Fans of any length of time of Major league Baseball will recall the devastating work stoppage of 1994-95, which cancelled the 1994 World Series, began the decline and fall of Major League ball in Montreal (the opinion of some), and made pariahs for years out of players who crossed the line and then were called up to Major League rosters once the real MLBers came back to the job (ask Craig McMurtry or Rick Reed).
Amazingly, little game-issued garb of the replacement players has made it into the hobby, despite the fact that there was no need of it after the labor dispute ended. A couple of ballclubs did make some replacement player jerseys available, and, even in this unique slice of baseball history, a few crooked opportunists on the secondary market tried to profit illicitly from the available supplies. Here’s the scoop:
The Cubs had their home and road styles made for the potential 1995 replacements, which included former Major Leaguers such as pitcher Luis deLeon, fellow hurlers Randy O’Neal and Charles Hudson, and infielder Phil Stephenson. The home whites made for the replacements were given to them after they were sent home, but the road greys were offered for sale until supplies ran out at Cubs Conventions and end-of-season tent sales at Wrigley Field. The team priced them at a measly $25 each across the board.
The replacement player road greys I saw were all strip tagged in the collar as set 3’s, although this alone does not identify a replacement player shirt, as several real Cubs from the regular season also hade set 3 jerseys. The one easy way to spot these fill-in Cubs’ jerseys was the application of the NOB (name on back). Unlike the individually-lettered, directly-attached NOB’s the Cubs normally used, the replacement Cubs’ tops used nameplate NOBs.
Game-used skullduggery entered into the picture with the Houston Astros’ replacement player attire after they filtered into the secondary market. Like the Cubs, the Astros scab player unies were made by Russell. Unlike the Cubs (and like the jerseys worn by the real Astros later that year), no strip tagging was used.
The jerseys were bought in bulk by a legitimate business entity of the era, Ball Four Sports of Maryland (not related to Ball Four Cards of Milwaukee). The Maryland company sold them with accurate descriptions of what they were. Unfortuantely, a few buyers, seeing the lack of tagging, opted to go the underhanded route, and it was soon to follow that replacement player Houston jerseys were being relettered and numbered and re-sold, illegitimately, as Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio 1995 gamers.
A few such forgeries were created before a concerned Astors collector/dealer acted decisively. Tom Sharon, whose Astros expertise and pedigree is up there with the best of ’em, bought the remaining stock of the Astros scab shirts from Ball Four. Sharon resold them under legitimate pretenses…but not until after marking each one he received in a manner that would tip him off if anyone contacted him about one, giving him a means of identifying them if some lowlife transformed them illicitly into a jersey of one of the Killer B’s.
Of course, that leaves the replacement player attire of 28 other teams unaccounted for. If any readers can share their knowledge of the eventual release or disposal of what these other MLB clubs had readied, feel free to enlighten us on the MEARS bulletin board.
NEXT TIME: Three major sports uniforms suppliers and their sleeve logos. Who changed what and when they did it.