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Obama's Supreme Court nominee 'saved baseball'

May 26, 2009 |  9:49 am

The year was 1995.

Baseball's players had gone on strike the previous summer and remained on strike through spring training. Baseball's owners had canceled the '94 World Series and conducted spring training with replacement players, mostly minor leaguers with little chance of getting to the majors any other way.

Two days before the season was set to start, a New York judge issued a temporary injunction, ruling that the owners had engaged in unfair labor practice and putting the expired collective bargaining agreement back into place.

The players ended their strike. The two sides negotiated a new labor agreement, and there have been no lockouts or strikes in baseball since then. The 1995 season started late, but with major leaguers.

And, in September of that year, Cal Ripken to broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played. Some fans had sworn off baseball in the wake of the lengthy strike, but Ripken's feat generated enthusiasm and appreciation across America, an embrace and a salute for a player that reported to work every day for 14 years without taking a day off.

Ripken saved baseball, at least according to the popular mythology at the time.

Yet Ripken could have lost his chance at history had major league games been played without him. Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, had pledged not to field a replacement team, in an effort to protect Ripken's streak. It would have been a mess, had that injunction not been issued.

President Obama today nominated the judge that issued that injunction, Sonia Sotomayor, to the Supreme Court.

"Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball," Obama said.

Obama noted that Sotomayor grew up in housing projects near Yankee Stadium and thus grew up rooting for the Yankees.

"I hope this will not disqualify her in the eyes of the New Englanders in the Senate," Obama said.

-- Bill Shaikin