There is always a lot of discussion about who the greatest players in Chicago Cubs history are. The franchise has been in existence since 1876 and has seen many Hall of Fame players step onto the field in a Cubs uniform. However, there are ten players in particular that top them all. There are great pitchers on the list along with some of the best hitters in team history.
However, there are some players that simply don’t make this list. The name Hack Wilson won’t appear in this top ten. While Wilson has the Major League Baseball record of 191 RBIs in a single season in 1930, the rest of his career achievements along with the fact that he played less than half of his career with the Cubs take him off this list. There are other Hall of Famers who played some of their career in Chicago who don’t make it either in Hank Sauer and Rogers Hornsby. They are great players but didn’t play enough games in Chicago for this list.
The ten players who did make this list played at least ten seasons each for the Cubs. That was a large portion of making the cut. There will always be people who think a player with two or three great seasons for the team before leaving is one of the greatest of all-time. That doesn’t work however in this case. Every single one of the players on this list made their mark in Chicago for a long time and will be remembered for their achievements for years to come. Here are the greatest ten players in Chicago Cubs history.
10 Mordecai Brown
There are no Cubs top ten lists that can leave out Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. Brown lost two of his fingers in a farm accident in his youth and used his oddly-shaped hand to throw one of the greatest curveballs in baseball history. Brown pitched ten years for the Cubs, compiling a 188-86 record with a 1.80 ERA. He started 241 games for the Cubs and had 206 complete games which in this day and age would never happen. He was on the team’s last two World Series championship teams in 1907 and 1908, winning 49 combined games over those two seasons. Brown also led the Cubs to the 1906 World Series with a 26-6 record and 1.04 ERA in 277 1/3 innings. Brown is a true Cubs legend.
9 Sammy Sosa
Sosa will always be in Cubs lore for his amazing season in 1998 and big home run years that followed. Sosa hit 66 home runs and knocked in 158 runs for the North Siders in 1998 to lead the Cubs to their first playoff appearance in nine years. He added 63 home runs the next year and had 64 dingers in 2001. He played 13 seasons in Chicago with a team-record 545 home runs along with adding 1,414 RBI in 1,811 games. He is stuck at No. 9 on this list because of all the allegations against him from the steroid era and the corked bat incident in 2003. Sosa is one of the greats in Chicago though, with those great years from 1998-2001.
8 Gabby Hartnett
The player that hit the “Homer in the Gloamin” lands at No. 8 on this list. With darkness falling on Wrigley Field in 1938, Hartnett hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Cubs a 6-5 win. The game was to be called after nine innings since Wrigley Field didn’t have lights and would have had to be played in its entirety again the next day. Hartnett played 19 seasons for the Cubs with 231 home runs and 1,153 RBIs to his credit over 1,926 games. The Hall of Famer was the team’s catcher most of those years which adds to his lore and also won the MVP in 1935 but he will always be remembered for that home run in the darkness seven decades ago.
7 Greg Maddux
Maddux would have been higher on this list if he would have stayed in Chicago for his entire career. He would pitch ten seasons with the Cubs from 1986-1992 and then again from 2004-2006 with a record of 133-112 and a 3.61 ERA during that time. He won the first of his four straight Cy Young Awards with the Cubs in 1992 before leaving as a free agent after that season. It is a move that has haunted Cubs fans ever since, especially after seeing what Maddux did as a member of the Atlanta Braves. His return in 2004 was met with great praise and fanfare and he will enter the Hall of Fame in 2014 as one of the top five right-handed pitchers of all-time.
6 Kerry Wood
When Wood arrived in Chicago in 1998, he was looked at as the pitcher who would take the Cubs to a long-awaited World Series title. His 20 strikeout performance in his fifth career start just raised expectations even more and while he didn’t get the Cubs that title, he is looked at today as one of the greatest Cubs of all time. Wood pitched 12 seasons for the Cubs with an 80-68 record, 35 saves as a reliever and a 3.67 ERA. While he did pitch elsewhere for three seasons later in his career, he will always be a Cub in the hearts of most fans around Chicago.
5 Fergie Jenkins
The ace of the 1969 Cubs staff, Jenkins pitched ten seasons for the Cubs with a 167-132 record and 3.20 ERA to go along with 154 complete games. He won 20 games for six straight seasons from 1967-1972 including a 24-win season in 1971 where Jenkins had a career-high 30 complete games in 39 starts. Jenkins did run into some problems over his career with the law but was always out there for the team every fourth day and started 42 games during that fateful 1969 season. He is in the Hall of Fame and finished his career with the Cubs in 1983.
4 Ron Santo
If there is one player that Cubs fans young and old know, it is Santo. He played 14 seasons with the Cubs before being traded to the White Sox. He also served as the team’s color commentator on radio from 1990 until his death in 2010. He struggled with diabetes throughout his life and has had a walk in Chicago since 1979 to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Santo hit 337 home runs and knocked in 1,331 runs for the Cubs as he played third base nearly every day. He has a statue outside Wrigley Field and fans can still hear his “Oh no” call in their heads to this day.
3 Billy Williams
Sweet Swingin’ Billy patrolled left field at Wrigley Field for 16 years from 1959-1974 hitting 392 home runs and having 1,353 RBIs. He ranks right up there with many of the Cubs greats for the simple reason that he was out there playing every single day. He played in at least 160 games every season from 1963-1970 and had at least 687 plate appearances in each of those seasons. While he did play the last two seasons of his career with the Oakland Athletics, he is still looked at one of the greatest Cubs players of all time.
2 Ryne Sandberg
There is no arguing that Sandberg deserves to be on this list after 15 great seasons with the Cubs. He hit 282 home runs and knocked in 1,061 runs from 1982-1997. He is best remembered for June 23, 1984 when he hit two game-tying home runs off St. Louis Cardinals’ closer Bruce Sutter. The legend of Sandberg started on that fateful Saturday afternoon. He retired suddenly in 1994 after becoming the highest-paid player in baseball but returned in 1996 and played two final seasons. There are no better second basemen in baseball history than Sandberg.
1 Ernie Banks
If there was any doubt at who would be No. 1 on this list, it is cleared up right away with the player known as Mr. Cub. He played his entire 19-year career with the Cubs with 512 career home runs from 1953-1971. He won the MVP Award in 1958 and 1959, was a consistent force in the middle of the Cubs lineup for his entire career and hit 40 or more home runs each season from 1958-1960. He has his statue outside Wrigley Field with that familiar batting stance. There are many players who could have topped this list but Banks is the only one that played his entire career with the Cubs. He is definitely the greatest Chicago Cub of all time.