In the long history of Major League Baseball, there have been eight work stoppages. Most were relatively unsubstantial: Five of the eight resulted in no games missed, with the 1985 players' strike lasting a mere two days from Aug. 6-7.
Others have been more consequential. The infamous 1994 strike stands out among the rest, as it resulted in the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series. When the next work stoppage will occur is anybody's guess, but the first will always be the 13-day players' strike that began on April 1, 1972.
The MLB Players Association wasn't even six years old heading into the 1972 campaign. But with the expiration of the league's three-year pension agreement imminent, an opportunity existed for the players to take some control over labor negotiations.
The players were requesting increases to ownership's pension contributions, which the owners were set against. Amid talk of a strike, owners did not take the players' threats seriously—at this point, there had never been a work stoppage before, and the MLBPA had yet to demonstrate any meaningful bargaining power.
"The last thing I expected in 1972 was a strike," then-MLBPA executive director Marvin Miller said. "The owners had decided to bring the Players Association's progress to a halt either by provoking a strike, which they felt confident of winning, or by forcing the players to back down and accept their unreasonable position in the negotiations."
On March 29, Miller proposed to the owners that the two sides' differences be settled by an arbitrator, a proposal that was turned down. On March 30, the MLBPA's general counsel Dick Moss reached out to several player representatives to discuss potential options, ultimately deciding it was not the right time to strike—the players had not been paid yet for the previous season, and there was no strike fund set up to aid any further payment delays.
However, not all players agreed. Oakland A's representatives Reggie Jackson and Chuck Dobson led the charge in convincing Miller that the union couldn't afford to back down. In a March 31 players' union meeting in Dallas, Jackson and Dobson successfully swayed the room, resulting in a vote of 47-0 in favor of striking, with one abstention.
The result was a shortened season, and the pension improvements originally proposed by the players were agreed upon. But the lasting impact of the 1972 strike was that it provided the first major victory for what's become the strongest players' union in professional sports.