Spotlight on the Chicago Cubs and the Team’s All-Time Greatest Players
Originally called the Chicago White Stockings, the team we now know as the Chicago Cubs joined the National League in 1876 as a charter member. Playing home games at West Side Grounds, the White Stockings quickly established themselves as one of the most talented teams in the league under the stewardship of owner William Hulbert, who signed multiple star players, including infielders Deacon White, Ross Barns, and Adrian “Cap” Anson and pitcher Albert Spalding. Spalding went on to win 47 games, with Barnes leading the league in hitting with a .429 average. The White Stockings won the inaugural National League pennant, the sport’s top prize at the time.
After winning back-to-back pennants in 1880 and 1881, Spalding retired, devoting his time to establishing his own sporting goods company. William Hulbert subsequently died, at which point Spalding assumed ownership of the club.
The team claimed their third pennant in 1882, with Cap Anderson emerging as the team’s star player, establishing himself as the sport’s first true superstar. The White Stockings won six National League pennants between 1876 and 1886.
Cap Anson was the first player in the history of baseball to collect 3,000 career hits. After a disappointing season in 1897, Anson retired, and the local press subsequently referred to the team as “orphans.”
The team was relaunched as the Chicago Cubs in 1907. In total, the Cubs have completed 148 baseball seasons, second only to the Atlanta Braves. Within this timeframe, the Cubs have won three World Series championships and 17 National League pennants, an accomplishment that simply would not have been possible without the array of talented players who appeared for the team over the years. Read on to learn about four of the greatest players in the team’s history.
Unarguably one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, Greg Maddux led not one but two teams to victory.
Maddux is the only baseball pitcher to amass more than 3,000 strikeouts and 300 wins with less than 1,000 walks. He was also the first pitcher to win at least 15 games in 17 straight seasons, as well as the first to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards.
Maddux made his debut in the majors on September 3, 1986. At the time, he was the major league’s youngest player. His first start came less than a week later, culminating in a complete-game win. In his final start of 1986, Greg Maddux defeated his brother, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Maddox’s number 31 jersey was retired by both the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves after he left the teams, and he was inducted into both teams’ respective Halls of Fame.
As a player, broadcaster, and icon, Ron Santo personified the Cubs for more than half a century. His palpable love for the game shone from the very first moment.
Santo joined the Cubs in 1959, having attracted the attention of big-league scouts as a catcher the previous year. In the documentary This Old Cub, he explains that playing for the Chicago Cubs had been his childhood dream.
Ron Santo is widely regarded as one of the most talented third basemen of his time. Spending 14 out of 15 Major League Baseball seasons with the Cubs, he amassed 342 home runs and 2,254 hits. He was inducted into the National Basement Hall of Fame in 2011. Nevertheless, Santo cited the retirement of his number as a prouder moment than being inducted in the Hall of Fame, such was his enthusiasm for the team.
Widely regarded as one of the best second basemen of his time, Ryne Sandberg won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards between 1983 and 1991. He also made 10 straight All-Star appearances between 1984 and 1993. Named MVP in 1984, Sandberg was also a seven-time Silver Slugger winner. He was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Sandberg is perhaps best known for “The Sandberg Game,” a game against the Cardinals in 1984 that well and truly put him on the map. NBC announcer Bob Costas gasped, “Do you believe it?” after Sandberg hit his second home run to the delight of the crowds.
Known as “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks was the greatest player in the team’s history, playing all 19 of his seasons with the Cubs. Banks was an All-Star 14 times, winning back-to-back MVP awards in both 1958 and 1959.
Having suited up a total of 2,528 times with the Cubs, Ernie Banks made more appearances for the team than any other player, before or since. He also holds a franchise record for most total bases, most extra-base hits, most plate appearances, and most at-bats.
Banks also broke the Chicago Cubs’ color barrier, making history as the franchise’s first Black player.