When baseball’s 1992 Winter Meetings convened in Louisville, there was panic in the air. In the previous season, attendance had fallen for 18 of the 26 existing Major League franchises. And according to Sports Illustrated’s Tim Kurkjian, “CBS and ESPN can’t wait to be free of their four-year, $1.5 billion commitment to televise baseball, which expires after next season.”
When compared with the previous few off-seasons, baseball’s 1970 Winter Meetings were relatively calm. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn seemed secure in his job, and the players and owners had agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in May. The Curt Flood case was winding its way through the courts, meaning that the process was out of baseball’s hands. Baseball’s attempts to consolidate its two leagues and place more authority in the hands of the commissioner had made no progress, and would make no more this time.
It was a cool, damp, windy day in Milwaukee on Tuesday, May 26, 1959, for the first of a three-game set between the Milwaukee Braves and the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. Southpaw pitcher Harvey Haddix took a well-deserved nap that afternoon, hoping that his head cold would improve once he got up. A couple hours later, however, no such luck.
Making baseball trades used to be relatively easy. In the old days, few players had multiyear contracts and no players had no-trade clauses. Also, few players made enough money that a prospective employer had to worry much about affording their acquisition.
As the 1969 baseball Winter Meetings approached, the central issues on the minds of most owners were the recommendations of a Restructuring Committee that had been created a year ago. At the previous year’s meeting in San Francisco the owners had fired William Eckert as commissioner, and had formed a group to examine ways to restructure the management of the game in an attempt to reduce the league squabbles that had been plaguing baseball over the past decade.
Even before the United States entered the Second World War in December 1941, baseball’s powers-that-be were assessing how it might affect the game. This was especially true when, in late summer 1940, Congress began debating instituting a military draft.
In response, The Sporting News ran a commentary discussing how a draft might impact the game, saying in part:
Baseball’s “modern” Winter Meetings have been held every year since 1901—they didn’t take a break during World Wars I or II, or during the labor war in 1994—but only twice have the meetings been sited outside U.S. borders.
In 1979 the meetings were held in Toronto, perhaps to honor the city’s Blue Jays, who had just finished their second season in the American League. A dozen years earlier, the meetings had been held in Mexico City.
Like the rest of the country, baseball was sailing through troubling waters in 1968. In the view of many observers, baseball had been overtaken by professional football as the national sport, especially among young people. It was the now sport of their grandfathers, but lacked the excitement and violence offered up on fall afternoons in the NFL.
The story of Thurman Munson’s rookie season with the New York Yankees—1970—is significant because not only did it lead to his being the first catcher in American League history to win the Rookie of the Year Award (and only Johnny Bench had done it in the National League), but because of what was to come with his career.