Per the Hall of Fame website, 220 former major league players have been elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Many of these players will have played on some of the greatest teams of all time. The usual way of measuring a great team is by World Series wins, but winning 100 games in a season is actually a rarer feat.
Catcher Bill Dickey played on seven 100 win teams. Lou Gehrig played on six. Being a lifelong Yankee will help in this regard. Conversely there are some all-time greats who have not only never been part of a team that won 100 games, but managed to find themselves on teams that lost 100 games. Nap Lajoie, who in 1937 was part of the second group of players to be elected to the Hall of Fame, spent the final three seasons of his career on teams that lost 102, 109 and 117 games, having never been on a 100 win team in his career.
But what about players that experienced both the highs of playing on a 100 win team and the lows of playing on one that lost 100?
Firstly, some context. The National League first played a 154 game season in 1892 (the Boston Beaneaters won 102 games that year) and between 152 and 140 games until 1904. The American League entered the fray in 1901, and from 1905 on, both leagues played 154 games per season consistently. The majors switched to a 162 schedule in 1962 and has never looked back.
In the 125 seasons from 1892-2016, 99 teams have won 100 or more games, while 148 teams have lost 100 or more games. Here are the numbers broken down by decade.
|Decade||100 Win Teams||100 Loss Teams||100 Win Team %||100 Loss Team %|
The percentage of teams that lose 100 games is much lower in recent years. There was a spike in 100 loss teams in the aftermath of expansion in the 1960s, but various factors (such as the advent of the draft, free agency and measures designed to suppress spending) have led to greater parity. Fewer teams than ever are completely bottoming out. The number of 100 win teams also spiked as a result of expansion, but returned to historical norms in later decades. Increased parity in recent seasons also seems to have also led to a lull in super teams.
How many of the 220 major league players elected to the Hall of Fame have been on both 100 win and 100 loss teams then? If you guessed 37, then change your profession to psychic or professional guesser of things, because that’s the exact number. That figure represents 16.8% of Hall of Famers (not counting managers, negro league players, executives and the like), and excludes John McGraw, who played on teams on both ends of the winning spectrum, but was elected to the Hall as a manager, not as a player.
I was somewhat surprised at how many of these players there were. Being on multiple 100 win teams and multiple 100 loss teams is a much rarer feat, however. Only three Hall of Famers have done it: pitchers Rube Marquard, Red Ruffing and first baseman Eddie Murray.
Each of Red Ruffing’s four 100 loss seasons came with the Boston Red Sox (between 1925 and 1930), while all six of his 100 win seasons came with the New York Yankees (between 1932 and 1942). Similarly all of Marquard’s 100 loss seasons came with a Boston team (the 1922-24 Braves), and all his winning seasons with a New York team (the 1912-13 Giants).
That leaves Eddie Murray as the only position player to appear on multiple teams of each type, winning 100+ with the 1979-80 Baltimore Orioles and losing 100+ with the 1988 Orioles and 1993 Mets.
Ruffing’s six seasons on a 100 win team is the most in this group, tied with John Smoltz. Both Smoltz and Tom Glavine appeared on the 106 loss 1988 Atlanta Braves, before being at the heart of the 1990s Braves dynasty. Glavine’s 2003 departure to the Mets means he has one fewer 100 win season than Smoltz.
Pitcher Herb Pennock and pitcher/greatest hitter of all time Babe Ruth both have four 100 win seasons. Pennock achieved the rare feat of playing on a 100 loss team and a 100 win team in the same season, when he was traded from the losing 1915 Philadelphia Athletics to the winning Boston Red Sox midseason. Ruth’s only 100 loss season came in the final year of his career, when he played for the 115 loss Boston Braves.
The only 100 loss season of a player’s career coming as they near retirement is a common theme among this group. The only such seasons for one-team men Johnny Bench (Reds) and Red Faber (White Sox) came in their penultimate years in the majors, while long-time Pirate Honus Wagner lost 100 in his final season.
Many of these players ended up on bad teams because of late career moves, often as a way of extending their careers or returning to the city where they made their name. Jimmie Foxx, having starred on the Philadelphia Athletics as a young man, played for the Phillies in his final season. Duke Snider returned to New York to play for the Mets, having been a Brooklyn, then Los Angeles, Dodger for his entire career. Yogi Berra cameoed for the 1965 Mets, who he was coaching at the time. Steve Carlton‘s roaming late career saw him end up on the 1987 Indians in his penultimate season. All these teams ended up losing 100 games or more.
In one twist on this feat, Gaylord Perry appeared on the 103 win 1962 San Francisco Giants in his very first season in the majors. 21 years later, he was a part of the 102 loss 1983 Seattle Mariners in what would be his final season.
In contrast to these players, Dave Winfield‘s career resembled a reverse-Perry. Debuting as a part of the 1973 San Diego Padres, Winfield’s first two seasons in the majors came on 100-loss teams. On October 1st, 1995 Winfield appeared in the Cleveland Indians’ final regular season game of the year. The Indians won that game, giving them exactly 100 wins on the year, and giving Winfield his first experience of being on a 100-win team, 22 years after his debut. It was the final game of this career.
The aforementioned Ruffing, Marquard, Murray and Winfield are four of six players in this group to have multiple 100 loss seasons to their name. The other two are Tom Seaver (two seasons) and Chuck Klein, who was the inspiration for this article.
Klein, a prominent feature of the 1930s and ’40s Phillies, played on an incredible eight teams that lost 100 or more games. On each occasion the team was the Phillies. He makes this group by virtue of his brief mid-career tenure with the Chicago Cubs, who won the 1935 National League pennant with exactly 100 wins. Klein had an OPS of .917 in the World Series, but the Cubs lost the series, because this was a season between 1909 and 2015.
Among retired players who stand a chance of joining this group, career Detroit Tigers and double play partnership Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell stand out. The middle infielders appeared on both the 104 win Tigers of 1984 and 103 loss team of 1989. Both men, along with fellow Tiger Jack Morris (who narrowly missed out on Hall of Fame induction via the BBWAA) will appear on the shortlist when the Modern Baseball Era Committee meets next season to decide on new Hall electees.
Turn of the century shortstop Bill Dahlen (a favorite of Hall of Stats creator Adam Darowski) could be elected in 2021 when the Early Baseball Era Committee meets. Dahlen was another yet player who saw great success in New York while suffering the opposite in Boston, winning 100+ games with both the Brooklyn Superbas and New York Giants, but losing 100 with the Boston Doves.
Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff (who appeared on the 101 loss Padres and 104 win Braves in the same season in 1993) would join Murray as the only Hall of Fame position players with multiple seasons of both type, were they to be elected. Cliff Lee appeared on 100 loss and 100 win teams in back to back seasons (2010 Mariners, 2011 Phillies), but is a long shot for the Hall.
Among actives, Ichiro Suzuki looks the surest bet to join this group. Ichiro started his MLB career with a bang, winning both the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player while playing for the record setting 116 win Mariners. Success for Seattle has been harder to come by in later years, however, and Ichiro was part of 100+ loss Mariners teams in 2008 and 2010. He’s likely to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
It’s early days for Anthony Rizzo, but the 27-year-old already has a strong resume under his belt and bridged the 101 loss Cubs of 2012 and the 103 win drought breaking 2016 team.
The full list of 37 Hall of Fame players to appear on both a 100 win team and 100 loss team is as follows:
|First Name||Last Name||100 Win Seasons||100 Loss Seasons|
Featured Image: 1988 Topps Baseball, Eddie Murray