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Today in Cubs history: The last game before the 1994 strike

No one knew at the time that the season was over, though some had a feeling.

Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Cubs’ 1994 season did not start well. They lost 10 of their first 13 and after a tough loss April 29, were 6-15 and manager Tom Trebelhorn had his famous “firehouse chat” with fans.

They played a bit better after that, even getting to within five games of first place in the brand-new N.L. Central with a win over the Phillies May 30.

But from June 1 through August 9, the Cubs went 27-37 and Wednesday, August 10 was to be the last of a three-game series against the Giants at Wrigley Field. The Cubs went into that game having lost seven of eight.

It didn’t get any better in the series finale. The Giants had a 3-0 lead by the third inning off hapless Cubs starter Willie Banks (who was sometimes derisively called “the second-best Banks in Cubs history), and won the game 5-1.

Joseph A. Reaves of the Tribune was prescient in his recap:

Mark Grace had just struck out on three pitches to end what might be ... what could be ... what probably will be, the last game of the 1994 season.

The players’ strike had not yet been called, but it would be after that day’s games were complete — the Cubs and Giants game was in the afternoon, and other games were played that night.

Owners, led by Jerry Reinsdorf, were pushing for a salary cap, something players rejected and still do. This sort of thing was still an issue in the 2021-22 labor dispute that resulted in an owners lockout. You can bet that owners will bring up some sort of salary cap or luxury tax that will hold down salaries once the current CBA expires in December 2026. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating — the lockout last time was ugly. If there’s another one, it will be uglier.

The strike wiped out the rest of the 1994 season and postseason, despite an attempt at federal mediation. It took a court ruling in early 1995 to get baseball back on the field, and the 1995 season wound up shortened to 144 games.

The Cubs/Giants game Wednesday, August 10, 1994, 29 years ago today, turned out to be the last one of that season. The Cubs finished 49-64, saved from having the worst record in baseball by the Angels (47-68) and Padres (47-70). This game happened 29 years ago today.

In those years, draft picks alternated years, so in 1995 the Cubs picked fourth, the Mariners right ahead of them. The Cubs chose Kerry Wood.