This article is inspired by this FanPost from BCB reader Theo’s Spare Soul, posted Wednesday. The theory was:
Who is a player from 1876 that had a long Cub career, and then pick a player who that person played with (at the end of their career) who then went on to have a long Cub career of their own (and so on and so forth until you get to the 2018 roster).
To avoid arguments later, let’s say that two linked players have to have been listed the same box score for at least one regular season game, and stretches of time as a Cub must be continual. For example, if Fergie Jenkins is in your chain of players, you could surely count him as a Cub from 1966-1973, and you could also count him as a Cub from 1982-1983, but he would NOT qualify to fill a link in your chain from 1966-1983.
Well, you know me, I love historical sleuthing, so this got me to fire up baseball-reference.com and do some of that. All of my responses are in the comments at that FanPost, but I thought it was worth a separate article after I found the results.
What I came up with was the following 14-player chain:
Anthony Rizzo 2012-18
Ryan Dempster 2004-12
Sammy Sosa 1992-2005
Ryne Sandberg 1982-94, 1996-97
Bill Buckner 1977-84
Bill Bonham 1971-77
Ernie Banks 1953-71
Phil Cavarretta 1934-53
Gabby Hartnett 1922-40
Max Flack 1916-22
Frank “Wildfire” Schulte 1904-16
Johnny Kling 1900-08, 1910-11
Jimmy Ryan 1885-1900
Cap Anson 1876-97
As you can see, there are quite a few careers here which overlapped by several seasons, where the two adjacent players would have participated in many games together. But there are seven combinations who played together in just one season: Rizzo/Dempster (2012), Buckner/Bonham (1977), Bonham/Banks (1971), Banks/Cavarretta (1953), Hartnett/Flack (1922), Flack/Schulte (1916) and Kling/Ryan (1900). For those, it was back to the bb-ref game logs to look for common games.
Rizzo and Dempster played in four games together in July 2012 after Rizzo’s callup and before Dempster was traded to the Rangers.
Buckner and Bonham were teammates all year in 1977 and played in many games together.
Banks was just a part-time player in 1971, Bonham’s rookie year, but both were on the team most of the year and played in 10 games together.
The shortest overlap was between two of the longest-tenured Cubs ever, Cavarretta and Banks. They were teammates for just 10 games. Ernie was called up on September 17, 1953 and he and Cavarretta played in just one game together, September 20, 1953 against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
The Cubs lost 11-6, but Banks hit his first MLB home run in the game and Cavarretta had a pinch-hit single, his last hit as a Cub in what turned out to be his last game as a Cub. It was almost a literal passing of the torch.
Max Flack was part of a famous trade where he was dealt to the Cardinals for Cliff Heathcote — between games of a doubleheader between the two teams on May 30, 1922 at Wrigley Field (then called Cubs Park). Before that, he and Hartnett, then a rookie, played in three games together for the 1922 Cubs.
Flack and Schulte were teammates for the first two-thirds of 1916. Schulte was traded to the Pirates on July 29 and to that point had played in 72 of the Cubs’ first 94 games. Schulte played in 86 of those 94 games. Both players appeared in dozens of games together that year.
There are no game logs available for players in 1900 on bb-ref. So, I had to head to the Tribune archive to find out if Kling and Ryan had played together in any games in 1900, Kling’s first with the Cubs and Ryan’s last.
Kling made his MLB debut in the second game of a doubleheader against the Giants, September 11, 1900. Ryan also played in that game:
As you can see, that game ended in a tie. It was not made up, as the teams had a doubleheader the next day (as a makeup from an earlier rainout) and that was the last date the Cubs and Giants met in 1900.
Ryan and Kling played in three other games together in 1900, Ryan’s last year with the Cubs: Both games of that doubleheader the next day, September 12, and a single game against the Braves, September 15. Kling and Ryan were teammates for the last 29 games of 1900, though Ryan played sparingly after September 15.
Thus the 14-player chain above is complete, one player handing off to the next in an unbroken sweep of Cubs (White Stockings, Colts, Orphans) from 1876 through 2018... and years beyond, as we hope Anthony Rizzo finishes his career as a Cub... and then hands this baton to someone else, perhaps a young ballplayer now in high school!