In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first professional team, were crowned national champions after they romped through the entire season undefeated. Since then the country has annually feted a professional baseball champion. That string came to a rude end in the 1994 baseball season.
At midnight on August 12, both major leagues shut down when the players union refused to accept a salary cap proposed by the owners. Blocking a compromise settlement was the continued absence of a commissioner to mediate between the two parties.
Commenting on the strike, White Sox star Frank Thomas said, "I've had a career year, but I'm not going to finish it." Thomas's self-assessment was accurate. Though the White Sox played only 113 games, Thomas already had 101 RBI, 106 runs, 38 home runs, and 34 doubles to go with his .353 BA. Other performers had equally imposing stats. In an abbreviated 115-game schedule, San Francisco third sacker Matt Williams clubbed 43 homers, just 18 short of Roger Maris's record of 61.
Even more disappointing to fans expecting a banner finish was the fact that several long-slumbering teams had awakened in 1994.
Prior to the season both major leagues had been split into three divisions, and an extra playoff tier was added. The new structure called for five-team divisions in the East and the Central and a four-team division in the West.
The Braves and the Phillies, the two National League division winners in '93, were both situated in the East. After Phillies first sacker John Kruk was sidelined to undergo cancer treatment, the Braves looked like a lock to bag their fourth straight division crown. But Expos skipper Felipe Alou, helped by his son Moises, took a young team to the front early and seemed destined to hold the lead.
When the strike hit, the Expos stood six games up on the Braves with the best record in the majors (74-40). Second only to the Expos were the New York Yankees, who paced the American League East by 6-1/2 games. Absent from postseason play for 13 years, the Yankees were the antithesis of the home-grown Expos, as George Steinbrenner continued prowling the trade and free-agent markets.
Cleveland also profited in 1994 via the trade and free-agent route. Shedding their reputation for being one of the most ineptly run franchises, the Indians went for broke in conjunction with the opening of their new stadium.
Over the winter, Cleveland landed pitchers Dennis Martinez and Jack Morris, first sacker Eddie Murray, and shortstop Omar Vizquel. The four merged with earlier trade acquisitions Sandy Alomar, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, and Mark Clark plus four draft prizes -- Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, and Charles Nagy -- to bring Clevelanders their best team in eons.
For the first time since 1954, Cleveland seemed likely to see postseason action. The Indians trailed the White Sox by only one game in the American League Central at strike time and headed the list for the loop wild-card berth. Texas Rangers fans were also ecstatic to see their club atop the American League West and possibly slated for the franchise's first-ever postseason engagement. The Seattle Mariners, another franchise that had never tasted postseason action, were a mere two games behind the Rangers when play stopped.
At midnight on August 12, nine American League teams and seven National League teams still had strong playoff hopes, and many other stars beside Frank Thomas and Matt Williams were enjoying career years. But there would be no finish to one of the potentially most remarkable seasons in the game's history. In September, Brewers owner and acting commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged that the strike had torn an irreparable hole in the game's fabric when he officially announced that the 1994 season was dead.
The next page provides headlines and summaries of for some of the top stories of the 1994 baseball season.
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1994 Baseball Season Headlines
In 1994, players like Tony Gwynn and Matt Williams had their potentially record-breaking seasons cut short by the players strike. Here are some of the headlines from the 1994 baseball season:
Tribe Gets New Home
Cleveland unveiled beautiful Jacobs Field in 1994. Named after owner Richard Jacobs, the Indians' new home was deliberately designed to look like an old-time park, and for the first time in 40 years the Tribe also had the look of old. A perennial contender prior to the mid-1950s, Cleveland was in the process of making its first serious pennant bid since 1959 when the strike halted the Indians' playoff hopes. Jacobs Field was an integral part of the renaissance the city of Cleveland underwent in the mid-'90s and a contributing factor to renewed fan interest in the Tribe.
Jeff Bagwell Bags 1994 National League MVP
Jeff Bagwell, whose left wrist was broken by a pitch on August 10, had been having the best year of any major leaguer prior to the strike and his injury. Bagwell had been mustering himself for a drive to become the National League's first Triple Crown winner since Ducky Medwick in 1937. The Astros star had to content himself with the National League RBI title (116) and a .368 batting average, second in the National League.
Frank Thomas Wins American League MVP
Frank Thomas combined awesome power, a high average, and excellent strike-zone judgment on his way to his second straight American League MVP Award in 1994. He had hoped to collect a World Series championship ring as well. The Sox were locked in a tight three-way race with Cleveland and Kansas City for the top spot in the American League Central at strike time but counted on prevailing with the best pitching staff in the American League.
Paul O'Neill Bats .359 for NY
Thanks to the strike, Yankee Paul O'Neill became the first American Leaguer since Billy Goodman in 1950 to win a batting crown despite playing fewer than 100 games in the field. O'Neill was also the first player since Dale Alexander (1932) to bag an American League bat title with fewer than 400 at-bats. His .359 mark was the best in 40 years by a Yankee.
David Cone Captures 1994 Cy Young
After leading the majors in total strikeouts from 1990 through 1992, David Cone decided to concentrate on control and rely on his defense in 1994. As a result, he took home his first Cy Young Award. Taking command of his once-fiery temper, Cone had streaks of eight straight wins and 29 consecutive scoreless innings in 1994. He averaged seven hits, seven strikeouts, and less than three walks per nine innings. He was untouchable on May 22, when he tossed a one-hit shutout against the Angels.
Tony Gwynn's Quest Cut Short
Were it not for the strike in 1994, Tony Gwynn of the Padres might have been the first National Leaguer since 1930 to bat .400. Instead, Gwynn ended the season hitting .394. Matt Williams might also have become the first National Leaguer to hit 60 home runs, and a host of other senior loop records might have toppled as well. Craig Biggio and Larry Walker (44 doubles each) could have challenged Earl Webb's major-league record of 67. Only Hack Wilson's record of 190 RBI remained, as always, beyond assault.
John Valentin Turns Three
When he hit .316 in just his second full big-league season, Boston's John Valentin awakened observers to the fact that he might one day be a treasure. Valentin also displayed good power, finishing second on the Red Sox in slugging average. On July 8, 1994, Valentin became the second player in big-league history to perform an unassisted triple play and hit a home run in the same inning.
Matt Williams on Pace to Break HR Record
Matt Williams was a heavy favorite before the strike interruption to break the National League single-season home run record of 56. Whether he would also have broken Roger Maris's major league single-season mark we'll never know, as he wound up with 43 dingers on the shortened year. The strike-abbreviated season also contributed to Williams being the first National League player since 1973 to club 40 or more homers with fewer than 100 RBI.
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More 1994 Baseball Season Headlines
Raul Mondesi Monstrous in '94
The Dodgers continued their phenomenal streak of producing National League ROTY winners. The latest, outfielder Raul Mondesi, hit .306 with 16 homers in 1993. Mondesi's 42 games and 86 at-bats in 1992 would have excluded him from rookie status at one time. Shoeless Joe Jackson's .408 BA in his first full year, for example, is not considered the rookie record because he had previously played 30 games in the majors.
Kenny Rogers Perfect in Nine
Pitcher Kenny Rogers hurled the first perfect game in Rangers history -- and only the 14th in baseball history -- on July 28, shutting down California at The Ballpark in Arlington. Rogers's perfecto was the highlight of both his and his team's otherwise rocky season. Despite winding up ten games below .500, the Rangers were nonetheless poised for their first postseason appearance when the strike dashed their hopes.
Ken Griffey Sets M's Records
Ken Griffey Jr. seemed destined for a super season in 1994. After collecting 20 home runs in his first 42 games -- matching Mickey Mantle's 1956 start -- he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated a single-season-record three times. A mid-year slump followed by the strike held down Junior's numbers, but he still set Mariners franchise records for home runs (40) and slugging average (.674).
Winless John Hudek an All-Star
Rookie Astros relief ace John Hudek in 1994 became the first pitcher ever to be selected for an All Star Game before achieving his first major league win. Hudek finished the 1994 campaign still searching for his initial big-league victory but compiled a club-high 16 save.
Bob Hamelin Cops American League ROTY
Kansas City fans called him the "Hammer." Bob Hamelin earned that nickname by becoming the team's top slugger as a 1994 rookie and batting .282 with 65 RBI. The burly slugger carried off the American League Rookie of the Year prize on the basis of his 24 homers, but most veteran baseball experts believed Cleveland outfielder Manny Ramirez was by far the most promising junior circuit frosh.
Greg Maddux Earns Third Consecutive Cy Young
Atlanta's Greg Maddux became the first hurler ever to win the Cy Young Award three years in a row. Maddux was clearly the best pitcher in either league. There was little need to vote: Maddux led the league in ERA (1.56), complete games (ten), and innings pitched (202) and tied for the lead in wins (16) in the strike-shortened season.
Donald Fehr-Well to 1994 Season
Many observers believed the strike put Players Association chieftain Donald Fehr in over his head. Even more people believed that, given the mercurial mentality of the owners Fehr was matched against, even Disraeli would have been in over his head.
Tiger Duo Still Turns Two
On September 9, 1977, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker formed the Tigers keystone combo for the first time. They were still keystone mates in 1994, shattering all records for longevity by a shortstop/second-base teammate duo. Trammell's and Whitaker's endurance mark notwithstanding, the Tigers finished last in the American League East in 1994 -- albeit with a better record than Texas, the American League West leader when the strike shut down the season.
Ryne Sandberg Steps Down
Ryne Sandberg set baseball on its ear when he announced his retirement at a press conference on June 13, claiming he no longer felt he was earning his multimillion-dollar salary. Sandberg stepped down with the highest career fielding average in history by a second baseman as well as 245 career home runs, the most by any National League middle infielder except Joe Morgan since World War II.
The next page highlights key events and details from the 1994 baseball sesason.
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1994 Baseball Season Highlights
During the 1994 baseball season, both major leagues shut down when the players union refused to accept a salary cap proposed by the owners. Players like Frank Thomas and Matt Williams were enjoying career years before the strike hit, but there would be no finish to the year. Below, you will find the highlights from the 1994 baseball season:
- For the first time since 1869 there is no national professional baseball champion.
- The major league baseball strike is first work stoppage in professional sports history to eliminate postseason play.
- On July 18, Kenny Rogers of Texas becomes the first American League hurler since 1984 to throw a perfect game, beating the Angels 4-0.
- The Yankees post the best record in the American League prior to strike.
- Indians have their best season since 1959 and the third-best mark in the American League.
- The Rangers top the American League West with a .456 record when the strike stops action.
- White Sox pace the American League Central by a slim one-game margin over the Indians.
- The Expos post best mark in majors (74-40) and lead the National League East at strike time.
- Cincinnati holds meager half-game lead over the Astros in the National League Central.
- Dodgers are the only National League West team with an above-.500 mark (58-56).
- The Padres have the worst record in majors at 47-70 (.402).
- Defending world champion Blue Jays finish below .500 at 55-60, and the defending National League champion Phillies likewise sag below .500 at 54-61.
- The Indians unveil the new Jacobs Field. Attendance is best in over 40 years.
- The Rangers also open a new home site, The Ballpark in Arlington.
- Tony Gwynn's .394 BA is the highest in the National League since 1930, earning him his fifth National League batting title, the most by any senior loop performer since Stan Musial.
- Gwynn tops majors with 165 hits.
- Paul O'Neill bags the American League batting crown with .359 BA.
- Houston's Jeff Bagwell leads majors with 116 RBI. He also paces the majors with a gigantic .750 SA, best in the National League since 1925.
- When Bagwell leads the National League in runs (104) and total bases and clubs 39 homers, he is named the National League MVP.
- With 43 homers, Matt Williams is on a pace to approach Roger Maris's record of 61 when the strike ends the season.
- Ken Griffey Jr. tops the American League with 40 homers but has just 90 RBI, the fewest ever by a 40-homer man.
- Griffey's .674 SA sets a new Seattle franchise record.
- Chuck Knoblauch tops the majors with 45 doubles and is on course to approach Earl Webb's season doubles record when the strike stops action.
- Lance Johnson of the White Sox paces the majors with 14 triples.
- Kenny Lofton of Cleveland leads the majors with 60 stolen bases.
- Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett collects 112 RBI to top the American League.
- Cleveland's Albert Belle hits .357 with 36 homers and 101 RBI, trailing Thomas's heroics by a narrow margin.
- Baltimore's Lee Smith heads the majors in saves with 33.
- John Hudek of Houston becomes the first pitcher ever to be selected for the All-Star Game before he posts his first big-league win, and in fact completes 1994 season still winless.
- Jason Bere of the White Sox tops the majors with an .857 winning percentage (12-2).
- Yankees lefty Jimmy Key collects the most wins in the majors with 17.
- When he finishes third in ERA at 2.94 and second in wins with 16, David Cone of the Royals wins the American League Cy Young Award.
- The National League Cy Young Award winner is the Braves' Greg Maddux (16-6, 1.56).
- Seattle's Randy Johnson is the only major league hurler to top 200 Ks with 204.
- Bret Saberhagen of Kansas City allows only 13 bases on balls in 177 innings pitched.
- Andy Benes of the Padres leads the National League with 189 Ks despite just six wins.
For more highlights of the 1994 baseball season, see the next page.
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More 1994 Baseball Season Highlights
See below for more highlights of the 1994 baseball season, including Bob Hamelin winning the American League's Rookie of the Year Award and Darryl Strawberry signing with the Giants.
- Oakland's Steve Ontiveros wins the American League ERA crown (2.65).
- Dwight Gooden of the Mets is suspended on June 18, 1994, for violating his drug aftercare program for the second time.
- Kevin Mitchell of the Reds, Julio Franco of the White Sox, and Shane Mack of the Twins, all .300 hitters in 1994, opt during the strike to play in Japan in 1995.
- Bob Hamelin of the Royals wins the American League Rookie of the Year Award on the strength of his 24 homers and .599 slugging average.
- Boston's John Valentin becomes the second player in big-league history to perform an unassisted triple play and hit a home run in the same inning.
- Damage to the Kingdome roof forces the M's to finish the season on the road.
- Cleveland ties the Yankees for the highest American League team BA at .290.
- Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker of the Tigers are keystone partners for the 18th straight year, a big-league record.
- Jim Deshaies of the Twins has a 7.39 ERA, the worst since World War II by an ERA crown qualifier.
- Chicago's Frank Thomas hits 38 homers in 113 games, leads the American League in SA (.729), and collects his second consecutive MVP Award.
- Marvin Freeman of the Rockies goes 10-2 to lead the National League with an .833 winning percentage.
- Carlos Baerga is unable to extend his record two-year streak of 20 homers, 200 hits, and 100 RBI by a second sacker because of the strike.
- Raul Mondesi of the Dodgers wins the National League ROTY Award when he hits .306.
- Bo Jackson announces his retirement after batting .279 for the Angels.
- On June 29, Giants outfielder Darren Lewis's record of 392 consecutive errorless games comes to an end.
- Steve Howe continues his bizarre career by posting a perfect 3-0 record for the Yankees with a 1.60 ERA and a club-leading 15 saves.
- Although he has yet to win more than 16 games in a season, Dennis Martinez of Cleveland wins in double digits for the 16th time in his career.
- Harold Baines homers in double digits for the 15th straight season, the longest current such streak in the Major League.
- Ryne Sandberg retires abruptly on June 13, sacrificing his multimillion-dollar salary because he feels he can no longer play at his usual high level.
- Steve Carlton is elected to the Hall of Fame by the BWAA, and the Veterans' Committee selects Leo Durocher and Phil Rizzuto.
- The Padres are the only major league team to fail to draw a million, finishing with a 953, 857 attendance figure.
- Albert Belle is suspended for three games when a White Sox claim that he used an illegally corked bat against them is upheld.
- Dennis Eckersley ends the season with 482 career wins and saves, the most by any pitcher except Cy Young. Eck also continues to be one of the few pitchers with more than 2,000 career strikeouts and fewer than 200 career wins.
- Tiger Cecil Fielder's string of four straight 100-plus RBI seasons is broken when the strike leaves him ten short.
- A second suspension for substance abuse in June requires Gooden to sit out the entire 1995 season.
- Thomas tops the majors with a .487 OBP. At the close of 1994, his Career OBP is the third in history only to Babe Ruth's and Ted Williams's.
- The Giants sign free-agent problem child Darryl Strawberry after a torn Achilles tendon kayoes right fielder Willie McGee for the season.
- Cubs announcer and Hall of Famer Harry Caray celebrates 50 years in broadcasting.
- Eddie Murray is the only major leaguer to play 100 or more games in both the 1981 and 1994 strike seasons.
- The White Sox sign basketball megastar Michael Jordan to a minor-league contract.
- Jordan hits .202 with three homers and 51 RBI in 436 at-bats for the Double-A Birmingham Bulls.