Getting to Cooperstown without Winning

For the second time in recent posting, I’m going to shamelessly borrow an idea from SportsPhd. He posted a comment on the absurdity of equating greatness as a player with winning a championship in a team sport. I agree entirely with him. I sat down following his post and began seeing if I could put together a team of players who never won and yet made it to Cooperstown. It was actually pretty easy, so I went a step farther.

Consider this team:

Infield from first to third: George Sisler, Rod Carew, Ernie Banks, and George Kell.

Outfield: Billy Williams, Harry Heilman, Ralph Kiner

Catcher: Rick Ferrell

Pitchers: Fergie Jenkins and Ted Lyons

Know what they have in common besides being Hall of Famers and not having won a World Series? They also never even got into a World Series. Yep, that’s right, team. This is a list of Hall of Fame quality players who failed to find a team good enough to earn a trip to the World Series. I’ll admit to having some problems with a couple of them getting into the Hall, but they are there and we have to deal with it.

This list points out two things to me. First, that you can be genuinely good and not win. Second, the truly great names, the ones we really expect to see in Cooperstown, do make it to a championship, at least occasionally. Here’s a look at a team that got to a World Series, but didn’t win. Notice that most of us would consider it a better team (at most positions).

Infield: Willie McCovey, Nellie Fox, Robin Yount, Fred Lindstrom

Outfield: Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Tony Gwynn

Catcher: Carlton Fisk

Pitchers: Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry

So if winning it all is the best measure of greatness, all these guys fall short (and Scott Brosius is a great, great, great–he won three–player).

There are other players that can be added. Feel free to put together  your own and post it here.

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One Response to “Getting to Cooperstown without Winning”

  1. sportsphd Says:

    Though they are not the best players in the Hall of Fame, they for the most part aren’t the worst. That is probably because the weakest tier of Hall of Famers are mostly also-rans on top teams, like George Kelly, Harry Hooper, Waite Hoyt, and others. None of those players won less than 2 World Series, and for that reason they are all obviously better than Ernie Banks and Ted Williams. By the way, consider non-World Series-winning shortstops: Arky Vaughan, Luke Appling, and Joe Cronin, to go with the above-mentioned Robin Yount and Ernie Banks. You can easily be a remarkable shortstop and not win the Series. Depending on what position you place them at, that is likely 5 of the top 10 shortstops ever with nary a World Series victory between them.

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