Joey Ricotta | June 2nd, 2020
The Chicago Cubs franchise, which began in 1876 as the Chicago White Stockings, has a long, tremendous amount of history. After winning two straight World Series titles in 1907 and 1908, the Cubs went through the longest drought in the history of North American sports, not winning another title, until the unthinkable happened and they won it all in 2016. A 108-year drought snapped. Because a lot of those players are still playing, and their stories are still being told, I decided to leave out anyone who could potentially make this list from that team.
Be sure to check out all of our Mount Rushmore articles here.
You might be surprised by who’s on this list. Then again, maybe not. Maybe, it’s exactly who you’d expect to make this list. Nonetheless, the catalog was made up of who I felt were the best and most impactful Cubs players of all-time, Mount Rushmore so to speak. Without further rambling, these are, in my opinion, the best Chicago Cubs players of all-time aka the Chicago Cubs Mount Rushmore.
Ernie Banks (1953-1971)
The first and one of the most well-known Cubs of all-time is none other than Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks. Banks began his 19-year career in 1953 and ended it in 1971, playing all of his 19 seasons with the Cubs. For the first eight years, Banks was primarily a shortstop. He was known more for his bat, but he did win a Gold Glove award in 1960. After injuries and a shift to first base, Banks wouldn’t belong on the Cubs Mount Rushmore if he didn’t contribute with the bat. Trust me, he did plenty of that.
Mr. Cub was the first player in franchise history to reach 500 home runs with the team. In fact, no other Cub until Sammy Sosa had ever hit as many as 400. Billy Williams came close with 392. Banks has both the second-most homers (512) and second-most RBIs (1,636) in Cubs history. Only two shortstops in the history of baseball have hit 500 home runs. One is Alex Rodriguez, who hit 696 career bombs. And the other is Ernie Banks, who popped 512. Both players switched to corner infield spots to finish out their careers.
Ernie Banks holds a ton of firsts. He was the first African American to ever play in a Cubs uniform, making his debut on September 17th, 1953. While Frank Robinson gets credited for being the first African American manager in MLB history, Banks was the first to do it. On May 8th, 1973, Whitey Lockman was ejected in the 11th inning and he handed the duties over to Banks. Banks was also the first Cub to have his uniform number (14) retired by the team. In his first year of eligibility, 1977, Banks was elected into the Hall of Fame. At the time, he was only the eighth player to be elected into the Hall of Fame on his first year eligible.
Of course, one of the things Banks is most well-known for, he never had the opportunity to play in a postseason game. Mr. Cub played a Cubs high 2,528 career games without any coming in October. Banks captured two MVP awards in consecutive years of 1958 and 1959, which made him the first NL player to do it in back-to-back years. He made 14 All-Star appearances and remains the Cubs all-time leader in Total Bases, with 4,706.
Mr. Cub is known for many sayings like, “It’s a great day for a ball game; let’s play two!” and “The only way to prove that you’re a good sport is to lose.” From the legendary statue of Banks outside of Wrigley Field to the iconic moments and quotes he provided fans with throughout the years, Banks will forever be one of the most loved and respected Cubs of all-time. For my money, no one’s head should be sculpted into this metaphorical Cubs Mount Rushmore before his.
Fergie Jenkins (1966-1973, 1982-1983)
Fergie Jenkins pitched for the Cubs for eight seasons before being traded to the Texas Rangers for Bill Madlock and Vic Harris. He pitched as a member of the Rangers and Boston Red Sox for eight seasons before returning to the Cubs as a free agent, before the 1982 season, where he wrapped up his stellar career. Fergie had five top-three finishes in Cy Young voting (four as a Cub), including winning the award in 1971. That season, Jenkins pitched a league-leading 325 innings. He also led the league in complete games and wins, finishing the year with a 24-13 record and 2.77 ERA. Fergie also led the league in 1971 with a 1.02 BB/9 rate.
Jenkins was a three-time All-Star, but deserving many other years. Every season from 1967 to 1972, Fergie was a 20-game winner. Six straight seasons! Being someone who doesn’t value pitcher wins all that much in this day and age of baseball, even I call that impressive. 167 of his 284 career wins came in a Cubs uniform.
Fergie has the most WAR (rWAR and fWAR) of any pitcher in Cubs history. Jenkins was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, becoming the first and only Canadian elected until Larry Walker was this year. In 2009, the Cubs retired Fergie’s number 31, in honor of both Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux, who also wore it. Much like Maddux, “Jenks” fielded his position very well. He had a 1.000 fielding percentage in four separate seasons. Also, while Jenkins had 3,192 career strikeouts, he was very well-known for his command, is one of only five pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks issued. Simply put, Fergie is a legend. He’s a real class act on and off the field, which is why his spot is solidified as one of the Cubs all-time greats.
Sammy Sosa (1992-2004)
Slammin’ Sammy is the only player on the Cubs Mount Rushmore not yet elected into the Hall of Fame. On June 14th, ESPN will be airing a documentary called Long Gone Summer, about the epic 1998 season…and Sammy played a huge part in that. With Mark McGwire, the Dominican slugger set out on a legendary home run chase of Roger Maris‘ record of 61 home runs in a single-season. The duo both surpassed Maris and brought fans all over back to baseball after many were lost due to the strike in 1994.
Sosa is the Cubs all-time leader in homers with 545, and he has the third-most RBIs in Cubs history, behind only Cap Anson and Ernie Banks. He won an MVP award in 1998 and finished second to Barry Bonds for another MVP in 2001. Sosa also was a seven-time All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger winner. He was the only player to ever hit 60 homers in three separate seasons.
Sosa remains the only Cubs player to have a 30/30 season, achieving the feat twice. Once in 1993 – 33 HR 36 SB, and in 1995 – 36 HR 34 SB. He led the NL or all of MLB in Runs Scored three times. Sosa had the most RBIs in the Majors twice. Despite his insane homer totals, especially single-season totals, Sosa only led the Majors once in his career, in 2000 with 50. But he is ninth all-time. He also led MLB in Total Bases three different times and holds the record for most home runs in a month (20 in June ’98).
Steroids, corked bats, blaring speakers in the locker room, lighter skin tone than before, are all among the things mentioned when people talk about Sammy nowadays. Nonetheless, whether you hate or despise the guy because you believe he cheated, or whatever the reason is, his play on the field deserves acknowledgment. The steroid era was just that, the steroid era. I accept it and love it for what it is.
We will never know the exact number of players who used performance-enhancing drugs during that era, but we do know who outplayed the rest. I guarantee you, some of the lesser-known names who took steroids, no one will ever suspect because it didn’t give them a clear advantage. Why? Maybe, because they just weren’t that good. Sosa was. He excelled and stood above the rest during the era. That means something.
Because Sosa had such an impact on my life, I wrote a Hall of Fame Case article about him, before last year’s selection day. To get a more in-depth look at his career and impact, you can check that out here.
Ryne Sandberg (1982-1997) Didn’t play in 95
Ryno was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round of the 1978 draft. He had a short-lived career with the Phils however, as he made his debut in 1981 and played a total of 13 games with six at-bats. Sandberg spent the rest of his career, and made his bones, on the North Side of Chicago. Sandberg has the fourth-most steals (344), the most Gold Gloves (9), and most Silver Slugger awards (7) in Cubs history.
The knock-on Sandberg, at times, was his range. However, he made the majority of the plays he could get to. He finished his career with a .9894 fielding percentage as a second baseman. That percentage is good enough to rank him tenth on the all-time list.
Ryno sits fifth on the Cubs all-time home run leaderboard and first among all Cubs second basemen. Sandberg ranks sixth on the all-time MLB list for most home runs hit by a second baseman. The combination of power, speed, and fielding, especially early on in his career, was remarkable for a second baseman. Sandberg has the fourth-most fWAR of any Cubs player ever. Ryno was a ten-time All-Star. He won an MVP award in 1984 by leading the majors in runs scored (114), batting a career-high .314 while hitting 19 homers and stealing 32 bases. That helped the Cubs reach the playoffs for the first time since 1945. In 2005, the same year he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Cubs retired Sandberg’s #23. Let’s put a stamp on this article, by making him the final face carved into the mountain.
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