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BE LIKE ERNIE MAYBE NOT. AFTER ALL, THE EXEMPLARY ERNIE BANKS, LIKE MANY BIG-NAME PLAYERS TODAY, NEVER SAW THE LIGHT OF POSTSEASON PLAY

Sept. 25, 1995
Sept. 25, 1995

Table of Contents
Sept. 25, 1995

BE LIKE ERNIE MAYBE NOT. AFTER ALL, THE EXEMPLARY ERNIE BANKS, LIKE MANY BIG-NAME PLAYERS TODAY, NEVER SAW THE LIGHT OF POSTSEASON PLAY

For all the places the winds of baseball have blown pitcher Mike
Morgan--14 professional teams with eight organizations over 17
years--never have they carried him deep into October. His
tumbleweed life in the majors has not included a trip to the
postseason. No active player has endured a longer playoff
drought than Morgan, who debuted with the Oakland A's in 1978 as
an 18-year-old right out of high school and now toils for the
fourth-place St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.

This is an article from the Sept. 25, 1995 issue Original Layout

Then again, no active player has played in more games without
getting to the postseason than New York Yankee first baseman Don
Mattingly, who is both the Ernie Banks and the Horace Clarke of
his generation. His melodramatic odyssey has lasted so long
(1,773 games at week's end, chart page 38) that he has succeeded
Corey Pavin as holder of the dread title Best Current Player
Never to Have Won a Major. Likewise, no presently employed
pitcher has won more games (166) or thrown more innings (2,629)
without playing on a title-winning team than Mark Langston of
the California Angels. "Donnie blames it all on me," says
Langston. "He says if I had signed with the Yankees [as a free
agent after the 1989 season], both of us would have been in by
now."

Worse, Langston, who's in his 12th big league season, did not
play on a team that finished with a winning record in any of his
first 11 seasons, a streak exceeded only by Bruce Bochte and
Dan Meyer, whose 12-year famines began in 1974. "It's
embarrassing, that's what it is," Langston said early last week.
"I've been saving a bottle of champagne at home. When we win our
73rd game [guaranteeing the Angels a winning record in this
144-game season], I'm going to pop it open. You can bet I'll be
loud in the clubhouse, too, after that win. Everybody else might
be wondering what for, but believe me, I'm celebrating."

Morgan, Mattingly and Langston are the preeminent contestants in
baseball's cruelest pageant. You've heard of Mr. October? Every
year these guys miss October. "Every year I watch on TV when
guys jump on each other after winning the World Series," says
Langston. "And just sitting there watching I get goose bumps on
my arms. That's what it's all about."

Through Sunday, with two weeks left in the 1995 season,
Langston, 35, seemed likely to reach the playoffs, even though
California (72-60 and leading the American League West by three
games over the Seattle Mariners) was staggering to the finish
line with 16 losses in its last 21 games. Mattingly, 34, had a
shot at getting there, too, as a member of the first American
League wild-card team; the Yankees trailed the Mariners by one
game in the race for the final playoff berth. Morgan, 35, was
planning to hunt and fish, as usual, in Utah. "If I'm not in a
tent somewhere, I'll watch it," he said of another postseason
he'll spend vicariously.

The playoffs are like the talk-show business--they were once
reserved for an elite few, but now almost anybody can get in.
Consider all American Leaguers whose careers fell within the 18
years after 1946: Unless they were Yankees, those players had
only three tiny windows of opportunity to play in the
postseason: with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 and '54 and with
the Chicago White Sox in '59.

Now consider the past 18 seasons: Every American League team
made it to the postseason dance except the Mariners, the
Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers. The Indians have
already clinched the 1995 American League Central title, and at
week's end the Mariners and the Rangers were in the thick of the
wild-card chase.

The door to the postseason was pushed open with the start of
divisional play in 1969, but that didn't help Banks, whose
Chicago Cubs didn't make the playoffs until 1984--13 years after
he retired. No one has ever played more games without appearing
in the postseason than Mr. Cub (2,528, from 1953 through '71).
And no pitcher ever won more games without getting there than
one of his teammates, Ferguson Jenkins, who rang up 167 of his
284 career wins in two stints with Chicago (1966-73 and 1982-83).

This year, with the wild-card system being implemented for the
first time, the door was thrown wide open. Eight teams--fully 200
players--will come rushing through, trampling the red velvet
ropes of tradition. "The wild card is something to get more of
the fans involved," says Florida Marlin outfielder Gary
Sheffield, who is finishing his eighth year without postseason
play. "I'm for the wild card, to give everybody a chance and add
more excitement to baseball. But the guys who win their
divisions are more deserving."

Even in its diluted form, the postseason remains elusive for
some. For instance, while Steve Avery of the Atlanta Braves, who
turned 25 in April, will soon be pitching in his fourth
postseason, New York Met closer John Franco, 35, will remain the
active pitcher who has appeared in the most games (657 through
Sunday) without reaching the postseason. After finishing in
second place with the Cincinnati Reds for four straight years,
from 1985 to '88, Franco was traded to the Mets following the
1989 season. The next year the Reds won the World Series. Says
Franco, "You start to think, What am I, jinxed? Maybe I'm the
jinx."

Other noteworthy players who routinely go home in October
include Rafael Palmeiro, 31, a 10-year veteran with the Cubs,
the Rangers and now the Baltimore Orioles, who has more hits in
this decade than anyone in the American League except Kirby
Puckett and Paul Molitor; Texas outfielder Mickey Tettleton, 35,
who was released by Oakland and signed by Baltimore in 1988, a
year when the Athletics won the American League pennant and the
Orioles lost 107 games; and Randy Johnson, 32, a three-time
strikeout champion who is quickly becoming an ancient Mariner.
Johnson says, "Until a player gets into the playoffs and the
World Series, his career isn't fulfilled."

Before this year Langston, who toiled in the Mariner and the
Montreal Expo organizations before joining the Angels as a free
agent on Dec. 1, 1989, had never played for a team that finished
better than fourth. His only whiff of a pennant race came in
1989, when Montreal held first place as late as Aug. 6 before
collapsing to an 81-81 finish. "The postseason is what it's all
about," says Langston, who has the best winning percentage of
his career (.750, with a 15-5 record at week's end) despite a
4.55 ERA. "Individual statistics are meaningless. I've had
better years statistically--far and away better. For your team to
succeed, that's the ultimate.

"Dave Henderson used to live next to me in Seattle," Langston
says of the former major league outfielder, who went to four
World Series with the Boston Red Sox and the A's between 1986
and '90. "Every year he'd come home and say, 'Man, I'm tired
from the postseason.' And I'd go, 'Just once I'd like to feel
that kind of tired, pal.'"

No player seems to have been more cruelly left out of the
postseason than Mattingly, who has been denied what once was a
Yankee birthright to October play. He joined New York in 1982,
the year after it last won the American League pennant. Even
though the Yankees averaged 91 wins from 1983 to '87,
Mattingly's career has spanned the franchise's longest titleless
run since New York won its first pennant in 1921. Mattingly has
shattered Horace Clarke's record for most games by a Yankee
without reaching the postseason (the Hoss endured 1,230) and is
the only American League MVP never to get there. (There are four
such National League MVPs: Banks, Jeff Bagwell, Hank Sauer and
Joe Torre.) And here's the unkindest cut of all for Mattingly:
When the strike halted the 1994 season, the Yankees had the
league's best record.

"It would be kind of a bummer for me if I don't get in," says
Mattingly, who was hitting a soft .278 at week's end. "I don't
dwell on it, but I know it's there. It's a negative footnote.
It's a part of me."

Of all those suffering from this infection--call it postseason
drip--Morgan stands out as a carrier. He is a former teammate of
Mattingly's (1982 Yankees) and Langston's (1985 to '87
Mariners). In his one season in Baltimore ('88), the Orioles
lost their first 21 games; one of his teammates there was
Tettleton. He twice pitched for teams the year after they won a
pennant ('82 Yankees and '89 Dodgers). He has played for two
teams that set franchise records for losses in their current
location ('79 A's and '88 Orioles).

"Good things have happened to me in this game," says Morgan, who
was 6-7 with a 3.57 ERA at week's end. "If I never pitch in the
postseason, I can be proud to have been an All-Star, won 100
games, thrown 2,000 innings, struck out 1,000 batters and given
110 percent every fifth day. One of my good friends in this
game, Tim Crews, died in a boat accident. That puts it in
perspective."

The closest Morgan came to the postseason was the tight 1991
pennant race between the Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He
recalls pitching for L.A. in Atlanta in mid-September when the
crowd was so loud he could not hear the baseball thwack against
the catcher's mitt. "I was thinking, Man, I must not have
anything today," says Morgan, who won the game 5-2. "It was a
heck of an experience. I'll always remember that."

The Dodgers trailed the Braves by one game with two to play that
season, when they lost to the San Francisco Giants 4-0. The
hard-luck loser? Morgan.

The fifth games of the best-of-five divisional playoffs are
scheduled for Oct. 8, should the series go that far. Mattingly's
Yankees might even be playing Langston's Angels in one of them.
Morgan will turn 36 that day, another birthday passing like so
many of the others. His season over. Gone fishing.

COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFERBeset by Yankee failures from the start of his career, Mattingly (above, in 1983 and this year) is now a latter-day Banks (opposite). [Ernie Banks]COLOR PHOTO: JERRY WACHTER [see caption above--Don Mattingly]COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO [see caption above--Don Mattingly] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Two tours with the Cubs made it easy for Jenkins to miss postseason play. [Ferguson Jenkins]COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Until now Langston hadn't pitched for a winner let alone a playoff team. [Mark Langston]

Here are some of the most frustrated men ever to play baseball,
based on the fact that they have never advanced to the
postseason. The most deprived position players are ranked by
major league games played through Sunday, and the pitchers are
listed by career wins.

Alltime Leaders in Games

Ernie Banks, 1953-71 2,528
Luke Appling, 1930-50 2,422
Mickey Vernon, 1939-60 2,409
Buddy Bell, 1972-89 2,405
Ron Santo, 1960-74 2,243
Joe Torre, 1960-77 2,209
Toby Harrah, 1969-86 2,155
Harry Heilmann, 1914-32 2,146
Eddie Yost, 1944-62 2,109
Roy McMillan, 1951-66 2,093

Active Leaders in Games

Don Mattingly, Yankees 1,773
Mickey Tettleton, Rangers 1,313
Andres Galarraga, Rockies 1,294
Rafael Palmeiro, Orioles 1,288
Joe Orsulak, Mets 1,259
Danny Tartabull, A's 1,259
Kevin Seitzer, Brewers 1,209
Dave Martinez, White Sox 1,132
Benito Santiago, Reds 1,100
B.J. Surhoff, Brewers 1,090

Alltime Leaders in Wins

Ferguson Jenkins, 1965-83 284
Ted Lyons, 1923-46 260
Jim Bunning, 1955-71 224
Mel Harder, 1928-47 223
Hooks Dauss, 1912-26 222
Wilbur Cooper, 1912-26 216
Larry Jackson, 1955-68 194
Dutch Leonard, 1933-53 191
Bill Doak, 1912-29 169
Mark Langston, 1984-present 166

Active Leaders in Wins

Mark Langston, Angels 166
Mike Morgan, Cardinals 101
Greg Swindell, Astros 100
Randy Johnson, Mariners 95
Chris Bosio, Mariners 90
Ramon Martinez, Dodgers 89
Kevin Brown, Orioles 86
Bob Tewksbury, Rangers 85
Mark Portugal, Reds 82
Bill Wegman, Brewers 81

Source: Elias Sports Bureau