T.R.'s Memoirs: There will never be a spring training that can replace the spring of 1995
Replacement players from all corners and all walks off life made their way to Texas Rangers camp amid the players strike of 1994-95.
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Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter. In this installment, Sullivan recounts spring training of 1995, when the Rangers were getting ready to use replacement players during the 1994-95 players strike.
Right-handed pitcher Terry Gilmore and his wife owned a child daycare center in Las Vegas. He was quick to point out their center was not open 24 hours a day like some Las Vegas childcare centers.
“Some people drop their kids off and don’t come back to get them for days,” Gilmore said. “We don’t do that.”
Ah, the fascinating things you learn during replacement baseball, the 1995 spring training when Major League Baseball players were out on strike and the owners came up with the idea of using “replacement players” to start the season.
Hundreds of unknown players culled from every possible source — Taiwan to Mexico to Italy — and from every walk of life – truck drivers, coffee baristas and day care owners – flocked to Florida and Arizona, led on by a naive dream and fleeting hope of pitching in the major leagues.
There were a handful of ex-major-leaguers willing to give it a try, including the notorious right-handed pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd for the White Sox. Almost all of the candidates, though, were former minor-leaguers whose climb to the big leagues had hit a ceiling for one reason or another and had no chance of making it to “The Show” without being a replacement player. Gilmore, signed by the Rangers, had not pitched since 1991 at Triple A Las Vegas in the Padres organization.
Then there was the roofer from Austin who hitchhiked to Florida hoping to get a tryout with the Rangers. He spent the night sleeping in the woods across the highway from the Rangers complex in Port Charlotte. He was turned away at the door.
To be fair, a number of replacement players took advantage of the opportunity to revive their careers. Most notable was former Rangers reliever Ron Mahay, who was included along with Mark Teixeira in the Rangers’ landmark 2007 trade with the Braves for shortstop Elvis Andrus, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and pitchers Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Beau Jones.
But, for the most part, the whole crazy spring training was summed up by Rangers manager Johnny Oates.
“I keep one eye on what’s taking place on the field and one eye looking up to heaven hoping this will all end soon,” Oates said.