USA TODAY Sports Weekly
WORLD CLASS BUT NO WORLD SERIES
Griffey joins list of greats to miss the Fall Classic
Ken Griffey Jr. watched his father, Ken Sr., play for two World Series champions but never got a chance to win one himself. It’s the only void on his world-class résumé.
Unlike fellow Hall of Fame inductee Mike Piazza, who reached the Fall Classic in 2000, Griffey never appeared in the World Series. He will be the 25th member of the Cooperstown gallery denied that experience.
Griffey did everything but that. He was MVP of the regular season and the All-Star Game, winner of four home run crowns, seven Silver Sluggers and 10 Gold Gloves and was selected to 13 All-Star Games. He hit 56 home runs twice and once tied a record by connecting eight games in a row. But the World Series got away.
“My records are not important,” Griffey said. “What’s important is getting the trophy with all the flags on it. The fans may not understand, but that’s the way it is. It’s a team sport.”
The graceful center fielder came close in 1995, pushing the Seattle Mariners past the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Division Series when he scored from first base on Edgar Martinez’s double in the 11th inning. He hit five home runs against the Yankees, joining Reggie Jackson as the only players to produce that many in a postseason series. But the euphoria faded quickly as the Mariners dropped a six-game AL Championship Series to the Cleveland Indians.
Four men enshrined this decade are among the 24 previous players who reached the Hall of Fame without reaching the World Series. Some likely were denied because of the extra playoff rounds placed in front of the Fall Classic starting in 1969. But most were just unlucky.
Frank Thomas, enshrined in 2014, reached postseason play four times but was on the disabled list when his Chicago White Sox played in the 2005 World Series against the Houston Astros. After throwing out the first pitch of a Rod Carew had 3,053 hits and seven batting titles.
division series game, all he could do was watch. The team gave him a World Series championship ring.
Like Thomas, Rube Waddell watched from the sideline when his team, the Philadelphia Athletics, won the 1905 AL pennant. A 27-game winner that season, the mercurial pitcher sat out with an alleged injury, though rumors circulated that gamblers paid him not to play.
Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Ron Santo had the misfortune of playing for the crosstown Cubs, a team that hasn’t won a pennant since 1945 or a World Series since 1908, though Sandberg reached the postseason twice with the team before falling short.
Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, like Santo, were members of the 1969 team that wilted in the summer heat before the New York Mets mowed them down during the stretch drive. Ferguson Jenkins, another teammate, went 0-for-the-postseason even after moving from the Cubs to the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.
Ralph Kiner, a broadcaster for the ’69 Miracle Mets, won seven home run crowns as a player but was the only star of the moribund Pittsburgh Pirates teams that anchored the National League basement after World War II.
While Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry topped 300 wins each and reached postseason play, neither played for a pennant winner. Nor did Jim Bunning, whose Philadelphia Phillies blew a 61⁄ game National League lead with 12 to play in 1964. Had they won, Bunning & Co. would have marched right into the World Series against the Yankees.
Rod Carew’s 3,053 hits and seven batting titles didn’t help either, as his teams lost all four of his playoff series.
George Sisler saw his only chance slip away in 1922, when the St. Louis Browns finished a game behind the Yankees. Like most of the players on this list, he spent most of his career on bad teams.