Due to the coronavirus, the start of the MLB season is unclear. The further the season is pushed back, the more likely it will be that the season will be shortened. But this will not be the first time. Here is an overview of baseball seasons that were shortened as well due to various reasons.
1918 and 1919
After the USA declared war on Germany in 1917, MLB played its full season. But the next year, more and more players headed to the European Western Front partially due to the draft and partially due to volunteering. Next to that, several opted to work in the war industry. As a result, the 1918 season was shortened from 154 games to 140. In early May, a decree by the War Department that by July 1 all draft-eligible men employed in “non-essential” occupations must apply for work directly related to the war effort or risk being called into military service. Baseball owners tried to get an exemption for players in the name of national pride and entertainment, but this attempt was in vain. By July an average of 15 players per team was either drafted or enlisted. The season was cut short by another two weeks, resulting in about 126-128 games being played per team. The regular season ended on September 2. The World Series was played from September 5-11.
The next year, the season would be cut short with another 14 games to 140 as the teams were waiting for the soldiers to return from Europe.
A player strike about a disagreement about increasing pension payouts to track inflation was the first strike in baseball. It resulted in a total of 85 games being lost as they were never made up. The players won the case as the owners gave in after only 13 days.
Another player strike, caused by the owners who demanded a compensation draft pick from the signing team and a player off the roster of the signing team for losing players to free agency. The players did not agree with this and walked out on June 11 and did not return before August 10. As a result, the season was cut short to a total of 107 games.
The season was divided into halves, with “division champs” of the first half, the pre-strike period, and the “division champs” of the second half meeting in a divisional series, with the winner going on to the LCS to face the other division’s champs.
1994 and 1995
During the 1994 season, there were tough negotiations about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As both parties couldn’t hammer out a deal, the season stopped abruptly on August 11 with the strike starting the next day. The remainder of the season was cancelled and for the first time since 1904, when the New York Giants refused to face the Junior Circuit’s Boston Americans, there was no World Series played.
The strike continued until April 2, 1995, when the owners lost litigation. A shortened Spring Training pushed back the start of the season to April 25 which led to a 144-game schedule. Both leagues got a new alignment as the number of divisions was expanded to three instead of two. This resulted in a Wild Card, which would have been implemented the year before, had there not been a strike.