Sunday, December 17, 2017

On the third night of Hanukkah, what do we do?

I know that one of the most frequent visitors to my Eight Men Out page is my mom. She's always happy to check which cards are missing from my collection, and whenever the holidays or birthdays roll around, a card or two from the list usually finds its way into a greeting card. This is not the first time this has happened, and I'm sure she appreciates how easy I try to make it.

On Thursday night, as we were celebrating Hanukkah, she presented me with the final card that was missing from my page of 1995 Fleer League Leaders, an all-horizontal set with plenty of blue foil. I collected a lot of 1995 Fleer, and I have more completed insert sets from it than anything else in my collection.

1995 Fleer League Leaders #6 Tony Gwynn
The last one I was missing was Mr. Tony Gwynn, the NL batting champion in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He compiled a jaw-dropping mark of .394, the closest anyone's come to challenging Ted Williams' .406, which was set in 1941, the same year as Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak.

Perhaps 1941 would have a little less of a grip on the record books if the 1994 season were played to completion. Conventional wisdom says that the Montreal Expos had their best shot at winning the World Series that year, but many forget that Gwynn was seriously chasing that elusive .400 statistic. The back of this card tells us as much, as the baseball card industry was as upset about the strike as any of us fans.

The Padres were a last-place club in 1994, but they managed to snag two spots in this ten-card insert set. Andy Benes led the NL in strikeouts, whose count of 189 was good for second all-time on the Padres leaderboard. That's since been eclipsed many times over, by guys like Jake Peavy, Tyson Ross, and Kevin Brown, and Benes' 189 isn't even in the top-ten anymore.

The Mariners and Yankees also had double appearances in this set, thanks to Paul O'Neill and Jimmy Key in the AL East, and hall-of-famers Ken Griffey, Jr. and Randy Johnson in the AL West. Most of this set talks about how the strike cut some amazing seasons short, and both Griffey and Matt Williams were chasing Roger Maris' single-season home run record, finishing with 40 and 43, respectively.

Unlike the 2004-05 hockey season which was cancelled in its entirety, there are many more open questions about how the 1994 season would have ended, because over two-thirds of the season was played. We'll never know for sure how things would have turned out, but Fleer made some interesting guesses.


  1. Your mom is so cool. Congratulations on wrapping up that set. By the way... the two things that come to mind when I think of the 1994 season are Gwynn and the Expos.

  2. Topps actually played the rest of the ‘94 schedule on a computer and Gwynn finished below .400, Williams had 51 HRs I believe (Bonds had 61), and the Indians beat the Braves in the 1994 World Series. Their Cyberstats inserts in the 1995 set featured the stats with the computer simulated games included on the back.

  3. Happy Hannukah. I'm Jewish from a very Jewish neighborhood in Chicago but exiled here in Iowa you wouldn't even know the holiday existed. No Hannukah gelt for me.