While you’d imagine that the occasion of Seattle’s Randy Johnson striking out Oakland’s Ernie Young at 9:45 p.m. on Aug. 11, 1994, would be but a mere statistic in baseball’s rich tapestry, it actually heralded a strike of another kind entirely. That’s because the end of that particular game brought about what was at the time the start of the longest work stoppage in the history of the major North American professional sports leagues.
The dispute, inevitably, involved money. The owners wanted to place a salary cap on the players’ earnings while the sportsmen felt they had the right to negotiate the salaries they deserved. Naturally, everyone lost. The World Series was canceled for the first time in 90 years, players missed out on millions of dollars (and Matt Williams lost the chance to break Roger Maris’ home-run record) with management suffering to around the tune of $1 billion. And when players did pick up their bats the following April, that season wasn’t particularly pretty either, with attendance and operating levels plummeting. It wasn’t until a new labor deal was finally agreed in 1997 that the game began to recover thanks to revenue sharing among the teams and a luxury tax.
(In an incident that shines ironically on the present-day situation, a TIME magazine cover story on the baseball strike reported that an Oakland Raiders fan at that fateful, final ball game, pointed to his headgear as a warning to the players and said, “We do have football coming up.”)