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  #101  
Old 09-13-2019, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
What player of a sport played the least and made the Hall-of-fame? I mean in a non-honorary way and as a player, specifically, not a coach later.
In the NFL, it's very likely Jim Thorpe, who was mentioned upthread, and who only played in 52 games in the NFL (as well as some number of games with semi-pro teams in the years before the NFL was founded).

Last edited by kenobi 65; 09-13-2019 at 08:10 PM.
  #102  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
In the NFL, it's very likely Jim Thorpe, who was mentioned upthread, and who only played in 52 games in the NFL (as well as some number of games with semi-pro teams in the years before the NFL was founded).
I'm curious if anyone knows how to find out other sports record for the same thing.

Shortest amount of time played, earned their way into the hall-of-fame for their sport(as a player, not in an honorary way).
  #103  
Old 09-15-2019, 03:30 PM
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So that's about 3 1/2 or 4 seasons in the NFL for Thorpe. George Mikan had 6 1/2 seasons in the NBA, which is pretty damn short by modern standards though I don't know how it stacks up to the average NBA player at the time.
  #104  
Old 09-15-2019, 03:42 PM
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So that's about 3 1/2 or 4 seasons in the NFL for Thorpe.
By modern-ish standards, yeah. Back in the early days of the NFL, it seems like 10 or so games in a season was more common.

Here's Thorpe's entry on Pro Football Reference -- not much info in there, probably due to limited statkeeping in those years, but you can see that he played in 8 seasons, though never more than 9 games in a season, from 1920 until 1928.

Plus, Thorpe was playing football professionally before the APFA (which became the NFL) was formed in 1920. His Wikipedia entry mentions him playing for a team called the Pine Village Pros in 1913, then for the Canton Bulldogs in 1915 through 1919, before the Bulldogs joined the APFA in 1920.

I'm not enough of a scholar of early pro football to know if there are any stats in existence for those years, and the NFL tends to conveniently not pay attention to much of anything that happened before 1920, but it seems likely that Thorpe's best years as a professional football player probably happened before 1920 (bearing in mind that he was already 33 when the APFA/NFL was founded), and that there was at least a tacit acknowledgement of that fact when he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 09-15-2019 at 03:44 PM.
  #105  
Old 09-15-2019, 03:46 PM
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If you look at the basketball hall of fame site, out of the first ten or so players inducted only Mikan actually even played in the NBA - I guess the others were all college stars who never turned pro or something along those lines.
  #106  
Old 09-15-2019, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
What player of a sport played the least and made the Hall-of-fame? I mean in a non-honorary way and as a player, specifically, not a coach later.
Define least? If it's number of games, it's almost certainly an NFL player. Seasons were only 12 games in the 50s into the 60s. Jimmy Brown, for example, played 118 career games -- less than a single baseball season. Addie Joss who played 9 incomplete season and was a pitcher so didn't play every day is likely the Baseball Hall of Famer with the fewest games played, and he played in 286 games.
  #107  
Old 09-15-2019, 05:26 PM
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I saw Jim Brown mentioned and while I agree 8-9 seasons is actually a long NFL career, he is a remarkable entry in that he quit football to make movies at the age of 29 off a Pro Bowl year, so its possible he could have eeked out a few more seasons.
  #108  
Old 09-15-2019, 07:28 PM
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Define least? If it's number of games, it's almost certainly an NFL player. Seasons were only 12 games in the 50s into the 60s. Jimmy Brown, for example, played 118 career games -- less than a single baseball season.
I think you'll get a lot of disagreement about 118 career NFL games being "less than a single baseball season" because there's a reason baseball is played every day and football only once a week.

But the fact of the shorter football seasons back in the day is worth pointing out. Especially when you add in postseason games: back in the day, the NFL postseason was a single game on top of a 12-game season, and now it's 3-4 games on top of a 16-game season. So nearly half again as long now if you're on a contending team.

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  #109  
Old 09-16-2019, 07:36 AM
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Define least? If it's number of games, it's almost certainly an NFL player. Seasons were only 12 games in the 50s into the 60s. Jimmy Brown, for example, played 118 career games -- less than a single baseball season.
118 football games isn't less than a single baseball season. 118 BASEBALL games would be less than a single baseball season.

If you just go by total games played, well, I can't think of any all time great boxers with 118 fights. It's not a meaningful comparison.

I'd love to be able to cite the median seasons/games played for a sampling of top greats in various sports (say, the top X qualifiers by some generic metric) but I'm not smart enough to figure out how. I can use the Baseball Reference one but the problem is that any number you use to ascertain greatness is confounded by career length; if for instance you choose wins above average, the top twenty players all played a long time because of course they did; the SHORTEST careers are 17 years
(Lou Gehrig and Eddie Mathews, if you care.)
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  #110  
Old 09-16-2019, 08:40 AM
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There are a number of sports in which an athlete's peak lasts for only one Olympiad. Pick any you like.
  #111  
Old 09-16-2019, 09:39 AM
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Mary Lou Retton's career wasn't even an Olympiad; at the highest level it was basically two weeks. The 1984 Olympics were her only major international wins. Unlike most Olympic champions, she never participated in a World Championship type event in an off year.
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  #112  
Old 09-16-2019, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
I'm curious if anyone knows how to find out other sports record for the same thing.

Shortest amount of time played, earned their way into the hall-of-fame for their sport(as a player, not in an honorary way).
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
In the NFL, it's very likely Jim Thorpe, who was mentioned upthread, and who only played in 52 games in the NFL (as well as some number of games with semi-pro teams in the years before the NFL was founded).
Even though I'm the one who originally brought up Jim Thorpe, upon further review, I'm going to reverse myself on him, at least as far as pro football is concerned.

The NFL doesn't actually have a hall of fame; it's the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Before 1920, pro football wasn't really formally organized. The semi-pro teams Jim Thorpe played for between 1913 and 1920 were the only pro football teams around. Between those and the APFA/NFL, he played pro football for around 15 seasons, which is a pretty lengthy career.

Also, he was probably inducted more for "contributions to the game" than his actual on-field athletic performance. Before 1920, as mentioned above, pro football wasn't really a thing. The fact that it became a thing was at least in part due to Jim Thorpe being determined to continue to play football and make a living at it. He was one of the most famous athletes in the world in the 1910s and 1920s. The mere fact that he was playing (semi-) pro football was probably a major factor in raising public awareness and interest. He was also not only an early star in the APFA (which would become the NFL), he was also its first president.

Still, I think he probably belongs in this discussion for his decathlon career, which was about as short as it possibly could have been, and was originally made him internationally renowned as an "all-time great".
  #113  
Old 09-20-2019, 12:29 AM
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Good reversal, gdave. Thorpe's total career was actually remarkably long.

I'll nominate Salvador Sanchez. He died at age 23(!), but is still considered one of the elite featherweight boxers of all time. The Associated Press ranked him as the third-greatest featherweight of the twentieth century, and The Ring ranked him the 22nd-greatest pound-for-pound boxer of the magazine's tenure (then 1922-2002). He had 46 fights, but there was only a 2.5-year span between his first world title fight and his last.
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  #114  
Old 09-20-2019, 06:26 AM
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Mary Lou Retton's career wasn't even an Olympiad; at the highest level it was basically two weeks. The 1984 Olympics were her only major international wins. Unlike most Olympic champions, she never participated in a World Championship type event in an off year.
But heavens she made an impression. I was in a rather remote area at the time but at least we had television coverage and the USA Team in the event were terrific.
  #115  
Old 09-20-2019, 08:32 AM
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True enough.

I was really referencing his time at the top of the largest company in the world (akin to playing in the MLB or NFL) rather than the stuff he did in the territories or the early days of WCW.
If you are including wrestlers I think you really have to include NWA/WCW/AWA careers. Otherwise you are basically saying guys like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, among others, are nobodies because they didn't do much in the WWF/WWE. Austin put in 4-5 years with WCW in the 90s and I think you have to count that. Other territory stuff and minor promotions, I understand excluding.
  #116  
Old 09-20-2019, 09:11 AM
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I was also going to nominate Salvador Sanchez. I think he had 9 title defenses when he died. At age 23 you could argue that he hadn't even entered his prime yet. Even so, he makes just about any all time great list for his weight class.
  #117  
Old 09-20-2019, 09:38 AM
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Certainly seems a strong candidate, but the other question that has to arise in such a short career is: who would he have fought had he lived? I know very little about boxing, especially that division, but would he have potentially come up against someone who could have outclassed him and therefore put themselves ahead of him in the ATG reckoning? I assume boxing analysts have already considered this and ruled it out, but there are many athletes within and outside of boxing who appear to be heading for an ATG career at a young age, then blow up spectacularly. I guess Mike Tyson is a possible example as far as boxing goes - absolutely amazing when he came on the scene, looks capable of beating anyone, then is knocked out by a journeyman and is never the same after. As a result, Tyson doesn't make the top-10 in most boxing pundits' lists of ATG heavyweights, never mind across all divisions or sports.
  #118  
Old 09-20-2019, 12:07 PM
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.... but would he have potentially come up against someone who could have outclassed him and therefore put themselves ahead of him in the ATG reckoning?
That's a good question. I'm not great with weight class history, but I think would have run into Alexis Arguello in his own weight class, and perhaps Aaron Pryor if he put on a little weight and moved up. In both of those cases I could very easily envision the kind of fights that elevate the reputations of both the winners and the losers.

During his title reign, Sanchez beat Danny Lopez twice (the first time was to take the belt). He also successfully defended against Juan Laporte, Wilfredo Gomez, and Azumah Nelson among others. These were legitimate, world class contenders. That's the reason his short career is regarded so highly.

These fights are all on youtube, if you're interested....

Last edited by SacFly; 09-20-2019 at 12:10 PM.
  #119  
Old 09-20-2019, 08:39 PM
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Koufax is an interesting case. He was in the big leagues for 12 full years, the first six of which he had a nothing special 36-40 W/L record. The next six he earned the nickname "The left arm of God" for excellent reasons. Cite.
I happened to look at the Baseball Reference "Most Similar By Ages" listing on the Koufax page. Mickey McDermott?

Oliver Perez??
  #120  
Old 09-21-2019, 04:23 PM
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Would Babe Zaharias in Women's Golf count. She played golf on a high level for much longer than 10 years, but she was an amateur for many of those years as there were really no pro tournaments for women. She was a pro for less than 10 yrs, won 37 events during that time including several events after colon cancer surgery and wearing a colostomy bag.

More Recently Lorena Ochoa retired after 8 years at age 27, winning 27 tournaments and 2 majors.
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  #121  
Old 09-21-2019, 09:22 PM
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I happened to look at the Baseball Reference "Most Similar By Ages" listing on the Koufax page. Mickey McDermott?

Oliver Perez??
McDermott was a terrific pitcher in his early career (and Koufax wasn't all that good at first). He burned out quickly, though.
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  #122  
Old 09-21-2019, 09:31 PM
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I'll add Otto Graham and Marion Motley of the Cleveland Browns. Both only played ten years, and both were dominating presences in their time.
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  #123  
Old 09-22-2019, 07:40 PM
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I'll add Otto Graham and Marion Motley of the Cleveland Browns. Both only played ten years, and both were dominating presences in their time.
Both of them got a relatively late start to their respective pro careers due to being in service during World War 2 before that, of course, similar to Jackie Robinson in that respect.
  #124  
Old 09-23-2019, 06:43 PM
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I'll add Otto Graham and Marion Motley of the Cleveland Browns. Both only played ten years, and both were dominating presences in their time.
As noted above, ten years really isn't an exceptionally short career for an NFL player.

On Koufax's age comparisons: it is widely acknowledged that Sandy's career was...weird. As a bonus baby, they couldn't farm him out, so he missed out on the great training in Montreal and St Paul that characterized so many Dodger standouts of the era -- he had to work out his early wildness on a major league bench, and he was only a marginal player for six years. He had a blazing fastball, but got behind on hitters and couldn't stay in the rotation. Then he had a legendary eureka moment during spring training in 1961, adopting an easy motion instead of bearing down. Suddenly, he could hit the corners with that amazing lefthanded heat, and he was a different player for six years before putting down his glove due to chronic arthritis. His top ten comparable pitchers at age 30 are Roger Clemens, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Lefty Gomez, Dwight Gooden, Dave McNally, Greg Maddux, C.C. Sabathia, Vida Blue, and Clayton Kershaw. Five Hall of Famers, the best pitcher of the last ten years, and two guys who were on the express train to Cooperstown until they pulled into Cocaine Depot, plus two guys who got off to much better starts than Koufax (Sabathia was 17-5 as a 20-year-old rookie), but didn't do a lot past 30.

So yeah, by age 24 Koufax looked like a scrub who'd been moping around the league for six years. Then things changed.
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  #125  
Old 09-25-2019, 04:53 AM
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I've mentioned Jack Iverson before in another context, but I think he fits here. Bear in mind that most of the other 'short career' athletes mentioned here started playing competetively as kids and worked their way up through local leagues - probably playing organised sport for 8-10 years before making the big leagues.


Jack Iverson was born in 1915. He played cricket as a boy at school (as everybody did) with no success (like nearly everybody) and then became a farm hand, eventually becoming a property manager. He enlisted in the war, and then while mucking about with his mates in the New Guinea jungle, he developed a fun, unique way of bowling. After the war, he thought nothing of it, until someone spotted him helping out with some blind cricketers. He joined the local cricket club in 1947, made it to the Victorian team in 1949, and represented Australia against England in 1950-51 (the peak cricket match-up in the world at that time) - age 35 - and was the key player in the series.

It would be equivalent to some nobody not involved in baseball at any level, developing a 'mystery' pitch at age 32 and joining a local, amateur weekends-only ballclub, attracting attention and getting to the major leagues at 34 and winning the World Series MVP and Cy Young at 35.

And then he got worked out - he had no real ability other than his 'mystery' ball - couldn't bat, couldn't field - and basically disappeared. He played a total of 2 top-level games (across 2 seasons) after his triumph.

Last edited by Wallaby; 09-25-2019 at 04:55 AM.
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