(The Unit would like to know how you got his FUCKING TELEPHONE NUMBER)
It seems strange now, but baseball probably mattered less to me in 1995 than it does today. I was a junior in high school, then, and… presumably doing whatever it was I did like half a lifetime ago. I recall a lot of brooding? At any rate, the MLB strike of that year was a bummer for me, but I wasn’t about to let it get in the way of worrying about zits or imagining what college would be like.
So, contextually, it would’ve made sense that I heard nothing about a (freaking amazing) plan by the MLBPA to send its biggest stars on a barnstorming tour of the U.S. during that 1995 players strike. What doesn’t make nearly as much sense, and which is actually and amazingly true, is that apparently no one, outside of the MLBPA and a few people brought in to help with the logistics of the tour, knew about it, either. That would’ve changed had the tour actually happened, but the idea died with the resolution of the strike that summer. All of which makes Nando Di Fino’s piece on the barnstorming tour for AOL FanHouse a pretty amazing feat in its own right: an apparent scoop on something that (almost) happened 15 years ago. It’s pretty great stuff:
Fifteen years ago, when the baseball strike had already killed a World Series and was threatening to derail the 1995 season, Major League Baseball camps were filled with replacement players, a tale told many times over. But what most people — even die-hard baseball fans — don’t know is that the Major League Baseball Players Association had a plan of their own: take 120 of their best players, separate them into four teams, and have round-robin tournaments on the weekends in minor league and municipal stadiums. It would curry favor with the fans, there could be some charitable element to it, and it might actually be … fun. One of the first people they brought on board was [former Pirates clubbie David] Delisanti…
As the strike dragged on into 1995, Delisanti kept in contact with his friends on the Pirates — Andy Van Slyke, Jim Leyland and Jay Bell — to gauge the progress of the strike talks. Bell in particular, the union rep for Pittsburgh, told him not to worry, that things would work out.
A few weeks later, Delisanti received a call from the MLBPA. They had hatched the barnstorming plan, and wanted to know if he would be interested in being the equipment manager for the tour. Bell had suggested him for the job. The unemployed Delisanti jumped at the opportunity, even if it meant being blacklisted by the owners…
The barnstorming idea was straightforward on paper, but had a lot of moving parts that required Delisanti to create a command central of sorts in his parents’ home, where 120 of the game’s greatest players would be returning his calls, some answered by his parents. Randy Johnson, for example, had no clue who Delisanti was and told [Delisanti’s] father to have David him stop calling his house.