For one brief period in the early 1940s, Pete Reiser was the equal of any outfielder in baseball, even Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, but his penchant for running into outfield walls while playing defense prematurely ended his journey to Cooperstown. Pitcher Herb Score was a brilliant pitcher until a Gil McDougald line drive shelved his career. And Thurman Munson was one of the game's best catchers in the late 1970s until a tragic plane crash ended his life.
These three players and fourteen others (Smoky Joe Wood, Vean Gregg, Kirby Puckett, Hal Trotsky, Tony Oliva, Paul Dean, Ewell Blackwell, David Ferris, Steve Busby, J.R. Richard, Tony Conigliaro, Johnny Beazley, Mark Fidrych, and Lyman Bostock) enjoyed brilliant careers - potentially worthy of the Hall of Fame - that were cut short by injury, illness or death. Some enjoyed several seasons of success only to see their playing days end just short of numbers worthy of Cooperstown; others enjoyed only a season or two of brilliance. The profiles concentrate on the players' accomplishments and speculate on how their careers might have developed if they had continued.