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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Strike Three?

When it comes to labor unrest and baseball, the team that seems to get hurt the worst is the White Sox.  Whether in the short or long run, the White Sox suffer the most, and this season will be no exception. 

In 1972, the Sox anticipated a crowd of over 50,000 for their Home Opener.  The game would have been played on a beautiful spring day, but the season was delayed because of a player lockout.  The home opener was put off until a cold Tuesday night a couple weeks later, and the Sox won 14-0.  They went on to have a great season that year, finishing only 5 1/2 games out of first.  But it had to be tough to lose a gate like that. 

1981 brought new hope.  After buying the club from the financially strapped Bill Veeck, new owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn knew they couldn't wait to make the club competitive.  They went out and acquired Carlton Fisk and Greg Luzinksi, and by early June, the Sox were 31-22.  An attendance of over 100,000 was expected for a weekend series in Milwaukee.  But instead of playing in front of huge road crowds that would have plenty of Sox fans, players went home instead.  A players' strike wiped out two months of the season.  We Sox fans didn't know it yet, but the season truly ended with the walk out, as the team couldn't even win a quarter of a pennant in cockeyed split season format. 

1994.  Do I need to say anymore?

2002 follows the same pattern.  Though the White Sox are not in the same strong position as 1994, they have to be considered favorites to win their division.  Fan alienation and attendance are still problems, but these problems will only worsen if the post season is cancelled once more.  It would be disastrous for the franchise if history repeats itself. 

A cloud still hangs over the Sox.  When some people talk contraction, they talk of the White Sox instead of Twins.  This is another turning point for the team, only this time there is a chance to turn things around.  In the midst of this crisis, there is a great opportunity to gain credibility with the fans and put a dent in the armor of hope springs eternal Cubdom. 

Rightly or wrongly, Jerry Reinsdorf is held responsible for the 1994 strike by many fans.  Anyone who under-estimated the effects of that strike has to realize how devastating it was to the baseball and even more to the Sox.  But now Reinsdorf has a chance to redeem himself and save the franchise in the process. 

In 1981, Reinsdorf and Einhorn were a part of a group called the “moderate six.”  This group of owners recognized that if there were no compromise in the 1981 strike, there would be no World Series.  The moderate six bolted from the others, and an agreement was reached.  We had to put up with a stupid split season, but at least there was a season. 

It is time for Reinsdorf to be a moderate again.   No matter how unfair he thinks the baseball economic situation is, Reinsdorf can’t stand by and be a part of this again.  He says he wants to win and that he is a true fan.  He can prove it by doing all he can to bring about an agreement.  I wouldn’t want to have leave a legacy of two cancelled World Series’ if I were him. 

I’m a big critic of Reinsdorf, but even I recognize that he is a man of strong convictions.  He won’t apologize for the 1994 strike or the White Flag Trade, and I have a certain respect for that.  However, he can recognize the tremendous negative fan backlash to these developments.  By saving this situation, he can turn public opinion around and begin a new era for his franchise.  

The timing would be perfect.  The Cubs are absolutely pathetic.  Their front office is fighting with the neighborhood over Wrigley expansion, and at this writing, only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are keeping the Cubs from having the worst record in baseball.  Cub fans walk around in a perpetual state of denial, but even they can face a few facts after seeing their comatose heroes lose five straight to Bud Lite's team.  Wouldn’t the Sox make big gains PR-wise if their owner helped save the season and baseball while the Tribune Company cared more about the rooftops than winning? 

Jerry Reinsdorf can be a real hero.  He can stop the strike.  He can preserve baseball tradition.  And, when he is finished doing all of that, he can go out and get a veteran starting pitcher. 

Editor's Note:  Dan Helpingstine is a free lance writer living in Highland, Indiana.  In the early 80's, he worked as a stringer for The Times, then based in Hammond, Indiana, covering business-labor news.  For six years, he worked as a part-time sportswriter for the Merrillville Herald, a weekly that was a part of a chain of weeklies in Lake and Porter Counties.  He covered high school football and basketball.  In 1995, Helpingstine had a short story published in a murder mystery anthology entitled Murder Is My Business.  He also has had articles on the JFK murder published in the Post-Tribune of Gary.  His new book is titled "Through Hope and Despair."  It is the story of one fan's roller coaster ride with the luckless White Sox.

More features from Dan Helpingstine here!

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