Grif­fey joins list of greats to miss the Fall Clas­sic

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - LEADING OFF - Dan Schloss­berg Spe­cial for USA TO­DAY Sports

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.


Ken Grif­fey Jr. smiles be­neath a pile of team­mates cel­e­brat­ing the Mariners’ AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries win against the Yan­kees in 1995.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.