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20 years ago today, Dodgers played final game before 1994 baseball strike

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The final game of the worst baseball season ever was 20 years ago today.

Ramon Martinez was 12-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 1994, and pitched his 16th career shutout on Aug. 11.
Ramon Martinez was 12-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 1994, and pitched his 16th career shutout on Aug. 11.
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On this date 20 years ago, the Dodgers picked up a win on getaway day in Cincinnati, a 2-0 triumph over the Reds that widened the lead for Los Angeles in the National League West to 3½ games over the Giants.

But this was no ordinary game.

The Dodgers' contest in Cincinnati was one of nine major league games on a Thursday, a day that happened to be the final day of the 1994 season. With players and owners unable to come to an agreement over the next collective bargaining agreement, the players strike began after games on Aug. 11.

The Dodgers were just 58-56, but the only team in the four-team NL West with a winning mark in this first year of baseball's wild card era.

Tim Wallach homered against Reds starter Jose Rijo in the second inning for the game's first run, but didn't sound too happy after the game.

"It will probably hit me tomorrow, or maybe on the ride home, that we won't be playing tomorrow," Wallach told Maryann Hudson of the Los Angeles Times. "It hasn't sunk in yet. The fans are the ones who will take the brunt of it."

The fans ultimately did bear the brunt of the strike, which wiped out the playoffs and World Series in 1994, and was resolved late enough in 1995 to shorten that season from 162 to 144 games.

Dave Stewart, who was with the Dodgers during the 1981 strike that wiped out nearly two months in the middle of the season, explained the players' resolve to Mike Downey of the Times:

The players will win this strike, because there is no turning back now. It was 1981 when Stewart broke in with the Dodgers and was paid $21,500, total. He recalled: "That was $13,000 after taxes. Living on $13,000 in L.A."

That was why he took a second job, loading crates at a company that manufactured fasteners. But that was also the year major leaguers walked out and stayed out, for 50 days.

Stewart said, "Had the union not struck in '81, the position I'm in now would not be as stable as it is."

He is in the second year of a two-year contract worth $8.5 million.

That win for the Dodgers on Aug. 11 was a shutout for Ramon Martinez, who was pitching on five days rest after being given an extra day to be present for the birth of his daughter the night before.

"They were saying to me, 'Have another kid'," Martinez said laughing, to Hudson.

Martinez ran into trouble in the seventh, but was helped when rookie right fielder Raul Mondesi threw out Tony Fernandez trying to stretch a single into a double. It was the NL-best 16th assist of the season for Mondesi, who would win the third of five straight Rookie of the Year awards for the Dodgers.

Since Mondesi's 16 assists as a rookie in only 112 games, only three Dodgers have had that many outfield assists in a season: Gary Sheffield (17 in 2001), Mondesi (1995) and Matt Kemp (2008). Frank Howard owns the Los Angeles Dodgers record for outfield assists with 19 in 1962.

Mike Piazza was 0-for-4 on Aug. 11, but ended his season hitting .319/.370/.541 in his second full season. One year after setting Dodgers rookie records with 35 home runs and 112 RBI, the star catcher had 24 home runs and 92 RBI in 1994, on pace for 34 and 131 over a full season.

We ultimately remember 1994 as a lost season, not just for the lack of a postseason but for little quirks that get swept away. Such as Cory Snyder, the former Indians outfielder and Sports Illustrated cover boy, who started games for the 1994 Dodgers at both corner outfield spots and all four infield positions.

Leadoff man and union rep Brett Butler had his last great year, leading the league with nine triples and hitting .314/.411/.446, a 130 OPS+ at age 37.

Tommy Lasorda captured the lament.

"You know when we will feel it?" Lasorda told Hudson. "When we don't go to the ballpark tomorrow. We are programmed that we are going to play the next game. Then all of a sudden you don't see yourself at the ballpark and that's when you begin to feel the effects of it."