02 December 2009

the case of butler v. busch, 1995

i am sure you all remember the strike in 1994. no world series. the beginning of the end for the expos. a meaningless first place finish for the dodgers. perhaps worst of all, things weren't resolved as spring training and the 1995 season rolled around, and teams began using replacement players.

these were mostly guys from the low minor leagues who realistically didn't have very good odds of making the big leagues to begin with, but there were a few who did reach the majors after having played in those spring training games as replacement players. one such player was mike busch.busch had played at albuquerque (the dodgers' aaa team) in both 1993 and 1994 without a call-up. he had some power, hitting 22 home runs in 1993 and 27 in 1994. he played first and third, but was blocked by eric karros at first and, to a lesser extent, tim wallach at third. for whatever reason, busch crossed the picket line during spring training and was labeled a 'scab'.

shortly thereafter, the strike was settled, and it was back to usual. later in the season, the dodgers re-acquired brett butler (they had let him walk after the 1994 season thinking that roger cedeno could take over in center). then, a week after that, they called mike busch up from aaa. butler, who had apparently resumed his role as the dodgers' player representative, was not pleased with fred claire's decision and let it be known in the media that mike busch was not welcome.i remember finding it odd that a guy who had not been with the team all year could walk into the clubhouse and make that assertation about a rookie call-up who had played with some of the other guys (like billy ashley and todd hollandsworth). however, i realized that crossing the picket line is a serious offense to the members of the union and obviously resulted in resentment and ostracization. i should state that, while i am not a union member, i understand and value their role in the protection of workers' rights. i read 'the jungle', after all.

in the end, butler, who was subsequently booed by the fans as loudly as busch was cheered, backed down, saying that the dodgers' players would support busch as long as he wore a dodger uniform. but they really didn't ever accept him, i don't think. i was at the game in san diego when the dodgers clinched a playoff spot, and the only guy who took a longer time to get to the on-field celebration than busch was jose offerman who had been benched for the last part of the season.

so who won? not busch - although he would play for the dodgers in 1996 (appearing in only 38 games), he would be released after the season ended, and would not appear in a major league game again. not butler - he was vilified by the fans because of his vocal displeasure of the situation. not the dodgers - sure, they won the west but were swept in the first round of the playoffs. and certainly not the fans.


SpastikMooss said...

Good post. I have 2 somewhat random notes haha.

First, I was collecting 1995 Topps for a while, and I remember that Butler card fondly. Didn't care a ton for the guy (I was a Braves and Sox fan at the time), but I always thought he looked like a veritable B.A. with that pose that he's in.

Second, I realized with your post why I've been having so much trouble with Ronny Cedeno: I keep confusing him with Roger Cedeno. So everytime I hear about Ronny Cedeno being this young MI type I get confused and think that Roger Cedeno found a time machine somewhere. Now I know.

zman40 said...

I don't remember Busch. I thought that the Classis/Best card was of Billy Ashley until I read the name.

Anonymous said...

I did not know about the Busch/Butler situation.

I always felt a little bad for Rick Reed of the Mets (another replacement player) who never really seemed to have 100% acceptance from his teammates, either.