Playing in the postseason is one of the best parts of an MLB star’s career, but some of the best in the history of the game never got that chance.
In the modern hot-take sports culture, playoff wins and losses have come to define a player’s status as a professional athlete more than anything else. Clayton Kershaw is by most statistical measures, one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history. Still, there are plenty of fans who would rather have Madison Bumgarner on their team in a tight spot. The playoffs have become the only thing that matter when measuring a player’s legacy against past greats.
But what if plenty of the past greats never played in the postseason themselves?
The game of baseball used to be a lot different. There were effectively no playoffs for most of the 20th Century, with the pennant winners from each league advancing directly to the World Series. The Division Series was not created until 1969. If you played in the American League from the early 1920s to the 1950s, good luck getting to the World Series ahead of the New York Yankees. The reserve clause also made it much more difficult for players to move from team to team. With free agency, it’s hard to find an All-Star player who has never played in the postseason because they become inherently more desirable to the good teams with the money to spend.
All told, there are 14 Hall of Famers — 12 players two managers — who never played in the postseason or World Series. Most of them played for the Chicago Cubs, who just won their first World Series in 108 years last season. Here are the 30 best players who never made it past the regular season. There are Hall of Famers, All-Stars and other very good players who never tasted the postseason.
30. Tito Francona
Tito Francona never had a chance to play in the postseason, where his son Terry Francona has made such a name for himself. Nevertheless, the elder Francona had a solid 15-year career in the big leagues, spending the longest chunk of time with the Cleveland Indians, who are now managed by his son.
Francona played outfield and first base for the Indians and eight other teams. As his career wound down, he became a well-traveled veteran bat for hire. He spent most of his career as a role player but did have a run of six seasons from 1959 to 1964 where he received starter’s at-bats.
During his stretch as a starter, Francona hit .284/.353/.437 with 83 home runs and 378 RBI. His best year was his first year with the Indians in 1959. Francona hit .363/.414/.566 that year with 20 home runs and 79 RBI. That season nearly earned him the AL MVP, as he finished fifth. Francona had his lone All-Star year in 1961 when he hit .301/.363/.459 with 16 home runs and 85 RBI.
Francona retired after the 1970 season with a career .272/.343/.403 line and 1,395 hits. After his playing days were over, Tito went home to Beaver County, PA to raise his family. Terry played 10 years in the big leagues, recording nearly 500 hits before taking his talents to the dugout.