INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE: Great baseball stars who could NOT round out their achievements

By Jesus Perez Vichot (Chuchi)

Many of the great athletes of all time are measured, among many other parameters, by the titles achieved during their careers. Whenever we see an individual ranking made by any means, we realize that the achievements of each athlete have a significant weight when it comes to placing them in these lists. In the specific case of baseball (MLB)this is no exception, although it is worth noting that compared to other sports such as Football (soccer), American Football (NFL) or Basketball (NBA), just to cite three examples, we find players without Series rings on many lists World among the best ranked.

I am of the opinion that in team sports the first thing that should be taken into account when evaluating an athlete is their talent and statistics or individual numbers. Some will think why I do not mention the achievements or titles obtained with their respective teams. Well, logically the main objective of each athlete is to achieve victory, but if the sport he practices is collective, success does not only depend on his contribution, although his performance has been more than outstanding.

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But let’s focus on baseball and particularly MLB. Sometimes we meet great players, who in addition to having immense talent, also had the opportunity to play or be part of winning teams. When both parties coincide (individual and collective quality) the work is facilitated when placing him among the most outstanding players in history.

In this case, for example, we find the eternal catcher of the Yankees, Yogi Berra, who won 10 World Series rings and another Yankee, the incomparable CF Joe DiMaggio, who was one title away from equaling Berra’s record. Both stars played for the most winning franchise in history, 27 World Series held by the New York Yankees. However, no one doubts the quality of them, who were essential figures in those impressive rosters of the Bronx Bombers.

Of course, we also find those who won several rings without having a great role in their club. Here we can mention players like the Venezuelan Luis Sojo, who I remember was very useful and had productive streaks in the postseason, but who in 7 seasons with the Yankees (2 incomplete) never reached 70 hits in any of them, nor did he reach play 80 challenges in a regular season wearing the pinstripe uniform. In the four titles he won he only had 12 at bats, although he had 5 hits and drove in 3 runs.

With this I do not want to minimize Sojo’s performance, much less think that he is not worthy of said rings, but there is no doubt that the luck factor was on his side. Something similar happened to another infielder, Dal Maxvill, who won 4 World Series (2 with the St. Louis Cardinals and 2 with the Oakland Athletics). Although with the Cardinals he saw more action, with the A’s he took two rings without at bat in both fall classics.

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The other side of the coin would be that of the star players who never won a World Series. This is where we find the greatest extenuating circumstance, they did not win rings, but it cannot be ignored that they were superior to others who did taste the honey of collective success. There are several luminaries who belong to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame who did not even have the opportunity to attend a World Series.

Players with a long career and impressive individual results who did not enjoy the joy of playing in an autumn classic due to having the “bad luck” of playing for not-so-competitive teams. Among them are: Ken GriffeyJr. (2,671 career MLB games with no SM appearance), Ichiro Suzuki (2,653), Andre Dawson (2,627), Ernie Banks (2,528), Nap Lajoie (2,480), Rod Carew (2,469) and Frank Thomas (2,322). Also the pitchers: Phil Niekro (864), Gaylord Perry (777), Fergie Jenkins (664) and Roy Halladay (416).

Just to cite one example: Can anyone imagine that the phenomenal Ken GriffeyJr. with the individual achievements he did not contribute to the teams for which he played? Impossible, 630 HR and 1836 RBIs. In addition to winning an MVP award (1997), 7 Silver Sluggers, 10 Gold Gloves and being selected to 13 All-Star Games, he deserves not only to participate in a World Series and even to have won at least one ring.

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There are also other emblematic players who did not have the joy of winning a title in their entire Major League career, although they did come close to achieving it. I will only mention some of the great figures who participated in at least one World Series (or more) and did not win the ring.

We have the cases of: Ted Williams (in 1946 Boston lost against St. Louis in 7 Games), Ty Cobb (3 SM, Detroit lost in 1907 and 1908 against Cubs and in 1909 against Pittsburgh), Tony Gwynn (2 SM, San Diego lost in 1984 vs. Detroit and in 1998 vs. NYY), Carl Yastrzemski (2 SM, in 1967 Boston lost vs. St. Louis and in 1975 vs. Cincinnati, both series in 7 Games).

In addition there are others no less stellar who are also immortal in Cooperstown, who have never won a World Series ring, some of the best known are: Willie McCovey, George Sisler, Harmon Killebrew, Robin Roberts, Robin Yount, Mike Piazza, Juan Marichal, Ryne Sandberg, Carlton Fisk, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Ron Santo, George Kell, Billy Williams………among others.

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Cubans who have won the World Series are known, there are several publications dedicated to this topic, but I am going to name some (not all) of the most outstanding exponents of the island in MLB who did not win a ring in the fall classic.

Here they appear: Luis Tiant (in 1975 he won 2 games against the Reds, but the Red Sox ended up losing), Tony Taylor (without participation, ‘sp’), Tony Oliva, Zoilo Versalles and Camilo Pascual (in 1965 the Twins lost in 7 Games vs. the Dodgers), Cookie Rojas (sp), Pedro Ramos (sp), Orlando Peña (sp), Rafael Palmeiro (sp), Tony González (sp), Mike González (in 1929 the Cubs lost to the PHA), Tito Fuentes (sp), Mike Fornieles (sp), Yunel Escobar (sp), Leo Cárdenas (in 1961 the Reds lost to NYY), José Cardenal (in 1980 the Royals lost to the Phillies), Yonder Alonso (sp), Danys Báez ( sp), Alexei Ramírez (sp), Yuniesky Betancourt (sp), José Abreu (so far, sp), Yasmani Grandal (so far he has been in 2 SM, with the Dodgers he lost in 2017 vs Astros and in 2018 vs Red sox). Mention that Minnie Miñoso (she won in 1947 with the NYC, but at that time she was not considered SM).

That “luck must be helped” is accepted in many spheres of life, but in baseball, when luck is not on your side, there is no help.

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INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE: Great baseball stars who could NOT round out their achievements