Early August meant a lot to Mr. Padre.
August 6 was his mother’s birthday and on that same day 26 years ago, he recorded his 2,000 career hit at Qualcomm Stadium. Six years later to the day in 1999, he would record his 3,000-hit in Montreal.
But 25 years ago, the 1994 Major League Baseball season was good and bad.
The strike ended the season (including the Montreal Expos’ franchise and Michael Jordan’s baseball career), and to add more fuel to the fire, it was the first time since 1904 that the World Series was not played. The National League, however, won the All-Star Game for the first time in six years (Gwynn scored the winning run).
In addition, the hitters did not allow the season to go into a full disappointment. For example, Gwynn had a season for the ages, as he attempted to achieve a feat that has not been accomplished since 1941 – have a .400 batting average by the final game.
The strike stopped Gwynn from accomplishing a historic feat.
August 11, 1994, was the final day of the season due to the strike and Gwynn finished six points behind a mark that has inevitably stood since San Diegan Ted Williams hit. 406 for the Boston Red Sox, 78 years ago. He missed .400 by just three hits.
Before Gwynn passed away in 2014, the question arose: Would he have hit .400 in ’94?
With (supposedly) six weeks left in the regular season, Padres fans and those who followed Gwynn (media personnel, MLB executives, etc.) knew that nothing would stop him from achieving that feat.
Nothing but a strike that would end the season early.
Gwynn finished the 1994 season with a .394 batting average, 165 hits, 35 doubles, 79 runs, and (only) 19 strikeouts. He had an on-base percentage of .454 and a slugging percentage of .568. He also finished seventh in the National League MVP voting but received one of his seven Silver Sluggers that season.
The key stat that stands out, besides the batting average, is the strikeouts.
Just 19 strikeouts. Today, 19 strikeouts for a player comes within a few weeks. But Tony Gwynn was that good to put the ball in play and not go down by way of the ‘K’.
The Hall of Famer only struck 434 times in his career and struck out three times only once during his career. Some players get to 434 strikeouts in 2.5 seasons. Never once did Gwynn strikeout to the arguably-best pitcher of his generation, Greg Maddux, which Gwynn hit .429 off him.
So the question is not just, “What if Tony Gwynn hit .400 in 1994,” but it is, “Could you imagine the season Tony Gwynn could have ended up with had the entire season been played?”