Twenty years ago today, Major League Baseball ground to a halt as the players struck at 12:01 a.m. Eastern on Aug. 12, 1994, sending the sport into mothballs.
It was a strike that wound up canceling the World Series for the first—and only time—since 1904. The players lost millions of dollars. The teams lost an estimated $1 billion.
But the cost was more than that.
Matt Williams of the San Francisco Giants had 43 home runs at the time of the strike. His chance to make a run at Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 ended with the strike and he never approached that level for the rest of his career.
But there was nowhere the cost of the strike was felt more than Montreal.
The star-crossed Expos had the best record in baseball at the time of the strike, a sterling 74-40 mark and a six-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the revamped National League East.
The 1994 Expos were on pace to win 105 games, which would have shattered the franchise record of 95 set in 1979.
Montreal had been close to a breakthrough in the late 1970s and early 1980s, assembling one of the best young casts in baseball with future Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson, along with mound stalwart Steve Rogers and speedster Tim Raines. No team in the National League won more games in 1979-80 combined than did the Expos, who rang up 185 victories over those two seasons.
Neither of those seasons ended with a postseason bid, however, as Montreal finished two games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East in 1979 and fell a game short of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980.
That both of those teams would go on to win World Series titles was small consolation for Les Expos.
The club finally got to the postseason in 1981, another strike-shortened campaign, winning the second-half NL East title and eliminating the first-half winners, the Phillies, in the NL Division Series. But Rick Monday connected for a homer off Rogers, being used in relief, in Game 5 of the NLCS and the Los Angeles Dodgers—not the Expos—went on to the World Series … and won.