This is a really, really slow offseason.
And so, having read this CBS Sports article by Jonah Keri today that listed the best player ever to wear every uniform number from 1 to 99 (at least all those that had choices), I thought I’d do the same for the Cubs.
There are two Cubs on the list (at least, players who mainly played for the Cubs, there are a couple others who had brief stops on the North Side): Ryne Sandberg for No. 23 and Rick Reuschel for No. 48.
Shameless promotion: I co-authored a book on Cubs uniform numbers. “Cubs By The Numbers” (updated through 2015) is available on Amazon. And to check out all the numbers online, visit cubsbythenumbers.com.
Now, let’s get to the numbers. The choices are made, similar to Keri’s article, on the player who had the most WAR, via baseball-reference.com, for his career as a Cub. Here’s a teaser: There will be one huge shocker below. Note that some players will be listed at numbers where they were lesser-known.
1: Woody English
English posted 24.5 bWAR while part of the great Cubs teams of the 1930s.
2: Gabby Hartnett
In Hartnett’s day, players often changed numbers. Hartnett also wore 7 and 9, but I’ll give him the nod here over fellow Hall of Famer Billy Herman (see below!).
3: Kiki Cuyler
Cyler hit .325/.391/.485 in eight Cubs seasons and played in two World Series with the team. Now, if we’re talking “most popular” instead of “best,” clearly that title here goes to David Ross.
4: Billy Herman
34.2 bWAR as a Cub. He also wore No. 2.
5: Billy Jurges
Another member of three pennant winners in the 1930s.
6: Stan Hack
Hack produced 52.6 bWAR for the Cubs and is the franchise’s best third baseman not named “Santo.” (For now, anyway.)
7: Rick Monday
Monday hit .270/.366/.460 with 106 home runs in five Cubs seasons, and then was traded in a deal that brought Ivan De Jesus and Bill Buckner to the Cubs, providing further value.
8: Andre Dawson
No other Cubs No. 8 is even close. Dawson hit 174 home runs as a Cub, 14th in franchise history even though he spent just six seasons on the North Side. He had 18.7 bWAR as a Cub.
9: Javier Baez
Randy Hundley rates a close second here with 11.8 bWAR, but Javy has already cemented himself in the hearts of Cubs fans as a great player and edges Randy out by 0.1, with 11.9.
Because you can never have enough Javy, here are six minutes of his defensive gems from 2018:
10: Ron Santo
11: Billy Jurges
Yet another member of the great 1930s Cubs teams, Jurges posted 17.4 bWAR as a Cub. The popular Don Kessinger had just 9.4 bWAR in his 12 Cubs seasons, mostly because his offense didn’t measure up to his defense.
12: Shawon Dunston
Dunston was a flawed player who struck out too much, but he also had tremendous defensive skills and hit 107 home runs in 12 Cubs seasons with 9.7 bWAR. Honorable mention to Alfonso Soriano, who hit 181 home runs in six and a half years on the North Side, but accounted for just 8.1 bWAR as a Cub.
Kyle Schwarber might surpass both of them at this number in the future.
13: Starlin Castro
Just 12 Cubs have worn this number, and Castro had by far the best career in a Cub uniform of any of them, with 991 hits and 62 home runs in six years as a Cub, with 10.8 bWAR.
14: Ernie Banks
No explanation necessary here, I trust. Here’s Ernie’s 500th home run, May 12, 1970 [VIDEO].
15: Darwin Barney
This is not a number that has been worn by many notable Cubs. Barney had one of the best defensive seasons ever for a Cub when he won the Gold Glove at second base in 2012, and he tied the record for consecutive errorless games at 2B (141). If he could have hit, he might still be playing. His 7.4 bWAR as a Cub were almost entirely earned on defense.
16: Aramis Ramirez
A-Ram’s eight and a half years as Cubs third baseman solidified a position that had been shaky for nearly 30 years since Santo’s departure. He hit .294/.356/.531 with 239 homers as a Cub. The home-run total ranks sixth among Cubs all-time and the SLG is third.
17: Mark Grace
This goes to Grace for now, though I suspect Kris Bryant will eventually surpass him at this uniform number. Bryant already has nearly half the bWAR total (21.6) as Grace had as a Cub (44.2).
18: Glenn Beckert
Another number not worn by too many productive Cubs, though we will all certainly remember Ben Zobrist forever. Zobrist has 7.4 bWAR in three Cubs seasons. Beckert posted 16.4 in 12 years in Chicago.
19: Manny Trillo
Trillo gets this because he is the only No. 19 Cub who produced more than 2 bWAR... and it took him seven years to do it. Hector Villanueva nearly passed him up with 1.9 in three years as a backup catcher.
20: Adolfo Phillips
Phillips could have been really good if not for injuries and the fact that Leo Durocher rode him way too hard. 12.2 bWAR in three-plus seasons. No one else at this number had more than 3.
21: Sammy Sosa
Eighth all-time in Cubs offensive bWAR (50.4), and the franchise leader in home runs.
22: Mark Prior
Prior had 15.6 bWAR in his career. We’d hoped for more. Bill Buckner was second, but produced just 8.6 bWAR in seven and a half seasons on the North Side.
23: Ryne Sandberg
Sandberg’s 60.5 bWAR ranks fifth in Cubs history.
24: Marlon Byrd
Byrd had just a little over two seasons as a Cub, but one of them was an All-Star year (all right, so the Cubs had to have someone in 2010). That 3.7 bWAR season accounted for most of the 5.2 bWAR he posted as a Cub.
25: Derrek Lee
D-Lee had two legitimately great seasons as a Cub: 2005, when he finished third in N.L. MVP voting (7.7 bWAR) and 2009, a 5.4 bWAR year when he finished ninth in MVP balloting.
26: Billy Williams
It’s too bad Yosh Kawano didn’t pull Billy’s No. 26 out of circulation after he left; it was worn by Larry Biittner and Fritzie Connally before it was finally retired when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987.
27: Addison Russell
Russell has 12 bWAR in his four Cubs seasons. The next closest at No. 27 is Phil Regan (5.2).
28: Kyle Hendricks
Hendricks has 16.8 bWAR in his four-plus Cubs seasons. Again, no other No. 28 is even close to double digits.
29: Jeff Samardzija
The Shark posted 5.6 bWAR in his seven years in a Cubs uniform. Most of the other Cubs No. 29s are guys who wore it for a single season. Fan favorite Doug Dascenzo had negative bWAR (-1.3) as a Cub.
30: Ken Holtzman
The lefty threw two no-hitters as a Cub. Here’s the last out of the second one, in 1971:
He posted 16.4 bWAR as a Cub. Ted Lilly ran a distant second at 9.6.
31: Fergie Jenkins
The Cubs have had two Hall of Fame pitchers wear this number and it’s retired in honor of both. But as a Cub, Fergie lapped Maddux in bWAR: 53 to 17.5. Maddux had his best years in Atlanta.
32: Milt Pappas
Pappas also threw a no-hitter as a Cub and had several fine seasons. Here’s the last out of his 1972 gem (along with the walk that cost him a perfect game):
Pappas posted 16.3 bWAR in three and a half Cubs seasons.
33: Bill Bonham
Bonham wore No. 33 longer than any other Cub, seven years (1971-77) and so almost by default he gets the nod here, as most of the others were one-and-done. He had a couple of pretty good seasons, but his control issues ruined a promising career. 14.6 bWAR in those seven years.
34: Kerry Wood
25.5 bWAR is a pretty good career, but short of what we dreamed of for Kid K when he did this:
Jon Lester’s four Cubs seasons have produced 12.4 bWAR.
35: Cole Hamels
No, that is not a mistake or misprint. In two months last year, Hamels posted 1.9 bWAR.
There is no other Cub ever who wore No. 35 who had a Cubs career with that many bWAR.
36: Randy Wells
This number had another forgettable collection of pitchers, so Wells, with 7.4 bWAR, gets the nod. Gary Matthews Sr. had just 3.7 bWAR in his three-plus Cubs seasons.
37: Travis Wood
This one comes with a bit of an asterisk. Gene Baker, Ernie Banks’ double-play mate in the mid 1950s, posted 6.9 bWAR as a Cub. Wood’s pitching produced 5.6 bWAR. But Wood was such a good hitter that he posted 1.7 bWAR as a Cub with the bat. So I’m giving this one to Wood for the combined 7.3 bWAR. You won’t ever forget this homer, will you?
38: Carlos Zambrano
Big Z posted 23.4 bWAR as a Cub pitcher — and 5.5 bWAR as a hitter!
39: Mike Krukow
Krukow had better careers in Philadelphia and San Francisco, but posted 10.1 bWAR as a Cub from 1977-81.
40: Rick Sutcliffe
The Red Baron had 21.9 bWAR as a Cubs pitcher. Willson Contreras is more than a third of the way there (8.4) in just two and a half seasons.
41: Dick Tidrow
The Dirt Man — man, were nicknames better back then or what? — had 5.7 bWAR in four-plus seasons on the North Side.
42: Bruce Sutter
Fun fact: Sutter’s 18.5 bWAR as a Cub almost tripled his total with the Cardinals (6.4.)
43: Bill Nicholson
Nicholson was the N.L. HR leader in 1943 and 1944, war years, and produced 38.3 bWAR in a Cubs uniform.
44: Phil Cavarretta
36.9 bWAR as a Cub for the pride of Lane Tech, who played on three Cubs pennant winners. Anthony Rizzo, who has 23.2 entering 2019, should pass Cavvy in three or four years.
45: Hank Wyse
A key cog of the 1945 N.L. champions, Wyse posted 14.6 bWAR in six Cubs seasons.
46: Ryan Dempster
This was the second-closest of any of these so far, behind No. 9. Dempster’s eight-plus Cubs years produced 19.8 bWAR. Second was new Hall of Famer Lee Smith, 19.1
47: Peanuts Lowrey
The long-time Cubs coach was an outfielder for the team from 1942-49 and posted 10.1 bWAR.
48: Rick Reuschel
Reuschel’s 48.4 bWAR as a Cub rank second among pitchers in franchise history behind Fergie Jenkins.
49: Jake Arrieta
Jake posted 20 bWAR in four-plus Cubs seasons. Carlos Marmol (!) is second with 10.
50: Les Lancaster
Lancaster’s arm gave out from overuse, but he had a couple of really good years as a Cub and 8.3 total bWAR for the North Siders.
51: Augie Galan
Galan wore other numbers as well, but no one else at No. 51 is even close to the 15.3 bWAR he had for the Cubs.
52: Justin Grimm
Now this is just getting silly, but 1.0 bWAR is the best for any Cubs No. 52.
53: Johnny Schmitz
17.5 bWAR for the Cubs from 1941-51 (with seasons missed due to World War II). He was an All-Star in 1946 and 1948.
54: Neil Ramirez
Silly season again: 1.5 bWAR in his three Cubs years are more than any other No. 54.
55: Ryan Theriot
Another asterisk here, as Theriot became much better known at No. 2, but he wore No. 55 for a September callup in 2005. He had 6.1 bWAR as a Cub.
56: Brian McRae
McRae was a decent outfielder for a couple of years in the 1990s and had 7.1 bWAR as a Cub. Hector Rondon was second with 5.
57: Antonio Alfonseca
With 0.4 bWAR, he edges out Sam Fuld (0.3).
58: Geovany Soto
Soto later switched to No. 18. He had 10.3 bWAR in his Cubs career.
No Cub who wore this number had a positive bWAR, so I’m leaving it blank.
60: Cory Mazzoni
Mazzoni’s 0.3 bWAR 2018 season gets him this award.
61: Babe Phelps
Another 0.3 bWAR champion, this one from 1933-34.
62: Jose Quintana
This one was closer than you might think. Quintana has 3.4 bWAR as a Cub. Bob Howry had 2.8.
63: Kevin Gregg
Only four Cubs players have ever worn No. 63.
64: Emilio Bonifacio
Only three Cubs players have ever worn No. 64.
66: Munenori Kawasaki
Only two Cubs players have ever worn No. 66
67: Tsuyoshi Wada
68: Jorge Soler
71: Wade Davis
Only two Cubs players have ever worn No. 71.
72: Robert Machado
76: Daniel Garibay
94: Felix Heredia
96: Bill Voiselle
By default, but there’s a story here. Voiselle, who pitched 19 games for the Cubs in 1950, was from the small town of Ninety Six, South Carolina, and he wore the number to honor his home town. Per Wikipedia, no one really knows why or how the town got that name.
99: Todd Hundley
One of the more disliked modern Cubs, Randy’s son posted 0.7 bWAR in two Cubs seasons and then produced more value when he was traded for Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros.