'94 strike: From 1st place to headed home
August, 12, 2014
By Jim Bowden | ESPN Insider
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesManager Davey Johnson and the Reds led the NL Central with a 66-48 record when the strike arrived.Oh, what could have been.
We, the Cincinnati Reds, had worked to get to the top of our division and become one of the better teams in baseball. Over the course of a short, 20-month span, we had rebuilt and reshaped the team to make a playoff run. We were finally there. We felt we even had a shot at a World Series title.
Had a shot, that is, until Aug. 11, 1994, when at 9:45 p.m. PT, Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson struck out Oakland's Ernie Young, and the baseball players went on strike, resulting in a devastating 7½-month work stoppage, which at that time was the longest in the history of major North American professional sports leagues.
The 1994 season was taken from us, and I wonder to this day how far that team could have gone.
For me, the general manager of the Reds, it was especially tough to take, given the years that led up to it. I was hired by Marge Schott to become the GM of the Reds on Oct. 16, 1992. At the time, I was the youngest GM in the history of baseball, at age 31, and I came out swinging by hiring Tony Perez as manager, trading for Kevin Mitchell and Roberto Kelly, and signing free-agent starting pitcher John Smiley to a four-year contract. I was feeling pretty good about the progress we had made, and Baseball America even referred to me with the headline "Boy Wonder."
The next several months were a different story, and after them, the more appropriate headline would have been "Boy Blunder." Let's just say everything quickly turned into a nightmare.