Baseball has a rich history. The Chicago Cubs are the only existing franchise which has played in its same city, uninterrupted, since 1876. That’s more than 140 years’ worth of history, and something I enjoy lookign back at and writing about.
The idea for this article came from some tweets I found Thursday. A number of writers were posting lists of “players who played for (team) who you didn’t remember were on that team.” Here are a couple of examples:
Angels version:— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) April 3, 2020
1B Andrés Galarraga
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Edgardo Alfonzo
SS Jean Segura
CF Raúl Mondesi
OF Rickey Henderson
OF Shane Victorino
DH Raúl Ibañez
C Geovany Soto
SP Tim Lincecum
SP Luis Tiant
RP Rich Hill (was RP for the Angels!) https://t.co/FciyAWF3dP
My all-time great "you forgot they were on the" White Sox— Patrick Newman (@npbtracker) April 2, 2020
1B: John Kruk
2B: Steve Sax
3B: Kevin Youklis
SS: Omar Vizquel
CF: Ken Griffey Jr
LF: Manny Ramirez
RF: Andruw Jones
DH: Julio Franco
C: Sandy Alomar
SP: Steve Carlton
SP: Marvin Freeman
CL: Dave Righetti
Those are pretty good lists. Essentially, we are looking at players who had long careers, most of which were with teams other than the one in the tweet.
Instead of just posting my Cubs list on Twitter, I thought I’d make a full article about it, with a couple of notes on each player. Here goes!
C: Benito Santiago
Santiago played 20 seasons, from 1986 through 2005. One of those years was with the Cubs, in 1999. He hit .249/.313/.377 in 109 games and was most notable for wearing the number “09” instead of “9”. He claimed that having the strap of his chest protector across a single digit on his back bothered him, and the two-digit number allowed the strap to go in the middle, between the numbers. (Seriously. I am not making that up.)
1B: Terry Francona
Yes, the longtime manager of the Red Sox and Indians played one year in a Cubs uniform in 1986. He hit .250/.286/.323 in 133 plate appearances. Francona had been a first-round pick (22nd overall) by the Expos in 1980 and was thought of as a future star. He was hitting .346/.360/.467 in 1984 when, 58 games into the season, he suffered a serious injury and was never quite the same after returning.
2B: Delino DeShields
No, not the current Cleveland Indian — this guy is his dad, mostly known for playing for the Expos and Dodgers. Delino the elder played two years for the Cubs in 2000 and 2001, hitting .236/.339/.359 in 135 games.
SS: Cesar Izturis
Izturis’ main claim to fame as a Cub was that he’s the guy the Cubs acquired in 2006 when they traded Greg Maddux to the Dodgers. Izturis lasted briefly into 2007 on the North Side, but played in just 87 of his 1,310 career games with the Cubs.
3B: Howard Johnson
The power-hitting third baseman had big years with the Mets in the 1980s but by the time he got to the Cubs in 1995, he was just about done. He hit .195/.330/.355 in 206 plate appearances as a Cub with seven home runs.
OF: Carlos Gonzalez
OF: Willie Wilson
Wilson was a star for several Royals playoff teams in the 1970s and 1980s and led the American League in triples five times. By the time he got to the Cubs in 1993 he was 37 and just about done. He was finally released in May 1994 after sulking when he wasn’t playing. The benching was justified as his play had become poor. Eight of his 668 career stolen bases (the total still ranks 12th all-time) came as a member of the Cubs.
OF: Bobby Bonds
Barry’s dad played for eight teams, but had his biggest success with the Giants. He was just trying to hang on in 1981 when the Cubs purchased his contract from the Rangers. I will never forget how excited Jack Brickhouse sounded on the broadcast on the day of Bonds’ first game with the Cubs, saying, “He’ll help turn this season around!” The Cubs were 10-35 going into that game and nothing was going to “turn that season around.”
Bonds made a diving attempt on a sinking liner in the bottom of the first inning in that game, June 4, 1981. He broke his wrist and didn’t play again until after the strike was over.
SP: Robin Roberts
The Hall of Famer had great years with the Phillies and good ones in Baltimore. By 1966 he was 39 and pretty much done. The Cubs acquired him in July after the Astros released him. He made 11 appearances (nine starts) for the Cubs and posted a 6.14 ERA. The only truly good game among those 11 was this complete-game win July 15 over the Pirates, his first game for the North Siders.
SP: Ismael Valdez
Valdez had some good years for the Dodgers, including pitching for them in the postseason in 1995 and 1996. The Cubs acquired him in an offseason trade in the winter of 1999-2000, and after Valdez made 12 pretty bad starts in a Cubs uniform (5.37 ERA, only three of the starts were anywhere close to “good”), he was shipped right back to L.A. in July 2000 for two guys you’ve never heard of.
CL: Doug Jones
Jones had put together a pretty good 10-season career with the Indians, Astros, Phillies and Orioles from 1986-95, posting 239 saves in that time. The Cubs signed him as a free agent before the 1996 season at age 39, even though he’d been pretty bad for Baltimore in ‘95.
Jones blew five saves before the end of May and the Cubs simply released him in mid-June. He pitched four more seasons, including a very good year for the Brewers in 1997 (36 saves, 3.0 bWAR, 20th place in MVP voting).
Jones had 303 career saves, which still ranks 27th on the all-time list. Two of those were in a Cubs uniform.