Ranking the 40 Greatest MLB Players Never to Win a World Series Title

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2012

Ranking the 40 Greatest MLB Players Never to Win a World Series Title

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    Great players can only carry a team so far—at some point, someone else needs to step up and have his 15 minutes of fame.

    That doesn't always happen, though, and far more players wind up finishing their careers without a World Series ring than those who have some big-time bling to flash in their retirement.

    While the majority of those without rings simply fall into obscurity after their playing days are over, a handful of the truly remarkable—including some of the all-time greats of the game—have never experienced what it's like to be a World Series champion.

    Let's meet the 40 best players in baseball history who never got themselves a shiny World Series championship ring.

    All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.

40. Barry Bonds (1986-2007)

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    We all know the stats and the situation revolving around Barry Bonds, so I see little point in rehashing it here.

    But Bonds never won a ring, and that makes him worthy of inclusion on this list. Though, to be fair, I'm putting him in the No. 50 since we just don't know what he was taking when he enjoyed a career resurgence after joining the San Francisco Giants.

    Let this ranking serve as my asterisk next to his name.

39. Trevor Hoffman (1993-2010)

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    A veteran of 18 major league seasons, Trevor Hoffman ranks second on the all-time saves list with 601, trailing only the legendary Mariano Rivera.

    Hoffman was selected to seven All-Star teams, and while he led the National League in saves twice, he wasn't able to save the Padres' chances at a World Series ring against the New York Yankees in 1998, when the Bronx Bombers swept the Padres in four games.

    In 12 career postseason games, Hoffman went 1-2 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and converted 4-of-6 save opportunities.

38. Dale Murphy (1976-1993)

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    A seven-time All-Star who won back-to-back National League MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, Dale Murphy remains one of the more underrated players in recent baseball history.

    He won five Gold Gloves while playing with the Atlanta Braves, and when his 18-year career came to an end, Murphy sat two home runs shy of 400 for his career, along with 1,266 RBI and a .266 batting average.

    Murphy only appeared in one postseason series, the 1982 NLCS that the Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .273 with no home runs or RBI in the series.

37. Eppa Rixey (1912-1933)

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    Eppa Rixey never spent a day in the minor leagues, jumping straight from the University of Virginia to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1912.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1963, the southpaw spent 21 seasons in the major leagues: 13 with the Cincinnati Reds and eight with the Phillies.

    A four-time 20-game winner, Rixey only appeared in one World Series, with the Phillies in 1915.

    In his lone postseason start against the Boston Red Sox, Rixey allowed three earned runs and four hits over 6.2 innings of work, striking out two.

36. Don Sutton (1966-1988)

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    A four-time All-Star, Don Sutton won at least 10 games in all but two of his 23 major league seasons. But he only has one 20-win season under his belt.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998, Sutton's 324 career wins ranks 14th all-time, and his 3,574 strikeouts put him seventh in line behind Nolan Ryan, the strikeout king.

    He played in nine postseason series, including four World Series, but his teams were never able to get the job done.

    In just over 100 postseason innings, spanning 15 appearances (14 starts), Sutton went 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA, and 1.08 WHIP.

35. Edgar Martinez (1987-2004)

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    Arguably the greatest designated hitter the game has ever seen—though David Ortiz will have something to say about that—Edgar Martinez spent his entire 18-year career with the Seattle Mariners.

    A seven-time All-Star and two-time American League batting champion, Martinez finished his career with a .312 batting average, 309 home runs and 2,247 hits.

    Martinez and the Mariners never got past the ALCS, and he never got his shot at a World Series ring.

    In 34 career playoff games, he hit .266 with eight home runs and 24 RBI.

34. Ralph Kiner (1946-1955)

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    A six-time All-Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ralph Kiner was the National League home run leader in each of his first seven seasons, hitting a career-best 54 in 1949.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, he finished his career with a .279 batting average, 1,451 career hits and 369 home runs.

    Kiner never appeared in the playoffs.

33. Early Wynn (1939; 1941-1963)

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    Early Wynn spent 23 years in the American League, more than any other pitcher in history—durability that allowed him to win 300 games and lead the league in innings pitched three times.

    Winner of the 1959 Cy Young Award as a member of the Chicago White Sox, Wynn posted five 20-win seasons and was a seven-time All-Star. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

    Wynn appeared in the World Series twice: with the Cleveland Indians in 1954 and the White Sox in 1959, posting a 1-2 record but playing for teams who lost both series. For his career, Wynn had a 4.95 ERA and 1.45 WHIP over three postseason starts.

32. Bobby Doerr (1937-1951)

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    Bobby Doerr played second base for the Boston Red Sox in each of his 14 major league seasons, earning nine All-Star selections and driving in at least 100 runs in six seasons.

    A Veterans Committee selection to the Hall of Fame in 1983, Doerr only appeared in one World Series with the Red Sox: in 1946 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

    While Boston would lose in six games, it wasn't because of Doerr, who went 9-for-22 (.409 BA) with a double, home run and three RBI.

31. Craig Biggio (1988-2007)

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    The ninth player to collect 3,000 career hits with the same team, Craig Biggio spent his entire 20-year career with the Houston Astros.

    One of two players to hit 50 doubles and steal 50 bases in the same season, Biggio made seven All-Star appearances, one as a catcher and six as a second baseman.

    Biggio played in nine different playoff series, including the 2005 World Series, but he never won a ring.

    In 40 career playoff games, Biggio hit .234 with two home runs and 11 RBI.

30. Hack Wilson (1923-1934)

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    Elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1979, Hack Wilson's 191 RBI for the Chicago Cubs in 1930 stands as one of baseball's unbreakable records.

    Wilson led the National League in home runs four times and in RBI twice, primarily playing center field for the Chicago Cubs, New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.

    He lost both World Series that he played in—with the Giants in 1924 and the Cubs in 1929.

    In 12 postseason games, Wilson hit .319 with a double, a triple and three RBI.

29. Gaylord Perry (1962-1983)

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    A five-time 20-game winner, Gaylord Perry won the 1972 AL Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians and then won the NL Cy Young Award with the San Diego Padres in 1979, becoming the first pitcher to win the award in both leagues

    He played for eight different teams, winning a total of 314 games, striking out 3,534 batters and pitching to a 3.11 ERA.

    It was with his original team, the San Francisco Giants, that Perry saw the only postseason action of his career.

    In two games against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1971 NLCS, Perry went 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA, allowing 10 earned runs and 19 hits in 14.2 innings of work. The Giants lost the series in four games.

28. Dick Allen (1963-1977)

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    There wasn't much that Dick Allen couldn't do on a baseball field. His offensive abilities outweighed his defensive mediocrity, as he could hit for average, hit for power and had plenty of speed.

    A seven-time All-Star, Allen won the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year award with the Philadelphia Phillies and, as a member of the Chicago White Sox, took home the American League MVP award in 1972.

    He only appeared in one postseason series: in 1976 in the midst of his second stint in Philadelphia.

    Allen hit only .222 (2-for-9) in the 1976 NLCS, and the Phillies were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in three games.

27. Ichiro (2001-Present)

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    What can I say about Ichiro that we don't already know?

    A 10-time All-Star. A 10-time Gold Glove award winner.

    The 2001 American League Rookie of the Year and MVP, a two-time batting champion and, for 10 consecutive seasons, Ichiro hit over .300 with more than 200 hits, leading the AL in hits on seven different occasions.

    He's never made it past the ALCS, either with the Seattle Mariners or New York Yankees, but Ichiro has a .346 batting average in 19 postseason games.

26. Fergie Jenkins (1965-1983)

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    Winner of the 1971 National League Cy Young Award and a four-time All-Star, Fergie Jenkins won 284 games over a 19-year career that saw him play with four different teams.

    As a member of the Cubs, Jenkins posted six consecutive 20-win seasons from 1967 through 1972, adding a seventh 20-win season in eight years in 1974.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991, Jenkins never pitched in the playoffs.

25. Jeff Bagwell (1991-2005)

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    Some people choose to believe the unfounded rumors about his supposed steroid usage—to each his own, but I'm not buying it.

    A four-time All-Star, Jeff Bagwell was the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year and the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1994. He has eight seasons of at least 100 RBI and hit .300 six times, all with the Houston Astros.

    He hit .125 in the 2005 World Series that saw Houston get swept by the Chicago White Sox—the only only one in which he'd participate. In 106 career postseason at-bats, Bagwell hit .226 with two home runs and 13 RBI.

24. Don Mattingly (1982-1995)

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    Owner of one of the sweetest swings that the game has ever seen, Don Mattingly spent his entire 14-year career with the New York Yankees, making six All-Star teams.

    Named MVP of the American League in 1985, Mattingly won nine Gold Glove awards and finished his career with 2,153 hits and a .307 batting average.

    But playing for the team with the most World Series championships in history did little to help Donnie Baseball, as his first and last playoff series came against the Seattle Mariners in the 1995 ALDS.

    Mattingly hit .417 with a home run and six RBI, but it wasn't enough to propel the Yankees onto victory in the series.

23. Ron Santo (1960-1974)

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    A nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner, Ron Santo hit for average and power while playing excellent defense at third base for the Chicago Cubs.

    He spent his entire career in Chicago, spending 14 seasons with the Cubs and his final season with the White Sox.

    A career .277 hitter with more than 2,200 hits, 300 home runs and 1.300 RBI, he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012—a year after he lost his battle with cancer.

    Santo never appeared in the postseason.

22. Carlton Fisk (1969; 1971-1993)

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    An 11-time All-Star and the 1972 Rookie of the Year, Carlton Fisk spent 24 years in the major leagues, splitting time between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox.

    Fisk retired a .269 hitter who slugged 376 home runs and drove in 1,330 runs, though a World Series ring always eluded him.

    Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, Fisk appeared in only one World Series: with the Red Sox in 1975, when they lost in seven games to the Cincinnati Reds. He hit .240 with two home runs and four RBI in the losing effort.

21. Andre Dawson (1976-1996)

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    One of three players in the 400 HR-300 SB club and one of four Montreal Expos whose retired number hangs from the rafters at the Bell Centre, home of the NHL's Montreal Expos, Andre Dawson never won a ring over his 21-year career.

    Named NL Rookie of the Year with Montreal in 1977, Dawson's first taste of the playoffs came in 1981, when the Expos won the first-ever NLDS against the Phillies. The team eventually lost to the eventual World Champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the NLCS.

    Dawson signed with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1987 season and became the first player on a last-place team to win the MVP award. Two years later, he returned to the playoffs with the Cubs, who lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants.

    Dawson hit a combined .186 with no home runs and three RBI in 15 career playoff games.

20. George Kell (1943-1957)

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    A 10-time All-Star, George Kell spent 15 seasons in baseball, primarily with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies.

    Kell hit .300 or better in 12 seasons, leading the American League with a .343 mark in 1949. For all of his individual success, however, none of the teams on which he played ever advanced to the World Series.

19. Ryne Sandberg (1981-1997)

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    Ryne Sandberg played virtually his entire career with the Chicago Cubs (with the exception of 13 games with Philadelphia in 1981), finishing his career with a .285 batting average, 2,386 hits and 282 home runs.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005, Sandberg was the 1984 National League MVP. He was also a 10-time All-Star who took home nine Gold Glove awards.

    He played in two postseason series with the Cubs: the 1984 and 1989 NLCS. While Chicago lost both series, Sandberg played well, hitting a combined .385 with a home run and six RBI.

18. Billy Williams (1959-1976)

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    One of only six players to have his number retired by the Chicago Cubs, Billy Williams was a fixture at Wrigley Field for 16 years, and he earned all sorts of accolades.

    He was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1961, represented the Cubs in the All-Star Game six times and won the National League batting title in 1972 with a .333 average.

    You'd think that Williams would have made the playoffs as a member of the Cubs, considering that he played more than a decade alongside fellow Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, but it would take a trade to the Oakland A's following the 1974 season for Williams to get his first taste of the playoffs.

    In the 1975 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, the 37-year-old Williams worked a walk against Boston Red Sox starter Luis Tiant to start the third inning of Game 1. That was the last time Williams got on base, though, as he went 0-for-7 in the only playoff series he'd ever play in, and the A's were swept by Boston.

17. Arky Vaughan (1932-1943, 1947-1948)

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    Elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1985, Arky Vaughan established himself as one of the best shortstops in the game over a decade spent with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting .300 or better in every season.

    His career .318 batting average is second to only Honus Wagner's .327 for shortstops, and his .385 batting average in 1935 was the highest recorded by a National League shortstop in the 20th century.

    Vaughan was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers prior to the 1942 season. He spent two years in Brooklyn before serving in the United States Military during World War II—service that robbed him of three full seasons. But he returned to the Dodgers in 1947 and played for two more seasons.

    In 1947, Vaughan made his only World Series appearance with Brooklyn. He had only had three plate appearances, going 1-for-2 with a double. 

16. Nellie Fox (1947-1965)

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    A 12-time All-Star second baseman and the 1959 American League MVP while playing with the Chicago White Sox, Nellie Fox was a scrappy second baseman who had one of the best batting eyes around.

    Fox led the American League in hits four times, batted .300 six times and struck out only 216 times in 9,232 at-bats. Think about that last one for a minute and how utterly ridiculous that stat is.

    In 2012, Adam Dunn struck out six more times than Nellie Fox did in his entire career.

    Fox and the White Sox fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games during the 1959 World Series, but the Hall of Famer batted .375 (9-for-24) with three doubles and four runs scored.

15. Mike Piazza (1992-2007)

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    A 12-time All-Star and the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year, Mike Piazza is one of the most potent hitting catchers that the game has ever seen.

    No catcher in history has hit more home runs than Piazza, who finished his career with 427 home runs, 1,355 RBI and a .308 batting average.

    He played in eight postseason series over his 16-year career, making it to the World Series only once, with the New York Mets in 2000, where they fell to their crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees, in five games.

    For his career, Piazza hit .242 with six home runs and 15 RBI in the playoffs.

14. Juan Marichal (1960-1975)

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    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983, Juan Marichal spent 16 seasons pitching in the major leagues. He won 243 of the 457 in which he pitched, with all but 13 of those appearances coming as a member of the San Francisco Giants.

    A six-time 20-game winner and owner of one of the greatest leg kicks in history, Marichal was a nine-time All-Star, including for eight seasons straight—from 1962 through 1969.

    He made two postseason starts with the Giants, in the 1962 World Series and 1971 NLCS.

    Though he allowed just a combined two earned runs in 12 innings of work, striking out 10 over his two starts, the Giants went on to lose both series.

13. Robin Roberts (1948-1966)

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    Robin Roberts spent 14 of his 19 major league seasons as the backbone of the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation, picking up 234 of his 286 career victories while calling the City of Brotherly Love home.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976, he posted six consecutive 20-win seasons from 1950 through 1955, making the All-Star team each season (and in 1956 as well).

    He only appeared in one World Series, with the 1950 Phillies, which they lost to the New York Yankees in four games.

    Roberts appeared in two of those games, making one start and going 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 11 innings of work.

12. Robin Yount (1974-1993)

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    No player in the 1980s had as many hits as Robin Yount, who accumulated 3,142 hits over a 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers.

    A two-time American League MVP in 1982 and again in 1989, Yount made it to the World Series in 1982, where the Brewers fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games. He hit .414 with three doubles, a home run, six RBI and 12 runs scored.

    For his career, Yount was a lifetime .344 hitter in three postseason series.

11. George Sisler (1915-1930)

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    A career .340 hitter who won the American League MVP in 1922, George Sisler collected 2,812 hits, 102 home runs and 1,175 RBI over his 15-year Hall of Fame career.

    He hit over .300 on 14 different occasions and twice he finished the season hitting over .400.

    For all of his ability, though, it was never enough to propel his teams into the playoffs.

10. Harmon Killebrew (1954-1975)

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    One of the greatest sluggers the game has ever known, Harmon Killebrew played 22 seasons in the major leagues, all with the same franchise, though it was in two different locations—first Washington D.C. and then Minnesota.

    An 11-time All-Star, Killebrew hit 573 home runs, trailing only Babe Ruth among American League sluggers.

    Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984, Killebrew appeared in the postseason three times, including the 1965 World Series, but never won a ring.

    In 13 postseason games, he hit .250 with three home runs and six RBI.

9. Willie McCovey (1959-1980)

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    Tied with Frank Thomas and Ted Williams for 18th on the all-time Home Run list with 521, Willie McCovey spent the bulk of his 22-year career with the San Francisco Giants.

    Named National League Rookie of the Year in 1959 and MVP in 1969, the six-time All-Star was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986.

    While with the Giants, he was part of losing teams in the 1962 World Series and NLCS in 1971, hitting a combined .310 with three home runs and seven RBI.

8. Rod Carew (1967-1985)

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    The 16th member of the 3,000-hit club, Rod Carew was one of the great hitters the game has ever seen.

    He was an All-Star in 18 of his 19 career seasons, winning the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1967 and the AL MVP award in 1977.

    A seven-time batting champion, his .328 career average is the 34th highest of all-time.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991, Carew never played on a team that got past the ALCS, losing in each of the four that he appeared in.

    For his career, Carew posted a .220 batting average in 55 postseason plate appearances.

7. Carl Yastrzemski (1961-1983)

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    A three-time batting champion, Carl Yastrzemski spent his entire 23-year career with the Boston Red Sox.

    Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, Yaz was an 18-time All-Star. He was the last player to hit for the Triple Crown in the 20th century, pulling off the feat in 1967—the same year that he was named the American League's Most Valuable Player.

    He played in the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds that Boston lost in seven games, hitting .310 with four RBI and seven runs scored.

    In 17 career playoff games, Yaz hit .369 with four home runs and 11 RBI.

6. Tony Gwynn (1982-2001)

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    One of the truly great hitters that the game has ever seen, Tony Gwynn accumulated 3,141 hits over a 20-year career spent entirely with the San Diego Padres.

    A 15-time All-Star and eight-time National League batting champion, Gwynn posted a lifetime batting average of .338 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

    He participated in the postseason three times, reaching the World Series in 1984 and 1998, though the Padres came out on the losing end both times.

    Over 27 postseason games, Gwynn hit .308 with a home run and 11 RBI.

5. Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-2010)

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    If only Junior hadn't gotten injured, who knows how gaudy his career numbers would have been.

    As it stands, Junior's 630 career home runs put him sixth all-time, while his 1,836 RBI places him 15th.

    The 1997 AL MVP, a 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award recipient, Griffey Jr. played on four playoff teams, making it as far as the ALCS with the Seattle Mariners in 1995.

    For his career, Griffey hit .290 with six home runs and 11 RBI in 18 playoff games.

4. Nap Lajoie (1896-1916)

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    One of the best second basemen to ever play the game, Nap Lajoie hit over .300 16 times in his 21 major league seasons, going over the .350 mark on 10 different occasions. His career batting average of .338 ranks 20th all-time.

    He won the American League Triple Crown in 1901, hitting .426 with 14 home runs and 125 RBI.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937, Lajoie never played in the postseason.

3. Ernie Banks (1953-1971)

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    The first player in National League history to win consecutive MVP awards—a feat he pulled off in 1958 and 1959—Ernie Banks was an 11-time All-Star who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

    Over a 19-year career spent entirely with the Cubs, Banks never saw postseason action, but he did finish his career a .274 batter with 512 home runs, 1,636 RBI and 2,583 hits.

2. Ty Cobb (1905-1928)

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    Arguably the greatest hitter the game has ever seen, Ty Cobb's career batting average of .366 still stands as the highest career average in the history of the game.

    Ty Cobb played 24 years in the major leagues from 1905 to 1928.

    Second all-time in hits with 4,189, he was the league MVP in 1911. He was also part of the first class inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

    Cobb played in three straight World Series from 1907 to 1909 with the Detroit Tigers, but they were unable to win any of the three.

    In 17 career playoff games, Cobb hit .262 with nine RBI.

1. Ted Williams (1939-1960)

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    Even after spending three years serving his country in World War II, Ted Williams put together a Hall of Fame career, one that saw him hit .344 with 521 home runs, 1,839 RBI and 2,654 hits.

    A two-time American League MVP and a 17-time All-Star, Williams was the last player to hit over .400 in a season, posting a .406 mark in 1941—the first of the six batting titles that he'd win.

    He hit .200 with an RBI in the 1946 World Series—certainly a factor in the Red Sox losing the Fall Classic against the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.


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