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  • Careerus interruptus

    All this talk about the 110m hurdles record and Skeets got me thinking about him and his "time off" to play football. Probably the greatest high hurdler ever, but we may not have seen his best. What would he have done if he had stayed with track? We'll never know.

    So what other athletes come to mind as having a truly great career interrupted by something other than injury, but with the athlete returning, still at or very close to the top of their game, leaving us to wonder just how slack-jawed we would have been marveling at their achievements, or where they would have finished on the all-time career home run list, if they hadn't left for spell? I'll throw out the most obvious, The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, and also Ted Williams. Who else?

  • #2
    Re: Careerus interruptus

    Originally posted by DrJay
    So what other athletes come to mind as having a truly great career interrupted by something other than injury, but with the athlete returning . . .
    I assume you also want to exclude doping suspensions as a cause of careerus interruptus. Unfortunately, there have been quite a few of those.

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    • #3
      Shoeless Joe Jackson.

      Still #3 on the career batting average list - a career cut short due to the "Black Sox" scandal. Still considered by many as one of the greatest players of all-time (my copy of Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract has 'im rated at #54 (but I think he wuz robbed!) and considered by none other than Ted Williams as perhaps the greatest hitter of all-time. He was maybe a bit "past it" in 1920, but he had lotsamo left, as evidenced by his various "outlaw league" appearances over the years. God rest his soul!

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      • #4
        Bob Feller and Hank Greenberg also suffered statistically from losing quite a few baseball seasons to the war. Willie Mays missed the better part of 1952, all of the 1953 season and a chance at Babe Ruth's career home run record due to the Korean War. Ben Hogan and Sam Snead also served in the military during WWII.

        cman

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        • #5
          War and politics

          World War II interrupted an enormous number of careers - some of them mentioned above - not only in (US) baseball, but among sportsmen around the globe. Don Bradman, for example, was arguably the greatest cricket batsmen in the world both in the 1930s and the late 1940s. His record average (99+, with the next highest in the 60s) still stands, and probably will forever, but his total runs, &c. have long been surpassed.

          But war isn't the only interruptor. Muhammad Ali has been cited as someone who was blocked from competing in his sport for several years for essentially political reasons. Many others, in the age of "amateurism" ("shamateurism"), were not actually prevented from competing, but were barred from the arenas where the most significant competition took place. I think in particular of the pro tennis players from Jack Kramer through Pancho Gonzales (maybe the best ever?*) to Rod Laver, who won the Grand Slam both as an amateur and then, having been excluded for several years, as a professional when "open" tennis finally arrived.

          (*Year after year some dominant amateur - e.g. Lew Hoad - would win Wimbledon and many of the other major titles, garnering headlines all around the world, then turn pro and get his butt waxed by Pancho at arenas all across the USA. The only upside was that the sports pages paid next to no attention to the humiliation.)

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          • #6
            Re: War and politics

            Originally posted by dr ngo

            (*Year after year some dominant amateur - e.g. Lew Hoad - would win Wimbledon and many of the other major titles, garnering headlines all around the world, then turn pro and get his butt waxed by Pancho at arenas all across the USA. The only upside was that the sports pages paid next to no attention to the humiliation.)
            Lew Hoad might not be the best example since he was leading Pancho with a considerable margin way into the series when his back gradually got worse and Pancho finally won the marathon series. As Jack Kramer said - Pancho was playing the best tennis of his life and still Hoad was beating him.

            But Pancho had an easy time with Trabert and Rosewall.

            However there are lots of examples from Track. I'll just mention Sydney
            Wooderson who set a 800 w/rec before WW II and was Euro champ at 5000 after the war in 1946.

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            • #7
              How about Dara Torres, the swimmer? Quit swimming for 7 years, and came back to be world class in her 30s.

              Considering the training those guys and gals do, I think that's amazing.

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              • #8
                Al Oerter "retired more than once, only to come back as one of the preeminent discus throwers in the world.

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                • #9
                  Re: War and politics

                  Originally posted by Per Andersen
                  But Pancho had an easy time with Trabert and Rosewall.
                  Pancho was in tennis limbo from 1951-3 as he wasn't re-signed to compete on the professional circuit which makes his career record even more remarkable.

                  Connie Hawkins also comes to mind as a great athlete that suffered from careerus interuptus due to the college basketball point shaving scandal of 1961. Hawkins was wrongly banned from playing in the NBA until 1970 but played in the ABL from 1961-3 and the ABA from 1967-9.

                  Re: Olympic track and field...maybe Donald Finlay? 1932, 1936 and 1948 110 meter hurdles.

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                  • #10
                    Al Blozis was totally untouchable in the shot for three years before entering the NFL, and that second career was cut short as he died in WWII. USATF Hall-of-Famer and named one of the NFL's top 300 players at its 75 anniversary. Probably one of the better US athletes that most sports fans have never heard of.

                    Addie Joss did get nine years of major league pitching in, including a perfect game and another no-hitter among his 45 shutouts. He died a month into the 1911 season from tubercular meningitis. He was 31 years old.

                    I've always thought Jesse Owens was forced out of the sport long before he was ready to leave it.

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