Great players can only get their teams so far. At some point, someone needs to deliver the big hit or the bigger strikeout, but that doesn’t always happen. A majority of players wind up retiring without a World Series ring, and are consider themselves lucky just to make it to September. Baseball is a team game. No one player, no matter how talented they are, is guaranteed an opportunity to participate in the Fall Classic. These players had the talent, but never made it to the big champagne part at the end of the season.
Ty Cobb Lost Three Straight World Series
Cobb is one of the greatest hitters baseballs has ever seen. His career batting average of .366 still stands as the highest career average in the history of the game.
From 1907 to 1909 Cobb and the Detroit Tigers reached three consecutive World Series, losing twice to the Chicago Cubs and once to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite never winning it all, Cobb was the youngest player ever to compile 4,000 hits as well as score 2,000 runs.
Ted Williams Took A Break To Serve His Country
Joining the Boston Red Sox in 1939, Ted Williams emerged as one of the sport’s best hitters. In 1941, he would post an incredible .406 batting average, making him the last MLB player to bat over .400 in a season.
The following season, he won his first Triple Crown. He then served three-years in the United States Navy. Following his return from the Navy, Williams won his first American League MVP award, playing in his only World Series in 1946.
Ernie Banks made his Major League debut in 1955 and was a National League All-Star for 11 seasons. He spent 19-years with the Chicago Cubs, and never saw postseason action. He would still remain the main attraction for the franchise up until he retired.
Banks is among the greatest Cubs to ever play for the franchise. He hit his 500th career home run in 1970 at Wrigley Field, retiring from playing a year later in 1971.
Tony Gwynn Is Mr. Padre
A California native, Gwynn played all 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres. The left-handed hitter won eight batting titles in his career, tied for the most in National League history. The 15-time All-Star was well recognized for his skills on both offense and defense.
His incredible talent would be enough to help the Padres reach their first franchise World Series in 1998. However, they would lose to a powerful New York Yankees squad. Gwynn found his rightful place in the Hall of Fame in 2007.
Carl Yastrzemski Was A Red Sox Lifer
Carl Yastrzemnski was a three-time batting champion who spent his entire 23-year career with the Boston Red Sox. The 18-time All-Star was the last player to hit for the Triple Crown in the 20th century, pulling off the accomplishment in 1967.
Playing in the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Boston would ultimately lose the series in a heartbreaking seven games. But, the Hall of Famer delivered at the plate, hitting .310 with four RBI and seven runs scored in the series.
Willie McCovey played most his illustrious career with the San Francisco Giants. Of his 521 home runs, 231 of those were launched at Candlestick Park. The first baseman was known as a dead-pull line driver hitter, forcing some teams to employ a shift against the Hall of Famer.
In 1962, the Giants made an appearance in the World Series, losing to the New York Yankees. Just over 20 years later, in 1986, McCovey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Harmon Killebrew Was A Homerun Machine
During his time with the Twins, Harmon Killebrew was one of the most feared hitters in the sixties. In the 1965 World Series, Killebrew along with teammate Zoilo Versalles led the Twins with .286 batting averages.
Minnesota, sadly, was shut out in three games as the Dodgers won the series in seven games. Killebrew retired with 573 home runs, making him a sure fire enshrinee in Cooperstown. The six-time home run leader and 11-time all-star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
Andre Dawson Was An MVP For Lousy Teams
Andre Dawson, the 1977 Rookie of the Year was an eight-time All-Star. Dawson’s first taste of playoff baseball came in 1981, when the Montreal Expos won their first-ever series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Expos would lose the pennant to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
Dawson would take his talents to the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1987 season. He would become the first player on a last-place team to take home the MVP honors.
Dale Murphy Got Snubbed By Cooperstown
Five-time Gold Glover Dale Murphy is best noted for his time with the Atlanta Braves. Murphy was the recipient of consecutive MVP awards in 1982 and 1983.The cards weren’t in his favor, however, as his time in Atlanta ended just before they became an NL powerhouse. Murphy made his only postseason appearance in 1982.
It didn’t help that when Murphy finally made the playoffs he performance was poor at best. This, more than anything else, is why Murphy did not get elected to Cooperstown.
Ryne Sandberg Spent His Entire Life Chasing A Ring
Ryne “Ryno” Sandberg established himself as an All-Star as soon as he made his debut. He made 10 consecutive All-Star appearances and won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards as a second baseman. Sandberg won the 1984 National League MVP award, and he was a seven-time Silver Slugger. He would appear in two postseason series with the Chicago Cubs.
The Hall of Famer played in the 1984 and the 1989 National League Championship Series, losing in both. Long after his playing career, Sandberg was the manager of the Phillies from 2013-2015.
Billy Williams Had One Shot And Missed
Billy Williams is one of six Cubbies to have his number retired by Chicago. The six-time All-Star won the National League batting title in 1972 with an incredible .333 batting average. However, his first taste of playoff baseball came in 1974 after being traded to the Oakland A’s.
In the 1975 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, the 37-year old Williams worked a walk against Luis Tiant. That would mark the last time the beloved player got on base, going 0-for-7 in the only playoff series he appeared in.
Juan Marichal Had His Heart Crushed By The Yankees
Juan Marichel, playing for the San Francisco Giants, won more games than other pitcher in the sixties. Unfortunately, he only appeared in one World Series game. It came in 1962, when the Giants lost the series against the Yankees in a crushing seven-game series. But, his more memorable moment came in 1965.
That’s when he was in a notorious incident with the Dodgers in Candlestick Park. Almost 20-years after the incident, Marichal was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
Don Mattingly Is The Rare Yankee Who Never Won It All
The “Hitman,” better known as Don Mattingly, spent his entire 14-year career playing with the New York Yankees. He would emerge as the team’s starting first baseman after a successful rookie season in 1982. Despite his accolades throughout his career, Mattingly did little to help the Bronx Bombers.
His first and last playoff series came in 1955 against the Seattle Mariners. Despite not being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Mattingly turned his attention to coaching. From 2011-2015, he was the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Craig Biggio Was The Face Of The Astros
Craig Biggio spent every day of his 20-year career with the Houston Astros. The seven-time All-Star batted .300 four times and scored 100 runs eight times during his lengthy career. With longtime teammates Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman, they formed the core of the “Killer B’s”, leading Houston to six playoff runs from 1997 to 2005.
In 2005, the franchise made its first ever World Series appearance, losing to the Chicago White Sox. When he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, Biggio became the first member to wear an Astros’ hat on his plaque.
Mike Piazza Couldn’t Overcome The Bronx Bombers
A 12-time All-Star, Mike Piazza produced strong offensive numbers as a catcher. One of the best offensive players of his position was a Silver Slugger Award recipient from 1993 to 2002. In eight postseason series over his 16-year career, he only made it to the World Series once.
As a member of the New York Mets, Piazza appeared in the 2000 World Series, better known as the Subway Series. The Mets lost to the Yankees, but he would be rewarded with induction to Cooperstown in 2016.
Roberts spent 14 of his 19 seasons as the backbone of the Phillies starting rotation. He would help the team reach their first National League pennant in 35 years when they went to the World Series in 1950.
Despite losing the series, Roberts would go on to win 20 games each season for the next five years. Six times, he lead the league in games started, five times in complete games and innings pitched. The seven-time All-Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.
Trevor Hoffman Was The Best Of His Generation
Trevor Hoffman retired with 601 saves, placing him second on the all-time list. The only other reliever who has more is New York Yankee great, Mariano Rivera. The seven-time All-Star was twice a runner-up for the National League Cy Young Award.
Hoffman and the San Diego Padres reached the 1998 World Series but got swept by a powerful Yankees squad in four straight games. The Hall of Famer retired with MLB records of fifteen 20-save seasons, fourteen 30-save seasons, and nine 40-save seasons.
Ken Griffey Jr. Was A Near Unanimous Hall Selection
Ken Griffey is one of most powerful hitters MLB has ever seen. His 630 home runs rank as the seventh-most in league history. He was an exceptional defender as he won 10 Gold Gloves as a center fielder. His only real chance to succeed at winning the World Series came in 1995 with the Mariners.
Losing to the Cleveland Indians would be the only shot Griffey had at winning it all. But, his 99 percent on the Hall of Fame ballot is second behind Marinao Rivera.
Edgar Martinez Preached Patience
Long before David Ortiz became a household name, Edgar Martinez was the best-designated hitter ever. He was a seven-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger, and a two-time batting champion. In the 1995 American League Division Series, Martinez hit a two-run double off Jack McDowell, winning the game, and the series in five games.
That sent the Mariners to the Championship League Series, where they lost to the Cleveland Indians in six games. After retiring in 2004, the former AL RBI leader was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on his tenth ballot in 2019.
Roy Halladay Was Perfection On The Mound
Outside of Dave Stieb, Roy Hallady was arguably one of the best pitchers the Toronto Blue Jays ever had. Playing for the team from 1998 through 2009, he was known for pitching deep into games and it followed him to Philadelphia. When he was traded to the Phillies, Halladay continued his dominance.
He threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history, as well as throwing the second-no hitter in MLB postseason history. The late pitcher came close to reaching the World Series in 2010, but the Phillies lost to the Giants.