The 1994 Season: A Look Back

Originally published March 23, 2014

As we approach another glorious Opening Day, it can be hard to believe how many of them have flown by. Does it seem like 20 years since the infamous player's strike? It doesn't to me. Twenty years is a long time. To put it in perspective, Bryce Harper was a year old in 1994. The '94 season will always life in infamy, because it ended on August 11th, due to the strike. For the first time since 1904, no World Series was played.

I was graduating from high school as the '94 season began. I was finishing up as a high school player and beginning the transition to college player by the time the strike occurred. Baseball was never more on my radar than in those days. The game was packed full of stars, many coming in to their prime. Baseball was still "our national pastime". It was also marked as the 125th Anniversary of Major League Baseball, with all teams wearing the patch seen above.

The 1994 season started with a bang. Three of them in fact, when the Chicago Cubs' Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes connected for three home runs off of New York's Dwight Gooden. He went on to hit only five more that season, (but another 474 in Japan!), but earned a place in Cubbie folklore forever. After Rhodes' breakout performance, the season was rolling.

Baseball's biggest stars, young and old were having great seasons. Of note:

  • San Diego's Tony Gwynn was flirting with .400 (finishing at .394)
  • Atlanta's Greg Maddux was closing in on 20 wins with a remarkable 1.56 ERA
  • Houston's Jeff Bagwell emerged as a star with 39 HR and 116 RBI
  • Seattle superstar Ken Griffey Jr. had 40 HR
  • Chicago's Frank Thomas had an amazing line: .353, 38 HR, 101 RBI
  • Montreal's Larry Walker was breaking out with 86 RBI

When the season ended due to the strike, the biggest loser (besides the fans), was the Montreal Expos. The Expos had the best record in baseball (74-40) and on pace to glide into the postseason, which was set to be the first season of the wild card era. The Expos were littered with young, developing talent, and placed five players in the All-Star Game. When the season ended, so did their hopes of bringing a championship to Montreal.

It has been said many times that the '94 strike ruined baseball, and that it took Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (among others) and their PED-fueled home run barrage in 1998 to bring baseball back to the fans. That may be true, and the PED assault that followed may have chased many of those fans away again. What is to be remembered is that baseball will always be great. The game itself will always offer enough for the players and the true fans to be interested. It is a sport ran by human beings. It is a sport played by human beings. It is a sport watched by human beings. Human beings are flawed and greedy...yet competitive. The 1994 season will always live in infamy, and probably rightfully so, but I'll always look back fondly on what was...and wonder what might have been.