Who is the Greatest of All Time? Inspired by Sunday Night Football's promo featuring Bulls legend Michael Jordan for the showdown between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, we've put together a Mount Rushmore of the greatest players in the history of all five of Chicago's teams. These are Chicago's GOATs.
Much like the other Chicago pro sports teams, choosing a proverbial “Mt. Rushmore” for the Cubs is a daunting task. With such a rich history of legendary players, choosing just four to represent the franchise as a whole will, by default, leave off many deserving candidates. However, with the North Siders, there is only one place to begin such a task.
Ernie Banks, forever known as Mr. Cub, earns the first spot on our list. First as a shortstop and later as a first baseman, Banks played every game of his 19-year Hall of Fame career with the Cubs. His prime included back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player awards in 1958-59, and over the four season stretch from 1957-60, Banks batted .293 while averaging 176 hits, 44 home runs and 123 runs driven in per campaign. Ernie is still the all-time franchise leader in games played and total bases, while ranking in the top five of categories such as runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, and runs batted in. Outside of the overwhelming statistical case, though, Ernie earns this spot thanks to his contagious love for the game of baseball, and his catch phrase that endures to this day, “Let’s play two!”
The next man enshrined on our hypothetical mountainside is Billy Williams. Blessed with one of the sweetest left-handed swings ever seen in the game, Billy broke into the big leagues in 1959, but didn’t play a full season until 1961, a year that saw him capture Rookie of the Year honors in the National League. A prolific slugger, Williams belted 392 home runs as a member of the Cubs, ranking third in franchise history behind only Banks and Sammy Sosa. He also trails only Banks and Cap Anson in hits and games played in franchise history, and the rest of the Cubs offensive record book is littered with his name. Like Ernie’s #14 in left field, Billy’s #26 will fly forever atop Wrigley Field’s right field foul pole, ensuring that generations of fans to come will remember his quiet excellence.
Sammy Sosa’s relationship with the team has been strained for quite some time, ever since he walked out of the clubhouse during the 2004 season finale. While there are other very deserving offensive candidates for this list, such as Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg, Sammy’s status as a franchise icon was forever cemented during the epic home run chase in his MVP 1998 season. For years in the 1990s and 2000s, Sammy quite simply WAS the Cubs. His at-bats were appointment television. Sosa’s 545 home runs with the Cubs are the most in franchise history, and he also remains the only player in MLB history to author three seasons of 60 or more home runs. During his 1998-2001 prime, Sosa hit .310 and averaged an absurd 61 homers, 149 RBI and 125 runs scored. Few players in the history of the game have attained the heights Sammy reached at his peak, and because of that, he finds himself in our top four.
The last member of our Cubs Mt. Rushmore is the only pitcher of the group, and just like Banks and Williams, his #31 flag (shared with Greg Maddux) will remain atop the right field foul pole in perpetuity. Fergie Jenkins was the epitome of a workhorse starter, starting 38 times or more in six of his 10 seasons with the Cubs. From 1967-72, he won 20 or more games each season, including his 1971 Cy Young campaign (the first-ever by a Cubs pitcher), in which he tossed an absurd 325.0 innings and completed *30* games. By comparison, only one pitcher since 2000 has a season of 10 or more complete games (James Shields, with 11 in 2011). In the illustrious 143-season existence of the Cubs, Jenkins has: started the most games (347); struck out the most batters (2,038); amassed the most Wins Above Replacement among pitchers (53.0); won the 5th-most games in franchise history (167); and tossed the third-most innings in club history (2,673.2), more than earning his place on this list.
(all stats gathered from Baseball-reference.com)