Jim Thome was in Peoria over the weekend, just a few days after the silver anniversary of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.
I will always wonder if the '94 strike changed the course of history for the Cleveland Indians.
For better, or worse? Thome certainly had an opinion.
They were a young team full of emerging stars, and at the time of the strike were ascending toward the top of the American League in their inaugural season at brand new Jacobs Field.
Thome was in his first full season. The Indians lineup included Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, pitchers like Dennis Martinez and Jack Morris and closer Jose Mesa.
They made a trade to acquire Hall of Famer Dave Winfield -- in exchange for picking up a tab for dinner with Minnesota team executives. They had Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. Such a lineup.
They were 64-47 and a game out of first place (they had actually spent 64 days in first place during the season) when it all crashed to an end when the strike hit on Aug. 12, 1994.
Owners wanted a salary cap. Players refused.
The strike never ended, and the season never resumed. The World Series was canceled for the first time since 1904. The strike drifted into April of 1995, reducing that season to 144 games before it was settled as the longest labor outage in pro sports history at the time.
"Back then, you're trying to survive as a player to stay in the big leagues," Thome said Saturday regarding the anniversary of the strike. "When the strike hit, what it did for our team is make us hungry for '95. The strike added to our hunger in '95 because we wanted to show people we were for real.
"All those teams that (then-Indians front office execs) John Hart, Dan O'Dowd and Mark Shapiro built, we wanted to show people in '95 this was still a good team."
This lifelong Indians fan always wonders if the Tribe's two World Series appearances that followed in 1995 and 1997 -- both were losses -- might have ended differently if that core group, and an inexperienced manager in Mike Hargrove, had been exposed to postseason play and maybe a World Series run in 1994.
Thome doesn't think so.
"As players, we always support our union," Thome said. "Baseball has one of the best unions there is. If anything, the strike helped our success in '95."
Thome went on to a Hall of Fame career. He never did get a championship ring.
My beloved Chief Wahoo continues a championship wait now 71 years long.
That's all for Cleve In The Eve on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, with stick taps to colleague Dave Reynolds for collecting those Thome quotes for me.
Here's your sports quote of the day:
"This is certainly a sad day. It’s regrettable. I think the owners will come to regret it -- sooner than they think."
— MLB Players union head Donald Fehr.
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs for the Journal Star, and writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.