Gabby, Ernie, and Hack: All-time best Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are in the World Series for the first time since 1945. If they win, it will be the first time since 1908.

As Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse used to say, any team can have a bad century.

Before naming an all-time Cubs team, let me note, as several readers reminded me, that it was a Dartmouth man, Kyle Hendricks, who won the game that put Chicago in the World Series. Hendricks pitched a masterpiece — no runs on two hits (with no walks) in 7 and a third innings.

Hendricks is known as “The Professor.” At one time, just being a college graduate on a big league team might earn you that name. Nowadays, I think you have to be a thoughtful and studious guy.

Here are my all-time Cubs greats:

Starters:

C Gabby Hartnett — A Hall of Famer, his Homer in the Gloamin’ propelled the Cubs to the pennant in 1938.

1B* Mark Grace — Made three all-star teams and won four Gold Gloves while banging out 2,201 hits for the Cubs.

2B Ryne Sandberg — Ten straight all-star games, nine straight Gold Gloves, led the NL in runs three times, homers once, and total bases once. League MVP in 1984.

SS Ernie Banks — Who else but Mr. Cub? Won back-to-back MVPs in the late 1950s with losing teams.

3B Ron Santo — If not for Ernie Banks, this Hall of Famer and nine time all-star might be Mr. Cub.

OF Billy Williams — A two-time MVP runner-up, Williams should have won the award in 1972 when he drove in 122 runs, batted a league leading .333, and had the league’s best OPS.

OF Hack Wilson — Still holds the major league record for RBIs in a season (191) and he did it while walking 105 times.

OF Sammy Sosa — There’s a steroid issue here, but I can’t exclude a guy who, during a four year period, averaged 61 homers and 144 RBIs.

P Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown — Six straight 20-plus win seasons with an ERA under 2.00 in five of them. Went 26-6 with a NL best 1.04 ERA in 1906.

Reserves:

Randy Hundley — Makes it for his defense behind the plate. Won the Gold Glove in 1967 and would have won more except that a certain Johnny Bench came along the next year.

Frank Chance — Playing manager and best hitter on the 1906 team that won 116 games. Twice led the NL in stolen bases.

Phil Cavarretta — This first-baseman/outfielder was a big star during the World War II years, but not so much during the rest of his career. However, his nearly 2,000 hits and .292 batting average as a Cub get him on the squad.

Billy Herman — William Jennings Bryan Herman made seven straight all-star teams as a Cub.

Joe Tinker — Consistently a solid contributor on offense, with good power for an infielder in the dead ball era, and apparently an outstanding fielder.

Stan Hack — “Smiling Stan” played 16 years with the Cubs. He batted .301, made four all-star teams, and led the league twice in stolen bases and runs scored.

Andre Dawson — The NL MVP in 1984, his first season with the Cubs. Was an all-star in five of his six years with Chicago.

Kiki Cuyler — Better than a .425 on-base percentage for three straight seasons and slugged better than .530 in two of them. Even in the hitting crazy early 1930s, these numbers stand out.

Extra pitchers:

Ferguson Jenkins — The big Canadian won 20 games for the Cubs six straight years, including a league leading 24 in 1971.

Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander — Twice had the best ERA in the NL for the Cubs. Went 27-14 with a 1.91 ERA in 1920. Ronald Reagan played him in “The Winning Team.”

Greg Maddux — Did his best work for the Braves, but probably was already the best pitcher in the NL when he came over from the Cubs.

Hippo Vaughn — Averaged just over 20 wins in his seven full seasons with the Cubs. Gave up only three runs in 27 innings in the 1918 World Series, but lost two of his three games (Babe Ruth was the winning pitcher in one of Vaughn’s losses).

Jake Arrieta — Has only been with the Cubs for four years, but in the past three, his record is 50-19. His 2015 season (22-6, 1.77) is one of the best a Cubs starter has ever had.

Charlie Root — He won 201 games for the Cubs, including 26 in 1927. Best remembered for giving up the “shot” that Babe Ruth may or may not have called.

Bruce Sutter — Led the league in saves twice during his five seasons with the Cubs. Also made my St. Louis Cardinals all-time team.

Lee Smith — From 1983-1987, Smith was 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 4th, and 2nd in the NL in saves.

Manager:

Frank Chance — “The Peerless Leader” managed the Cubs to their two World Championships — 1907 and 1908.

* If we go back the 19th century, before the team was known as the Cubs, then Cap Anson must be the selection at first base. With more than 3,000 career hits for Chicago, he was baseball’s first superstar.

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