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"The owners won't underestimate the players anymore," said Miller. "That's probably the most important thing to come out of the strike. If there was any victory, it was a victory for the spirit of the players."
A more prevalent feeling was that there were no victors at all. "We gained little other than solidarity," said Steve Rogers, the National League's pension rep. "We accepted to avert irreparable damage to the game." If that sounds surprising, listen to White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf: "I was all for giving up in the first place." His partner, club President Eddie Einhorn, feels for the fans. "Not only did we see anger," he said, "but more dangerously, we saw apathy. I was in Mexico during their strike last year, and attendance is now off 30%."
Some will. Last week one anonymous ticket holder went to the stadium of the world champion Phillies and said, "I'm trading all these things in: the games that weren't played because of the strike, the games that are going to be played but I'm not going to see because I'm sick of them. Call it my little blow for the fans. Goodby, season tickets."
But this may be the minority view. At the onset of the strike, fans were pouring into stadiums at a rate one million ahead of last year's pace; in the early aftermath of the settlement, they were stampeding ticket windows.
So on to the season—or what's left of it. Like the 1918 season, which was abridged nearly 10% because of World War I, and the 1972 campaign, which lost 13 days to a season-opening strike, 1981 may be known for its asterisks. Qualifications for league leadership will almost certainly be reduced, so stats will be kept in earnest. But what happens if someone hits .430 with 350 at bats or has an 0.99 earned run average with 110 innings pitched? Asterisk city, probably. Records for minimum performance (e.g., fewest bases on balls) won't be kept this year.
After an eight-day break for summer training, the All-Star Game will display the sport's best players in its largest stadium—"showing our best side," said Philadelphia's Carpenter—but the move hasn't met with universal approval. Not even in Cleveland. "What an utter farce," Hal Lebovitz wrote in The Plain Dealer . "To charge top prices for what has to be a charade, a workout, a non-contest is sinful. Talk about greed...."
When regular play resumes Monday Pete Rose will be seeking the one hit he needs to break Stan Musial's National League record. In St. Louis. And on national television. And wonder of wonders, San Diego owner Ray Kroc will let everyone in free on Reopening Day when the Padres host Atlanta. To hype fan interest, the owners were leaning last weekend toward a split-season format in which teams leading their divisions on June 12 would meet second-half winners in a best-of-five pre-playoff that could extend the season until Oct. 28, when even Commissioner Bowie Kuhn may wear an overcoat. If a division leader wins both halves, it would meet the second-best team in the mini-playoff.
Such a series might well portend a permanent wild-card playoff system, � la football. Baseball's contracts with ABC and NBC already give the owners the right to establish a third tier of postseason play. In the brave new world of baseball, the networks and clubs will grow richer, the season will last almost until November, mediocrity will be rewarded and the 162-game season will become twice as meaningless as basketball's 82-game and hockey's 80-game schedules.
San Francisco owner Bob Lurie was criticized when he defended the split-season concept on a call-in radio show last Friday night. Unfair, cried three listeners. The Dodgers could be cheated out of their rights, said one. A second-place team could win the World Series, said another. The season should continue uninterrupted, said the third, because remaining schedules favor some teams and penalize others.