From May 29 until August 10, Major League baseball parks were quiet, the gates locked, because the players refused to play until the issue of free agent compensation was resolved. The owners had been paying higher and higher salaries in an effort to keep players from moving to other teams, and were demanding compensation for loss of their high-priced players.The players association took the position that such compensation would amount to elimination of free agency.

Concessions were made on both sides, and after sometimes contentious bargaining it was agreed to resume play with a split schedule, 55 games each half with the winners of each half playing a five-game series to determine the overall division winner. Since the Phillies had won the first half with a 34-21 record, they were assured of a playoff spot, and played the second half without the urgency accompanying a true pennant race. They finished third (25-22) behind 1st place Montreal 30-23.

 On Wednesday October 7, 1981 at Stade Olympique in Montreal, Game One of the series went to the Expos with Steve Rogers prevailing 3-1 over Steve Carlton. The next day, Dick Ruthven was the loser, again 3-1, to Don Gullickson. The Expos’ Jeff Reardon saved both games. The Phillies’ won the next two games at half empty Veterans Stadium, the fan base not ready to forgive the team for ruining their  summer with a strike they did not understand. The greedy owners and the greedy ballplayers were playing with the emotions of their fans. It would take years to repair the damage, and for some it was irreparable.

But how could anyone who loved the game resist a division deciding Game Five that could lead to another World’s Series? Some could, you might say, many could. The Steve matchup – Carlton against Rogers, might pull an extra 10,000 in, but the Vet was far from full (47,384) when the first pitch was delivered.

It was 0-0 standoff  into the bottom of the fourth, when Phillie’s left fielder “Sarge” tried to break the impasse by scoring from first on a Manny Trillo single to center. He was thrown out, 8-4-2, and the Phillies’ best chance was gone. Rogers got the big hit, a based loaded, two-run single in the fifth, then made it stand up with a complete game six-hit shutout. The Phillies were cooked.

By max blue
1981 strike, Dick Ruthven, Jeff Reardon, Manny Trillo, Montreal Expos, Philadelphia Phillies, Steve Carlton, Steve Rogers


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