The Man Who Would Be King

As I’ve talked about on countless occasions, Mike Trout collectors/investors are in for a world of hurt thanks to the 2022 MLB work stoppage, which has already cancelled a slew of regular season games. If you’re keeping score at home, Mike Trout hasn’t played a full season of baseball since way back in 2016. If this work stoppage goes on much longer, it could result in the official end of Trout’s long tenure as the Baseball Card King, with a much younger and healthier Juan Soto waiting in the wings.

While Trout has spent nearly his entire career being idolized by fans, there’s another guy out there that had an elite run who’s had it much worse. A player who spent 17 seasons mostly toiling in obscurity and overshadowed by bigger personalities. A player who took nearly two decades to earn a career salary that Trout toppled by his 7th season in the game. A 5-time All Star, 4-time Gold Glove and 4-time Silver Slugger award winner who will never make it into Cooperstown without purchasing his $28 ticket.

His name is Matt Williams and in an alternate universe, he is your Home Run King. Well, he would have likely held the title for a quick four seasons before Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire came along in 1998 to double-team the single season home run record. You see, Matt Williams was unfortunately leading the Majors in home runs in 1994 (43) right as the season came to an end due to the strike. According to Baseball Reference, Williams was on pace to hit 62.2 home runs in 1994. Life really is unfair.

Just how good was Matt Williams during that time? Consider that from September 3rd, 1993 through May 17th 1995, Williams hit exactly 62 home runs in 162 games. Matt Williams, as uncool as he was, is the unofficial Home Run King. He didn’t carry the immense frame of Frank Thomas, the cool swag of Ken Griffey Jr. or the cartoon-sized muscles of McGwire or Sosa, but his power was unmatched, at least from 1993 through 1995 and he did it all without any fanfare, during a time when the fans walked away from the game.

Tragically, Williams didn’t play another full season until 1997 when he hit 32 home runs and drove in 108 runners, which would be great numbers in 2022 but didn’t quite cut it during the Steroid Era. Matt had one final, great season in 1999 and then spent the next half decade battling injuries before ending his career in 2003. Williams’ final numbers of 378 home runs, 1,218 RBI, and 1,818 hits don’t reflect just what an amazing ball player he transformed into for a few seasons in the mid-90s.

A Home Run Crown would have not likely been enough for a Hall of Fame entry, but things may have been different for Matt had he not lost playing time thanks to the baseball strike, which affected both the 1994 and the 1995 baseball season. Today, Williams’ cards sell for relatively cheap aside from those hard to find and many times rare 90s inserts, which have all gone up in value thanks to the Pandemic Bubble of 2020. You can find raw copies of Matt’s rookies for under $1 and low-end certified autographs between $5-$10.

Long live The King!

4 thoughts on “The Man Who Would Be King

  1. I remember a couple of loyal Matt Williams collectors back when I worked at a card shop (in the Bay Area) during the early 90’s, but he was pretty overshadowed by Will Clark. But it seemed like The Thrill overshadowed all of his teammates while he was in San Francisco (at least among card collectors).

  2. I can’t say that I collected him, but he WAS a beast for a few seasons there and as a (then) Indians fan, I loved when they got him.

  3. I remember that Sports Illustrated had a light hearted article on what would have happened if the 1994 season had no stoppage. Regarding Matt Williams it mentioned that the stress of pursuing Maris’s single season home run record caused him so much stress that he grew his hair back!!

  4. Pingback: Lightning Never Strikes (Donruss) Twice | The Baseball Card Blog

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