July 22, 1995: Former strike replacement player Rick Reed makes his Reds debut and pitches 6 1/3 no-hit innings in a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.
The players had gone on strike during the 1994 season with a couple of surprise teams in first place. The Reds had an injury filled 1993 season and finished in fifth place in the National League Western Division with a 73-89 record. The divisions were realigned for the 1994, the Reds were healthy, and the Reds were in first place in the National League Central Division when games were halted on August 11. The Reds were 66-48, 1/2 game ahead of the second place Houston Astros. Meanwhile, the Montreal Expos were having their best season ever with a 74-40 record, good enough for first place in the National League East. After a couple of weeks the owners voted to lockout the players and cancel the remainder of the season. Only two owners voted against this: Reds owner Marge Schott and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos (Orioles were second in the American League East).
There was still no agreement between the players and the teams as the 1995 spring training season began. The major league owners decided to hire strike replacement players and proceed with the season. There was much disagreement from baseball management on how to approach the situation. Here’s a report from Jason Robertson at Baseball Almanac.com
Baltimore did not field a strikebreaking team that spring. Team owner Peter Angelos refused to do so due to some connections with other union(s). The Toronto Blue Jays planned on playing regular season games in their spring training home in Dunedin, Florida, due to Ontario labor laws preventing the use of strikebreaking employees. Bob Didier filled in as manager for Cito Gaston during the strike. Tom Runnells was named interim manager of the Detroit Tigers, after Sparky Anderson refused to manage the team and continually insulted the quality of players and the integrity of baseball that spring. Due to Quebec labor laws, Montreal was the only team that could hire strikebreaking players from outside the US or Canada, giving them a larger pool of players to choose from.
The Reds went and got the best replacement players they could find. Reed was from “Reds country,” having grown up in Huntington, WV. He had been drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 and had spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues with the Pirates, the Kansas City Royals, and Texas Rangers before the Reds claimed him off waivers in May, 1994. He had gone 9-5 for AAA Indianapolis in 1994 (and went 11-4 in 1995). His major league record through 1993 was a cumulative 9-15 with a 4.55 ERA through 57 major league games, including 39 starts.
Players signed by the Reds included future star reliever Brendan Donnelly and former major leaguers 1B Barbaro Garbey and 3B Chris Brown. They also signed 48-year-old former Reds star reliever Pedro Borbon, Sr., recently inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. The Reds were apparently serious about winning and went 14-12 in spring training, which was the fifth best National League spring training record. There was reportedly a darker side to their negotations when it came to Reed. From Baseball-Almanac.com:
“Tim Kurkjian in ESPN The Magazine wrote, “Rick Reed knew. He was pitching for the Reds’ Triple-A club, his 10th year of pro ball. He was told by the Reds to cross the line or he’d be released, then blackballed. Reed’s mother was sick, he was paying her medical bills, and he couldn’t stop working. So he played. Late in the 1995 season, he was recalled by the Reds because they badly needed pitching. General manager Jim Bowden called a team meeting to inform the players of what he was planning to do. One player stood up in the back of the clubhouse and screamed his opposition, claiming he would never be a teammate with a ‘scab.’ “
One has to assume the same kinds of tactics were used on other players throughout the league, but I don’t know and the players were caught between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” The player’s union didn’t help them and forced these fringe players to make tough decisions. Some of the players were minor leaguers not yet under major league contracts that were not in the player’s union and the team wanted to evaluate them. The player’s union and teams are said to have threatened those guys, too. From Robertson’s article:
“Billy McMillon is the only player who appeared in at least one game that spring who was allowed into the MLPBA. The players union took a cruel stance of saying that anyone who appeared in just one official spring training game during the strike would be blacklisted from the MLBPA forever. Even if the players had no intention of playing in regular season games, or played under the threat of being sent home or released by their organizations. The MLBPA did nothing to protect players who were sent home, and were not striking to increase minor league salaries or create pensions for minor leaguers, so their hard-line stance seems unjust.”
The players did get some benefits and it varied by team. Again from Robertson:
$115,000 per player ($628.42 per day during season).
Signing bonus of $5,000, payable April 16.
Opening-day roster bonus of $5,000, payable May 1.
Termination pay of $20,000.
Three players per team may sign for a maximum of $275,000 each, providing they have three years of major league service.
No guaranteed contracts.
No award or performance bonuses.
Health and pension plan will be generally the same as the one available to current minor-leaguers.
Weekly spring training allowance of $188.50 plus $34 per week for players who do not stay at the team’s hotel (by comparison, Dodger players who did not stay at Dodgertown last season received $702.50 in weekly allowance).
Meal money of $53.50 per day during spring training, $60.50 per day during regular season (same as players received last year).
Allowances begin when exhibition games start.
Baseball almanac.com also added:
…Each of the players…, according to the Players Association, are not allowed union membership. They each are given representation during arbitration or other matters, they all receive pension benefits, but they are not part of the actual union Ã¢â‚¬â€ which essentially means they do not receive any licensing monies and they cannot vote on union matters….When the strike finally came to an end, Major League players had a three week Spring Training and replacement players were either sent to the Minor Leagues, terminated, or in some cases given a team travel bag to load their belongings in before leaving to their homes….
The replacement players were entitled to their signing bonus and Spring Training expenses. Most of the Major League teams paid this and gave a severance ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 per player. The St. Louis Cardinals, on the other hand, gave each replacement player $25,000 while the Montreal Expos gave each player a jersey. The Phillies, who probably did not want to be considered as cheap as the Expos, gave each player their jersey AND a ball signed by the entire team (the same team that they were playing on / with).
Reed’s best Reds game was his first one. The Reds were in first place, but needed starting pitching help. They had traded for Mark Portugal and Dave Burba the day before and would trade for David Wells in a few weeks. They called up Reed to help them and he gave an impressive debut by pitching 6 1/3 no-hit innings before giving up two runs in the seventh. Mark Grace broke up the no-hitter with a one-out single and Todd Zeile doubled him home one out later. Zeile scored on a weak ground ball to third base by Luis Gonzalez when Jeff Branson threw the ball away allowing the unearned run. Reed left the game trailing 2-1 and received no decision in the game. Hal Morris tied it with a home run in the bottom of the seventh and the Reds won it in the bottom of the eighth on a Ron Gant two-run homer. Jeff Brantley gave up one run in the ninth, but still saved the game for reliever Mike Jackson. For the game, Reed went seven innings, allowed three hits, two runs (one earned), walked one, and struck out six.
Reed made three other appearances for the Reds, two of them starts. He gave up nine hits and six runs in three innings against the Giants four days after his first start, pitched two innings of one-hit baseball in relief against the Dodgers, and then gave up five hits and four runs in a five-inning start against the Braves. With the Reds, he was 0-0 with a 5.82 ERA. He was granted free agency at season’s end and signed with the New York Mets.
Reed later found big success with the Mets, becoming a two-time all-star. In 1997 he went 13-9 with a 2.89 ERA and followed that up by going 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA the next season. With the Mets he went 59-36 with a 3.66 ERA and he won 15 games with the Minnesota Twins at age 37 in 2002. He finished his career with a 93-76 record and a 4.03 earned run average. He pitched for four playoff teams and one World Series team, the 2000 Mets. There’s quite a bit of information about the strike replacement players on baseball-almanac.com and the article by Robertson which can also be found at Baseball Almanac website.