No baseball fan has fond memories of 1994.
Strife between the owners and the players escalated that whole year, until the players called a strike on Aug. 12, 25 years ago this week. Ultimately, the strike wiped out the whole season.
In a fascinating oral history, ESPN remembered the strike and its aftermath – most notably the canceled post-season, the first time in 90 years the game was without a World Series.
Among the most notable laments of the strike-shortened season? Shutting down Gwynn’s shot at hitting .400.
Gwynn, the beloved late Hall-of-Fame outfielder who died in 2014, stood at .394 when the players struck. The last player to achieve one of baseball’s most cherished milestones, Ted Williams, hit .406 in 1941.
Sometime after his 2001 retirement, Gwynn told ESPN’s writer he thought he would have done it. Former Padres manger Bruce Bochy (the team’s third-base coach in 1994) and teammate (now Los Angeles Angels manager) Brad Ausmus contributed to the oral history, to discuss Gwynn’s chances.
Ausmus noted that Gwynn did hit .400 – just not in one season. But for the full year from July of 1993 ending in June of 1994, he hit .401 – a feat also chronicled by MLB.com.
The former catcher likened Gwynn’s style to today’s hitters, who he said use the bat like a “battering ram.”
“Tony used his bats more as a paintbrush,” he said.
Bochy, who become manager and led the team at the time Gwynn retired (he left the Padres and won the World Series with the San Francisco Giants three times) still sounds awed by what he witnessed in 1994.
“It was fun to watch. It was a privilege to watch,” Bochy said.
– Staff reports