champion: Athletics (4-3 over Reds)
Guess what, baseball LOVES labor stoppages (it’s almost as if these rich white team owners don’t have their employees best interests in mind)! 1972 was the first major stoppage, and while it didn’t last as long as ‘81 or ‘94, it did have one little extra nugget of weird: every team didn’t play the same number of games.
Because of when the stoppage occurred, and the staggering of early season off days, some teams played an extra game or two than others. And because of that, the Detroit Tigers took the division from the Red Sox despite having the same number of losses (70). The Tigers DID have one more win (86), partially because they played one more game. As a result the baseball world did…pretty much nothing. I’m sure the Tigers would be into playing much, much fewer games than everybody else this year. Just sayin’.
Champion: Cardinals (4-2 over SL Browns)
It was a classic battle of St. Louis in the World Series (That’s right, St. Louis had TWO baseball teams. For some reason.) as the Cardinals beat the Browns in 6. But that didn’t overshadow the weirdness of trying to play professional baseball right smack dab in the middle of WWII.
Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio and Hank Greenberg (look him up, he was very good!) were just some of the stars killing Nazis instead of baseballs. Because of that, 15-year old Joe Nuxhall became the youngest player to ever play in the majors.
Initially trying to recruit his dad, the Cincinnati Reds settled for one of Orville Nuxhall’s five children. Joe made his debut against the eventual champion Cardinals. He retired the first batter…nice! Then went on to walk five guys, throw a wild pitch, give up two hits and five runs without successfully finishing the inning. It was almost like he was a 15-year-old pitching to grown men. Joe went on to have a solid career (after taking a few years off to be a teenager) and was a Red’s broadcaster for many years. But he’ll forever be known for getting to be very bad at baseball at a very young age because of a very important war.