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.
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.
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.
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!