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Stars Without Galaxy: Some of the Greats Who Have Missed the Series

September 20, 1987|BEN WALKER | Associated Press

Ernie Banks, Rod Carew, Ralph Kiner, Billy Williams and Luke Appling.

All great players with another common bond. None of them ever got to the World Series.

Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy and Phil Niekro also have long and productive careers. Will they and others be victims of the same fate?

"Every player that doesn't end up getting there realizes he missed something that's important to him," said Murphy, in his 12th season with Atlanta, one of the dozen teams not in the pennant race this year.

"It's definitely the main goal of why you play, to win a championship," Murphy said. "I don't always look at the numbers or world championships as how well a player put effort into the game, but those are probably the main focuses of your career."

While one person sometimes carries his team to the World Series, such as George Brett with Kansas City in 1985, getting there may depend more on luck.

Last year, the New York Mets recalled shortstop Kevin Elster from Class AA on Aug. 30 for infield insurance. Six weeks after making his major-league debut, Elster played in the World Series and won a championship ring.

Banks played 19 years for the Chicago Cubs and finished in the Hall of Fame. But his teams never finished closer than five games to first place and he always wound up at home in October, becoming known as one of baseball's greatest players who never got to participate in the game's greatest event.

Banks does not let it upset him.

"I've had other players say, 'Boy, you must miss not playing in a World Series,"' Banks said, "but I'm happy with the way everything turned out."

"I look at it as a marvelous life to have played with all the people I did and establish those friendships, to be able to earn the respect of fans and players," he said. "That kind of winning lasts forever. You don't get a ring for that."

Williams, who joined Banks in the Hall of Fame this year, was Banks' teammate on the Cubs for the entire 1960s.

Williams' 18-year career zig-zagged around the World Series. He was traded to Oakland after the 1974 season -- in which the Athletics won their third straight championship -- and reached the American League playoffs in 1975. He went 0-for-8 in the postseason and retired after 1976.

Dawson is now with the Cubs and having the best of his 12 seasons. At 33, he has been in the National League playoffs once, batting .150 as Montreal lost the deciding fifth game to Los Angeles.

"Playing in the World Series is something everyone dreams of doing at one time and you just hope you get the chance, too," Dawson said. "You like to think that if you put in your time and put up the numbers those things will usually take care of themselves."

"But no matter how productive you are, it may not happen," he said. "I don't worry about it."

Niekro got a good opportunity this year when he was traded from Cleveland to AL East contender Toronto in August. But Niekro went 0-2 for the Blue Jays and was released Aug. 31.

When Niekro left the clubhouse for the final time he wrote a note on the blackboard thanking the Jays for giving him the chance to make it to the Series.

Niekro, 48, reached the playoffs twice with Atlanta in his 24 years. But his 318-274 record does not include a trip to the World Series.

His brother, Joe, could get his first chance this October. He is back in the starting rotation for AL West-leading Minnesota. Joe has won 219 games in 21 seasons, including a playoff appearance with Houston in 1980.

Carew hit .328 in 19 seasons with Minnesota and California and got into the playoffs four times, batting a combined .220, but no farther. One of his managers was current Angels Manager Gene Mauch, who has never managed a team to the World Series in 27 seasons and missed last year by one strike in the playoffs against Boston.

Appling was a Hall of Fame shortstop for the Chicago White Sox during their dry period from 1930 to 1950.

Kiner led the NL in home runs for seven straight seasons with Pittsburgh before being traded to Cleveland, ending his career with the Indians in 1955 a year after they set a major-league record with 111 victories.

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