COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- They were denied the ultimate reward of a world championship ring. They spent their careers on teams not good enough to provide them the opportunity of a World Series appearance.
But yesterday afternoon, under overcast skies with thunder and lightning in the background, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry and Rod Carew were afforded baseball's ultimate compliment. They were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The three men shared the platform on the back steps of the Hall of Fame library with the widows for former New York Yankees second baseman Tony Lazzeri and baseball executive Bill Veeck, who were inducted by the vote of the Hall of Fame veterans committee.
Most of all, however, the three players enjoyed the recognition that was more difficult to attain because they never entered baseball's October spotlight.
Eighty-one players have been elected into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America since voting began in 1936. Only 11 of them never appeared in a World Series game. Jenkins and Perry also became the first former Texas Rangers players to be inducted.
"A world championship was something I think we all aimed for in our careers, to be able to say, for that year, as a team we were the best in baseball," said Perry, 52. "It is something I did not get to enjoy, Rod Carew did not get to enjoy and Ferguson Jenkins did not get to enjoy. I'm sure they wanted to be on a world champion as much as I did, but it was something we couldn't control. I like to feel, and I'm sure they do too, that we each did our best to help our teams."
The litmus test of their individual accomplishments rests with the bronze plaque of each man that now hangs in the Hall of Fame Gallery, along with the likes of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. It is the soothing balm to the sting each man felt from being denied the ultimate achievement of an active player.
"Every player would like to be part of a world champion, and every player sets out each season with that goal in mind," said Jenkins, 47. "Only two teams, however, make it into the World Series, and only one emerges a winner. I was on some teams that had some close calls. Unfortunately, none of them made it."
For Perry it was a wanderlust career that began with 10 seasons in San Francisco, and then saw him bounce from Cleveland to Texas to San Diego, back to Texas, to New York, Atlanta, Seattle and finally Kansas City. Perry is the only pitcher to win Cy Young awards in both leagues. He won 314 games overall, 13th on the all-time list, including 240 after turning 30. Only Cy Young (318) and Warren Spahn (277) were more successful in the later years of their careers.
"The man could just not hold a job," commissioner Fay Vincent joked in presenting Perry with a replica of his Hall of Fame plaque.
"Every kid dreams of being a big-league baseball player," said Perry, "and now here I am in the Hall of Fame."
Jenkins' career began with Philadelphia in 1965, but his recognition for greatness began with the Chicago Cubs. He strung together six consecutive 20-victory seasons for the Cubs.
He won 284 games, including a Rangers-record 25 in 1975. He became the first Canadian elected to the Hall of Fame, an honor he publicly shared with his 83-year-old father, Ferguson Jenkins Sr. The elder Jenkins was a Negro League performer of note, but Ferguson Jr. never saw his father play. Dolores Louise Jenkins lost her sight during the birth of her son, and the elder Jenkins gave up his vagabond athletic career to care for the family.
"Fortunately, he outlived history and saw changes [which allowed blacks to play in the major leagues]," said Jenkins, whose father attended the ceremonies. "His desire and dedication to life is why I am here today. I think this honor belongs to my father as well as me."
The emotions of the moment hit Carew, 45, hardest of all. After being introduced by Vincent, and making an acceptance speech in which he spoke of his childhood first in his native Panama and then on the streets of New York, Carew took his seat and kissed his plaque.
"I didn't know what else to do," said Carew, the 22nd player in history to be elected in his first year of eligibility. "I had tears in my eyes and felt I needed to cover my face a little. When I first
flew to New York, I was a nervous and excited 15-year-old. Today, I stand here nervous and excited 30 years later."
Nerves never bothered Carew when he had a bat in his hands. He compiled a .328 batting average during a 19-year career with Minnesota and California. The AL MVP in 1976 when he hit .388, Carew retired after amassing 3,053 hits, one of only 15 players to reach the 3,000 level.
Carew played for four AL West championship teams, but never made the final step into the World Series.
"It is a void in my career, but to be inducted into the Hall of Fame helps make up for that frustration," he said.
Hall of Famers without a ring
A list of players in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame that did not play in a World Series. Any player whose career started prior to 1903 was not counted. Players listed by year of induction:
George Sisler ... ... 1939
Harry Heilmann .. ... 1952
Ted Lyons ... ... ... 1955
Luke Appling .. .. .. 1964
Ralph Kiner ... .. .. 1975
Ernie Banks ... .. .. 1977
George Kell ... .. .. 1983
Rick Ferrell .. .. .. 1984
Billy Williams ... .. 1987
Rod Carew ... ... ... 1991
Ferguson Jenkins .... 1991
Gaylord Perry ... ... 1991