Two of the Greatest Chicago Cubs Players of All Time

The Chicago Cub have always been at team of both talented and likable players. That’s not to say that we haven’t had our fair-share of curmudgeons and flops, but by-in-large, each generation of players has yielded an impressive array of Cubbies. Amongst all of those golden players, a couple standout as going above in beyond both in performance and character.

Adrian Anson (1876-1897)

Adrian Anson is a Cubs legend. He played with the Cubs before they even became the Cubs. At the dawn of the National League, Anson stood out as a remarkable player on the Chicago Whitestockings. So much so that when the team wasn’t doing so well during the 1879 season, the president of the club (Al Spalding), named Anson Team Captain (hence “Cap” Anson) and Player Manager. During that time, the team was referred to as Anson’s Colts, before becoming the Colts, the Orphans, and then the Chicago Cubs in 1902. To this day, Anson is the Cubs’ all-time leader in hits, singles, doubles, RBI’s and runs. In fact, Anson had such good control of the bat that in the 1878 season he only struck out once and in the 1879 season he only struck out twice.

Adrian Anson in 1907

Anson was a natural leader who many of his fellow players looked up to. When the many of the backers of the Chicago cubs pulled out, Anson invested his own funds to keep the team going. Anson had his fair share of character flaws (he was an outspoken racist and was known to be particularly strong-headed) but his dedication to the sport are legendary.

Ernie Banks (1953-1971)

Ernie Banks just might be the most exemplary Cub in the history of the team. Unlike other players, he dedicated his whole entire Major League Baseball career to working with the Chicago Cubs. Before he was a Cubbie, Ernie Banks spent time playing for the Kansas City Monarch in the the Negro League and spent two years of military service. In a time where baseball was still segregated so that the likes of the Negro League still existed, Ernie Banks defied boundaries.

Baseball Cub of Ernie Banks

At the age of 22 he started playing for the Cubs. He managed to win two MVP Awards (1958 and 1959), pulled some amazing stats in the 1950s, and transitioned into a a player-coach role in the 1960s. In 1977, Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; in 1999, Banks was added to the roster of the MLB’s All-Century team; in 2008, a statue of Ernie Banks was unveiled in front of Wrigley Field; in 2009 the Library of Congress designated Banks as a Living Legend, and in 2013, Banks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the sport.

Sculpture of Mr. Cub in front of Wrigley Field

“Mr. Cub”

But Banks made contributions to society that existed well beyond baseball as well. He founded the Ernie Banks Live Above and Beyond Foundation to help underprivileged seniors and children get access to palliative care programs that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Long after his career with the Cubs, Banks remained an active voice in the Chicago scene.

His dedication to baseball, to the Cubs, and to the city make Ernie Banks one of the greatest cubs of all time.

 

I plan on covering more great Chicago Cubs players in future posts. Any thoughts? Let me know on Twitter @AnthonyAngiuli.

Upset that Sammy Sosa isn’t on this list. Don’t worry, I wrote a whole other piece dedicated to him.

Thanks for reading!

Tony Angiuli

An Ode to Sammy Sosa

In 1998, Chicagoans from all walks of life had their eyes on one sports figure. “Slammin” Sammy Sosa was a baseball player of epic proportions. When Sammy Sosa first signed on with the Cubs through a trade with the Sox back in 1992, there wasn’t too much fanfare about him joining the roster. By the end of the 1993 season, people knew Sosa as a force to be reckoned with. By 1997 he had earned a reputation as a home run hitter. In 1998 he had a famous home run derby with St. Louis’ Mark McGwire and stoked the flames of one of Chicago’s greatest sports rivalries.

Sammy Sosa up to bat for Chicago Cubs - Tony Angiuli

Even, all the way down in Florida I felt the pull of his influence.

Although I was born in Chicago, I moved with my family down to Florida when I was four years old. I was 6 years old when Sosa started playing for the Cubs. Although I watched games with my family, I had more important things on my mind, like my studies at pre-school and playing with toys.

But it seemed that as I grew up, Sosa grew to be a larger and larger figure in my life. For starters, if I try really hard, I can recall a lot of fanfare about Sammy Sosa being a 30-30 player (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a single season) in 1993. Something that’s a bit easier for me to recall is when Sosa again managed to be a 30-30 player in 1995.

Before long, I was glued to the TV whenever a Cubs game would come on. My favorite baseball player, and even sports player in general, was Sammy Sosa. He was hitting an average of 30-40 home runs a season and for anyone who watches baseball, home runs are the equivalent of advanced pyrotechnics. They’re feats of super human strength. Particularly if you’re a kid, home runs are soooooo cool.


Metropolis could keep their Super Man. Chicago had Sammy Sosa.

In 1998, a super villain emerged to counter Chicago’s super hero (maybe super rival is more accurate, but in the melodrama of a child’s perspective on sports, McGwire was a villain). The two competed to see who could get the most home runs. At first McGwire had the lead, but it eventually became a grueling back-and-forth. Although both ended up beating the previous home run record 0f 63, McGwire landed 70…while Sosa only scored 66. It was a tough blow, but we still had hope.

In 1999, Sosa and McGwire again went head to head. Again, McGwire took the lead with 65, while Sammy Sosa trailed behind by 2 with 63. But trailing behind by 2 was a lot better than trailing behind by 4. Things were getting better. It was only a matter of time before our hero Sosa would win!

In 2000, Sammy managed to net the highest amount of home runs in the league. His total of 50 was not nearly as head-turning as his previous score, but it was still impressive achievement, especially so, because it beat McGwire’s total of 32 HR.

In retrospect, I realize these home run match-ups were just as lucrative for the wallets of the baseball clubs as it was for the spirits of fans. But there’s no way that they can take away from the sense of investment that I, my family, and so many other baseball fans felt.

Although Sammy Sosa still performed well, his career slowly wound down in the next several years, with the coup de grace being the cork-bat scandal that he was found not guilty of. Then in 2005, he suffered a back injury that really took its toll on his play, and by that time it seemed that Sosa was ready to move on. When he was traded to the Orioles in 2005, it was a blow, but it was something that seemed at that point inevitable.

Sammy Sosa was more than an amazing player, he was a figure that united a team and a city around him.