by Steve Joos
A players' strike late in the 1994 baseball season wiped out the World Series. Didn't it?
|Joel Scurry looked over the collection of sports memorabilia and shook his head as he rummaged through his father’s personal effects that late spring day.|
Wow, the second-generation sportswriter thought to himself, did dad get rid of anything?
Old scorecards, game programs, state tournament programs, you name it, and Mack Scurry had it, or seemed to have it.
Everything connected to local sports, with a few college and professional items added.
“Dad sure loved his baseball,” Joel said to himself with a smile. “It broke his heart that year they called off the World Series due to that strike. I think he loved every kid in the county who picked up a ball, but otherwise, it was his favorite baseball team and his old college’s men’s basketball team that got him going!”
“And not just sports,” Joel’s sister Peg said with amazement. “There must have been every old movie and TV show he ever watched in that collection of tapes of his.”
“By the way,” Joel added. “I found some tapes among dad’s work files. I may want to take them home and play them later.”
Joel grinned a bit and took a sip of coffee while thinking wistfully of his dad. Both he and Peg’s names were in there, as it seemed that being athletes were a way to stay close to their dad, long-time Evening Constitutional sports editor Mack Scurry, who had also been a mentor to the both of them, starting with fifth-grade basketball at Siders School.
“You’re my eyes and ears,” Joel chuckled. “That’s what he always said when we were playing ball in school.”
“They called me ‘Mack’ when I was in high school.” Peg said with a wistful smile, which soon faded as the siblings prepared to return to work.
“I’ve got a list of places where dad wanted to send some of his stuff when we get it sorted.”
“OK,” Joel replied, “Where to?”
“Mostly the state athletic association and some of state sports halls of fame. And he, well, here.”
Joel had a double take as he looked at the list.
“Those tapes of his I’m going to watch later? We’re to send them to the Baseball Hall of Fame!”
Peg’s face crinkled as she reviewed the notation.
“Why? I don’t think any of the kids dad covered played in the pros.”
“I think there were a couple of minor league players, but no superstars” Joel said, then slapped his side. “Or maybe not! You know Steve Hegan, the slugger for the White Sox? Dad watched him burn St. Anne for 50 points when in a basketball game he covered when H was a senior in high school!”
Later that evening, Joel fired up his video player and watched the tapes which had drawn so much attention. The first one didn’t seem to be any more than a series of local sports broadcasts, which Joel watched with an amused sense of nostalgia.
Then Joel set up a second tape, which was described as a baseball game, but a somewhat unusual one.
The setting seemed strange, an old ballpark with different players than the ones who would have been in the majors at the time.
“Lou Gerhig stepping into the batter’s box,” the announcer said. “The Yankee sets and takes a ball, over but low from Don Newcombe.”
“Lou has always been a stalwart,” another announcer chimed in. “Just like in 1981 and 1972, he and the rest of these immortals have come back to save the season. Lou’s played every game of these runs, but since they aren’t consecutive, Cal Ripken will still be closing in him when the regular players come back.”
A sense of awe and bewilderment overtook Joel as he watched the game. Was this some sort of video game prototype, he thought. The young man check the label on the video box.
World Series. Yankees vs. Dodgers. OK, sounded familiar, but who were these players? Bill Dickey, Don Newcombe, Roy Campenella. Joel had heard his dad talk about them and had taken the family to see their plaques on a family vacation to the Hall of Fame one summer.
“Jackie Robinson races around third,” the announcer declared as Joel continued to watch the action. “The throw from center field is not in time! Robinson scores and Dodgers knot things up at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning here at Ebbets Field.”
Ebbets Field? Joel was even more perplexed. The announcers kept saying that the game was being played in Brooklyn.
The Dodgers play in Los Angeles, Joel said to himself before double-checking the tape container.
“Game one, Yankees vs. Dodgers,” he read. “1994 World Series What?”
That was Peg’s reaction when Joel told her about the tapes the following day.
“You’re saying that dad had all these tapes of baseball games and they were being played by old players in old stadiums and those were what? Strike game make-ups?”
“That’s what it looks like.”
“More like ghost games,” Joel said. “I’d never seen Babe Ruth play before I watched that tape. Dad had just talked about him, but in that game he got a hold of one and put it on another planet!”
Peg sat down and went through some of her father’s papers, then looked up sadly at Joel.
“This must be why dad wanted those tapes sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame,” she said, producing a letter. “According to this letter, dad had written to the Hall about them and they said they were just nothing more than some video game prototypes that were mislabeled.”
All Joel could do was shake his head.
“It seemed so real,” he kept saying.
As Joel went through his dad’s clipping file later that, he came across a feature story Mack had written about a video-game designer who was working on a baseball game where players could construct teams of all-time playing in the old stadiums. Part of the designer’s inspiration came from having to miss a game due to a players’ strike.
There was something else in that file, a copy of a 1995 pre-season baseball guide. As Joel read through the guide, there was something in it that didn't seem to agree with he had been told.
For instance, here's what Joel read when he came across the roster of World Series winners. According to this guide, the Yankees, under the direction of Casey Stengel, had beaten Walter Alston's Dodgers in seven games.
"Wait a minute," Joel thought to himself. "That Series wasn't played due to a strike."
Well, wasn't it?