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Remembering the 95′ Replacement Players



By Mike Silva ~ August 12th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, NY Baseball Memories.

It was 16 years ago today the Players Union would elect to go out on strike and end the 1994 baseball season. Yankees fans remember it as the year that wasn’t, but baseball also lost out on the home run chase, Tony Gwynn chasing .400, and ultimately the World Series. The 94′ strike destroyed baseball in Montreal as a talented Expos club had the best record in the game.

Even worse was what happened the next spring, as the owners elected to start spring training with replacement players. A majority of the players are names that have no recognition, however some went on to have impact here in the tri state area. In the 2000 World Series Benny Agbayani, Rick Reed, and Shane Spencer all were former scabs on the postseason roster. One well know scab that spring was Doug Sisk, a former member of the 86′ championship squad. I caught up with Doug last week to ask him his memories of the situation and why he would ignore the requests of his union brethren and cross the picket line.

Sisk’s story starts a few years earlier, in 1991 when he was force to leave the game due to shoulder and foot injuries. Doug had been itching to give a comeback a try, and would be given the opportunity in the spring of 95′ when Mets General Manager Joe McIllvaine called. The league was still on strike and the owners were considering fielding replacement players. McIllvaine wanted to gauge Sisk’s level of interest. To put this in perspective, Sisk was just retired and trying to start a business so money was tight.

Over the last few years of his career the union was holding back licensing revenue from the players in order to create a “rainy day fund” in anticipation of a strike. Although Sisk was officially out of baseball, the union rejected his request for the money owed since they needed to use it for the active players. Doug Sisk, who never got a multimillion dollar deal, had to fund players like Jose Canseco while on strike.

Despite some protests of former teammates Sisk reported to camp with the Mets scabs. He was throwing so well the team told him he had a great shot to stick around after the regulars returned. Although Sisk and his teammates were using the unfortunate situation for one last chance at glory, Mets manager Dallas Green appeared to have an ax to grind. Sisk said Green ran the team so hard during camp he felt it was to their detriment. Some players believed Green did this because he was angry about heading a charade meant to only create leverage for the owners at the bargaining table.

Just when Sisk thought his story would have a happy ending the real games began and he would throw out his arm pitching against the Yankees. It would be the last pitch Sisk would ever throw to this day. Yes, he can’t throw batting practice today thanks to the damage of one last shot at glory. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway since the strike was settled, and who knows if the Mets would have followed through on their promise of a spot with the regulars. One of the unfortunate situations of the strike was the tough position of the minor leaguers. Sisk remembers telling a couple of young pitchers named Isringhausen and Pulspiher not to cross the line because they had their careers ahead of them.

This story does have a happy ending. Yes, baseball was played in 1995. The Yankees and Mariners treated us to a wild series, and the Braves finally won their first, and only, World Series. Scabs like Rick Reed would eventually make their mark. To this day none of them have received licensing income from the MLBPA. As for Doug Sisk, he would get his money, years later, and today works as a scout and does radio for the Mariners AAA club in Tacoma. Give Sisk and those guys credit. They went for it one last time in the face of pressure, greed, and resentment. If one thing positive came out of that dark period it was that.

To check out the entire roster of replacement players courtesy of The Baseball Almanac download it in excel format here.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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2 Responses to Remembering the 95′ Replacement Players

  1. UncleMario

    Left out the part about how former replacement players, Dale Polley, Dave Pavlas and Matt Howard contributed to the 1996 Yankees and were voted not to received the 1996 World Series shares for the team. However both George and John Wettland stepped up by giving them checks.

  2. Stu B

    Rick Reed made a comeback with the Mets after being a replacement guy, and he had to work extra hard to be accepted. There was a great deal of acrimony with other players – I remember John Franco, for some reason, being at the center of this…

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