I may be biased, but when I think of the average MLB catcher, the first name that comes to mind is Damian Miller. It likely stems from the fact that Miller is the first starting catcher I remember watching for the Milwaukee Brewers as a burgeoning baseball fan.
Regardless of my partiality, Miller’s play on the diamond supports this observation; he was a strong defender with an above-average arm and a solid bat who carved out an 11-year career with five ballclubs—all of the qualities you would expect from a veteran catcher.
Miller fit the classic mold of a Major League backstop, yet his career was anything but ordinary.
The West Salem, WI native was the starting catcher for the World Series-winning Diamondbacks in 2001 and was an All-Star the following year.
To Brewers fans, he is remembered for his club record-tying seven RBI game against Pittsburgh in 2007, and his role in the Brewers’ five-homer inning (an MLB record) versus Cincinnati during the 2006 season.
Perhaps Miller’s most fascinating feat though centers not around what he did but rather what he did not do: appear in an MLB video game.
I discovered this peculiarity at a friend’s house a few weeks ago as we played the Nintendo Gamecube classic MVP Baseball 2005. We organized a matchup between our two hometown clubs; his San Francisco Giants versus my beloved Brewers.
On the mound for the Crew was Ben Sheets, coming off a career year with 264 strikeouts and a 2.70 ERA. The middle of the order was anchored by the murderers’ row of Lyle Overbay, Carlos Lee, and Geoff Jenkins.
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The Mediocre ‘00s
Reading down the lineup, there were more familiar names that provided a reminder of the team’s mediocrity in the 2000s — Russell Branyon, Junior Spivey, Brady Clark. Then came one that was entirely foreign: Roger Chamberlain.
I turned eight years old shortly after opening day in 2005, so my memory of the Brewers roster that year is not perfect, but I think I would have remembered a Brewers catcher not named Chad Moeller or Damian Miller.
A quick inspection of my baseball cards and a search on Baseball Reference confirmed my suspicion: Roger Chamberlain was not a real baseball player. This mystery deserved an answer.
To uncover the answer behind Damian Miller’s exclusion from MLB video games, we have to go back more than a quarter-century to the 1994 MLB season—the year of Tony Gwynn, the Montreal Expos, and the strike that nearly tore the sport apart.
Following the expiration of MLB’s collective bargaining agreement on December 31, 1993, tenuous negotiations between the players and owners defined the 1994 season. The two sides remained far apart, and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) fixed August 12, 1994, as a strike date.
Stop the Season!
Teams played their games on August 11, but the next day arrived without a deal, commencing a labor stoppage that ended the ‘94 season. Sporting a .394 batting average at the time, Tony Gwynn would not have a shot at a .400 season, and the Montreal Expos—enjoying their best campaign in franchise history—were deprived of a possible World Series berth.
As the offseason proceeded, the players and owners were still unable to reach a compromise, putting the 1995 campaign in jeopardy.
To start the season on time, Major League Baseball approved the use of replacement players. Any player who did not have a current contract with an MLB team—and therefore was outside of the MLBPA — could choose to become a replacement player.
This decision came with consequences. While the strike gave minor leaguers a chance to reach the majors and receive a handsome paycheck, crossing the picket line barred them from joining the MLBPA and player’s union—earning them the scorn of their fellow ballplayers.
The replacement players never saw the diamond. Hours before opening day, a deal was reached between the players union and the owners, thus ending the lockout.
The replacement players paid a price for their actions. Since they were not allowed to join the MLBPA, their name and likeness could not be used on official MLB-sponsored products, including commemorative merchandise and video games.
For years after the strike ended, the rosters in MLB video games were riddled with a different type of replacement player — fictitious substitutes for the begrudged strikebreakers barred from the animated diamonds.
Damian Miller was not included in any official merchandise celebrating the Diamondbacks’ World Series win in 2001 nor was he portrayed in any MLB video games during his career.
In MVP Baseball 2005, Miller was supplanted by Roger Chamberlain. In Major League Baseball 2K5, the Wisconsinite was replaced by fictitious backstop Jef Holton.
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Also omitted from MVP Baseball 2005 were, among others, Kevin Millar—a World Series winner with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 — and, most notably, superstar slugger Barry Bonds.
Millar crossed the picket line along with Miller in 1995, but Bonds chose to secede from the MLBPA licensing agreement in 2003, believing that he could make more money with independent sponsorship deals.
Miller and Millar were two of the few replacement players who carved out meaningful careers after the strike. The 103 players who crossed the picket line were composed of washed-up vets or forgotten minor leaguers—all of whom had nothing to lose—making Miller and Millar’s rises to relevance that much more impressive.
MLB video games used replacement players until the 2010 season when Brendan Donnelly and Ron Mahay — the last two active players who crossed the picket line in 1995 — played their final games.
The strife caused by the 1994/95 strike has largely been forgotten following the retirement of the players involved, but by probing the careers of those like Damian Miller, we can remember a curious era of professional baseball from the not-so-distant past.
This news is republished from another source. You can check the original article here