It's true to state that the Cubs have had 52 managers in their history.
It's also true to state that the Cubs have had 58 managers in their history.
How can this be? It's the dreaded College of Coaches, which existed in 1961 and 1962 (and technically, all the way through 1965, though the team stopped the rotating coach system after 1962). Six men -- Vedie Himsl, El Tappe, Charlie Metro, Harry Craft, Bob Kennedy and Lou Klein -- were "head coaches" during the College of Coaches era. Kennedy and Klein served as "head coach" in the 1963-65 time frame, in more of a traditional manager role (Kennedy served the first 56 games in 1965, then was replaced by Klein for the rest of the year).
I'm going to consider all those men "managers", even though they didn't officially have the title for those five seasons. So 58 men have led the Chicago Cubs in a field manager's role. This might seem like a lot, but remember the franchise just completed its 138th season. The total of 58 is a bit higher than the only other franchise to exist continuously since 1876, the Braves; combined between Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta, the Braves have had 47 managers.
For the Cubs, just four men have managed more than five seasons: Cap Anson (19), Charlie Grimm (14, in three different stints), Frank Chance (eight) and Leo Durocher (seven). That's not a ringing endorsement of the job. The same four are the only ones to manage 1,000 or more games in a Cubs uniform; Jim Riggleman ranks next with 793 games over five seasons. Sixth is Joe McCarthy (770), and that was one of William Wrigley Sr.'s biggest mistakes, letting McCarthy go. Wrigley blamed McCarthy for the World Series loss in 1929; of McCarthy, he said:
"I have always wanted a world’s championship, and I am not sure that Joe McCarthy is the man to give me that kind of team."
Well, that was a mistake of monumental proportions. McCarthy went on to manage the Yankees for 16 seasons, won eight pennants and seven World Series, and never had a losing record there (he didn't in Chicago or Boston, either). Sure, the Yankees had great players and perhaps anyone could have managed them to pennants in that era, but in the 1930s and 1940s, the Cubs had great teams, too. It seems likely that they might have won more pennants and perhaps a World Series or two if McCarthy had been their manager.
In the Cubs' "modern" -- post-Wrigley ownership -- era, they have had 18 managers in 32 seasons (that includes three interim guys: Joe Altobelli, John Vukovich and Rene Lachemann, who managed one or two games after firings). Of those, just two, Jim Frey and Lou Piniella, have finished with winning records. (Jim Lefebvre was exactly .500 in his two seasons.) Both Piniella and Frey finished with a .519 winning percentage, which, given the great success of the team in its early years, ranks rather low: tied for 11th.
Dale Sveum's .392 winning percentage ranks 50th, just behind Lou Boudreau (.394 in his single season, 1960), just ahead of College of Coaches member Charlie Metro (.384 in 112 games in 1962). Whoever the next man to hold that job is, let's hope for better results.
I wrote this post in part as an "overflow" thread for the Sveum-firing article from yesterday, which is starting to run a bit slow. Also, I'm attaching a poll, which asks the question of who you'd like to see as the next manager if Joe Girardi is not available.