Tony Gwynn Takes 1984 National League Bat Title
When general manager Jack McKeon drafted Tony Gwynn in the third round of the free agent draft in 1981, everyone thought the Padres had wasted their choice. Gwynn proved critics wrong in 1984, as he won the National League batting championship with a .351 average -- .30 more than the runner-up -- and topped the circuit with 213 hits (it was the first time a Padre had accomplished either feat). Hitting .368 in the League Championship Series, he clinched the fifth game with his third RBI to carry the Padres to the World Series.
Lee Smith Tallies 33 Saves
1984 National League Co-Fireman of the Year, Lee Smith saved 33 games and won another nine for the Cubs. It began a four-year streak in which the righty saved 30-plus games. Fizzling out by the postseason, Smith lost a game in the 1984 Championship Series, posting a 9.00 ERA. Smith is the all-time leader in saves for the Cubs (180).
Darrell Evans Off With a Bang
The first free agent signed by Tiger owner Tom Monaghan, Darrell Evans started hot in 1984, then settled into a comfortable pace. Evans socked an Opening Day homer to spark the Tigers to their 35-5 start, then finished the season with a .232 batting average and 16 homers. The following season, the 37-year-old finished the year with 40 round-trippers.
Jim Palmer Hangs Up Glove
Jim Palmer had pitched one month of the 1984 season before he received notice on May 17 that the Orioles had released him. Thus ended the career of one of the greatest pitchers in American League history. His lifetime record of 268-152 was marked with eight seasons with 20 or more wins.
Palmer became a baseball analyst for ABC-TV. He was insightful as a commentator, though he did have a few klutzy moments. He once remarked, "When you stop throwing good pitches, you start throwing bad pitches."
Gary Carter: 94 BA, 106 RBI
With the retirement of Johnny Bench, the catcher's mantle was passed to Gary Carter in 1984. Carter posted his best season, cranking out a career-high 106 RBI (tied for the National League lead) and a .294 batting average. A perennial All-Star, he won his second All-Star MVP Award in 1984 on a second-inning home run, as he caught Dwight Gooden for the first time.
Carter spent the second half of the 1980s with the Mets before signing with San Francisco in 1990. Carter is one of a handful of catchers to club 300 homers in his career.
Dennis Boyd Breaks Even
Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd evoked memories of Satchel Paige, as the young Red Sox pitcher spoke with a singsong banter while winning and losing 12 games in 1984. The son of an ex-Negro Leagues player, Boyd was as controversial as he was entertaining, often criticizing teammates and management.
Ryne Sandberg Carries the 1984 Chicago Cubs
The rise of the 1984 Cubs in the National League East was fueled by Ryne Sandberg. Capturing MVP honors, the second baseman batted .314 with 19 homers and 84 RBI and tied for the lead in the circuit with 19 triples. His valiant effort in the League Championship Series, a .368 average, was in vain as the Cubs lost to the Padres 3-2.
Dwight Gooden: Best at K'ing
Described as the Mozart of baseball, Dwight Gooden won 17 games with a 2.60 ERA in 1984. The 19-year-old hurler set a pair of major league records: One was for most strikeouts by a rookie (276 batters in just 218 innings); the other was for most strikeouts in two consecutive games (32). Gooden's fanning feats earned him the nickname "Dr. K."
Don Mattingly Wins 1984 American League Bat Title
Don Mattingly won his first American League batting championship in 1984 by hitting .343. Mattingly was the first left-handed Yankee hitter to bat over .340 since Lou Gehrig batted .351 in 1937. Posting a strong year, the first baseman topped the circuit with 207 hits and 44 doubles, came in second with a .537 slugging average, and placed fourth in total bases with 324.
Dave Winfield Has .340 BA
Dave Winfield shortened his stroke in 1984 in an effort to elevate his average. His average jumped from .283 the year before to .340. The outfielder was edged out for the batting title by teammate Don Mattingly, who hit .343. Off the field, the Yankee superstar continued to battle with owner George Steinbrenner, who refused to honor his contractual obligation to support Winfield's charitable foundation.
Check out more headlines from the 1984 baseball season on the next page.
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