What If… The 1994 MLB Strike Never Happened (World Series and Beyond)by John Lepore April 15, 2020
John Lepore | April 15th, 2020
The 1994 MLB strike devastated baseball. It was the first time since 1904 that the World Series wasn’t played. It cut short historic seasons, deprived franchises of turning their fortunes around, and cost the game some fans who had grown up on the crack of the bat and the smell of peanuts. But on August 11, 1994, after Randy Johnson struck out Ernie Young, there was no joy in Mudville or any other town where baseball was played.
It was supposed to be the first season that the Wild Card would be instituted. The MLB split into three divisions so the postseason would include the division winners plus the team with the best record among the non-division winners.
In 1994 the home team for the World Series alternated each year between the American League champ and the National League champ. This being an even-numbered year, the Montreal Expos would’ve had home-field advantage.
The World Series
Montreal Expos vs. Cleveland Indians
Game One: Jack Morris gets the start for the Indians. The 39-year-old righty is pitching in his fourth consecutive World Series after winning the previous three (1991 Twins, 1992-93 Blue Jays). He will be opposed by the Expos young phenom Pedro Martinez who tossed a two-hit, 13-K complete game in game five of the NLCS. The teams trade zeroes until the fifth when Marquis Grissom hits a chopper up the middle just out of the reach of Omar Vizquel. The single scores Mike Lansing who led off the inning with a double down the left-field line.
The score remains 1-0 when Grissom leads off the eighth with a bunt. Jim Thome bare hands it and throws it into right field over the leaping Paul Sorrento. Grissom winds up on second with nobody out. Cliff Floyd drags a bunt down to first base to advance Grissom to third. Moises Alou pops out to Carlos Baerga and Mike Hargrove decides to go to his lefty Derek Lilliquist to get Larry Walker and keep the game at 1-0. It doesn’t work out as Walker laces an opposite-field double to the gap which sends Grissom walking into home with the Expos’ second run. Wil Cordero then drives in Walker with a solid single past a diving Vizquel. John Wetteland nails down the ninth allowing just a walk to Thome. The Expos take game one 3-0.
Game Two: The Expos turn to lefty Jeff Fassero for game two. The Indians turn to another veteran, Dennis Martinez. El Presidente won 15 games in 1993 for the team he is facing tonight and he shows them what they are missing. The 40-year-old turns back the clock and shuts down the Expos lineup for seven innings, allowing just four singles and striking out seven. Fassero holds his own but gets knocked out of the game in the sixth by a Manny Ramirez three-run blast. Jason Grimsley and Jose Mesa finish off the game and the Indians tie the series 1-1 with a 5-1 victory.
Game Three: 22-game winner Ken Hill gets the start at The Jake against 17-game winner Charles Nagy. The Expos score first as Rondell White drives in Cordero with a double down the left-field line. The Indians quickly answer in the bottom half of the fourth when Eddie Murray blasts a three-run homer off of Hill. The Expos chip away with a solo HR off the bat of Alou leading off the sixth and then another solo shot in the seventh by Lansing to chase Nagy and tie the game at three.
Hill gets in trouble to start the eighth allowing a seeing-eye single to Baerga and a walk to Albert Belle. Mel Rojas comes into the game to put out the fire. Thome laces a shot but Lansing dives and flips to Cordero for the force at second base. Ramirez blasts a deep fly ball, which is caught at the wall in center field. It’s the second out, but Baerga walks home easily on the sac fly. Butch Henry comes in the game to turn Murray around to the right side. The plan works as the future hall of famer strikes out swinging. With the Indians up 4-3 in the ninth, they turn to Mesa once again. He delivers, striking out Sean Berry to end the game.
Game Four: A rematch of game one starters Morris and Martinez. The young ace continues to impress, matching the World Series veteran as each starter only allows one run through six innings. White leads off the seventh with a triple to the gap in right-center field that takes a strange bounce and eludes Ramirez. After walking Lansing, Mike Hargrove decides to pull his starter and bring in Eric Plunk. Plunk gets Berry on strikes but with one out and first and third occupied, Darrin Fletcher hits a towering fly ball that lands just inside the right-field foul pole for a three-run blast putting the Expos up 4-1.
Pedro walks a couple to start the eighth and is replaced by Gil Heredia who manages to escape the inning allowing only one run. Grimsley holds the Expos scoreless in the ninth. Wetteland comes on for the save. After giving up a leadoff HR to ALCS MVP Kenny Lofton, Montreal’s closer navigates through Vizquel, Baerga, and Belle to end the game and tie the series at two games apiece.
Game Five: With Martinez taking on Fassero in game five, the offenses finally show some life. Grissom, Floyd, and Alou start the game with three consecutive doubles. After getting Walker to fly out to center, Cordero and White both single before Lansing and Berry are retired. Fassero fares only slightly better in the bottom half of the inning. After a leadoff single by Lofton, the Montreal lefty gets Vizquel and Baerga but then serves up a two-run 455-foot bomb to Belle to put the score at 3-2 after one.
El Presidente and Fassero dance around a few more hits and runs. With the Expos up 8-6 in the fifth, Manny victimizes Fassero with a three-run blast as he did in game two. The home run knocks the Expos lefty out of the game and puts the Tribe up 9-8. The bullpens hold serve and the Expos come up in the top of the ninth still trailing. Mesa strikes out Grissom to start the inning. Floyd chops a single up the middle but Alou lines out to Vizquel. With two outs, Walker rips a line drive to left-center field. With two outs, Floyd has his sights set on home. Just as the ball is about to touch down a few feet in front of the warning track, Lofton seemingly comes out of nowhere and lays out to make the catch. The Indians are now one game away from ending their World Series drought at 46 years.
Game Six: The series returns to Olympic Stadium and the Expos will turn to Hill to keep them alive. The Indians are hoping Nagy can get them that ring. The Indians strike first in the fourth inning with Belle and Thome hitting back-to-back doubles. Manny then singles in Thome before Hill gets out of the inning. Nagy continues to cruise until the seventh inning. With the Indians now up 3-0, Floyd walks. After Alou and Walker are retired, Cordero singles and Lansing hits a ringing double scoring two. Nagy finishes off Berry to get out of the inning with the Expos down by one. Heredia, Rojas, and Jeff Shaw combine to get through the eighth and ninth holding the Indians lead to a run.
Mesa starts off the ninth inning facing the heart of the Expos order. Alou tops a slow grounder down toward third base, Thome can’t handle it cleanly, and Alou is safe at first base. Walker reaches on a walk and Cordero bunts them over. With one out and men on second and third, Lansing comes to the plate. The Indians decide to intentionally walk the Expos second baseman to load the bases. Berry comes to the plate. After a called strike and a foul ball, Berry takes the third pitch for a ball. With the count 1-2, Berry hits a hotshot back to the mound, it goes off Mesa’s leg and ricochets into the hole at shortstop. Vizquel manages to field the ball cleanly but throws off-balance to Baerga at second. With Lansing bearing down on Baerga, the throw to first goes up the line and pulls Sorrento off the bag. Berry is safe at first, Alou scores, and the game is tied at three. Mesa gets Fletcher to fly out deep to right and the game moves to extra innings.
Wetteland comes in the game and mows down the Indians in the tenth. With Grimsley now in the game, and the double switch made by Expos manager Alou, Lou Frazier leads off the inning. He drags a bunt down the first base line, but Grimsley pounces off the mound and flips to Baerga covering first for the out. After Lofton makes a diving play on a screaming line drive in gap off the bat of Grissom, Floyd steps to the dish. Working the count to 3-2, he finally jumps on a breaking ball and sends it down the right field line. It is just high enough to clear the fence and bangs off the foul pole for a solo HR. The Expos are still alive.
Game Seven: Morris takes the mound for the Tribe as they are hoping he can repeat his performance from game seven of the 1991 World Series. Alou and company pin their hopes on their young phenom Martinez, who has been nearly untouchable throughout the playoffs. Both pitchers get through the first three innings without allowing a baserunner. In the fourth, Grissom lays pushes a bunt toward Baerga at second. It’s perfectly placed and the Expos center fielder reaches safely. With Grissom on the move, Floyd hits a hot shot that Baerga fields cleanly to retire him. Alou flies out to deep right which advances Grissom to third. Walker steps to the plate and after seeing nine pitches from the veteran righty, he laces an opposite-field single over the leaping Vizquel scoring Grissom.
The Indians tie it in the sixth inning with a solo shot off the bat of Lofton, but the Expos strike back in the bottom half when Floyd hits a two-run shot of his own. The game remains 3-1 Expos until the top of the ninth. With Wetteland pitching, Baerga leads off with a sharp single up the middle. After striking out Belle and walking Thome, Ramirez takes a 2-1 fastball to dead center field for a three-run homer. The Olympic Stadium crowd is stunned, and the Indians file out of the dugout to greet their young hitting prodigy at home. Wetteland manages to finish the inning without any further damage.
With Mesa on to close it out, the Expos start the inning with Walker. Chants of “Larry, Larry” reach a fevered pitch and Larry delivers with solid single to right. After Cordero pops out, Lansing rips a single to right field as well and Walker moves to third base. Berry comes to the plate and hits a slow roller to Murray at first. Walker has to hold at third but Lansing moves to second as Berry is out. With two outs, men on second and third, and the score still 4-3 Indians, Fletcher comes to bat. The Indians decide to walk the lefty to load the bases. Alou sends up Rondell White to pinch-hit and a hero is born. White hits the first pitch he sees from Mesa over a leaping Thome down the left field line. Belle doesn’t even bother as Walker scores the tying run and Lansing comes home with the World Series-winning run. The Expos have their first-ever championship.
WS MVP: Pedro Martinez: 2-0, 22 IP, 16 hits, 2 ER, 5 BB, 25 Ks
The Montreal Expos decide to keep Pedro in Canada and sign him to six years at $60 million. They also sign Larry Walker, outbidding the Colorado Rockies and locking up their star right fielder for six years at $37 million. The Expos would go on to make the playoffs yearly, but would unfortunately never win another ring as they would lose to the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and 1996 in the NLCS.
The Indians would get their revenge in 1997 beating the Expos in six games to take home their first trophy in nearly 50 years.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images