This week the Cubs announced a relaunch of the mostly ignored Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame. They began the process of recognizing a Cubs Hall in the 80s, then in the 90s created the Walk of Fame outside Wrigley Field, but the names on these lists, and the 56 names on the current list just released, have been compiled randomly over the years. So let me first say, I am thrilled that the Cubs are doing this. The history of the Cubs is rich and fascinating, and there is so much more there than the large gap between championships. So even though the current results are rather mixed, I am very glad the first step has been taken. The list does a fair job recognizing the elite inner circle of Cubs greats, but swings and misses at some of the players outside of that. I have been obsessed with analyzing the All-Time Greatest Cubs for a few years now, so I’ve got some things to say about this.
First, let’s look at the names in the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame. There are 56 people honored, and I have identified 42 that are honored primarily for their playing careers. Here they are, with my personal ranking in parentheses.
|1||Ernie Banks (1)||15||Hippo Vaughn (19)||29||Andy Pafko (49)|
|2||Ron Santo (3)||16||Phil Cavarretta (20)||30||King Kelly (50)|
|3||Ryne Sandberg (4)||17||Greg Maddux (21)||31||Orval Overall (53)|
|4||Gabby Hartnett (5)||18||Pete Alexander (24)||32||Rick Sutcliffe (56)|
|5||Billy Williams (6)||19||Jimmy Ryan (25)||33||Riggs Stephenson (61)|
|6||Fergie Jenkins (7)||20||Clark Griffith (26)||34||Andre Dawson (71)|
|7||Stan Hack (8)||21||Wildfire Schulte (32)||35||Bill Lange (76)|
|8||Frank Chance (10)||22||John Clarkson (35)||36||Ken Holtzman (77)|
|9||Mordecai Brown (11)||23||Bruce Sutter (38)||37||Hank Sauer (78)|
|10||Rick Reuschel (12)||24||Kiki Cuyler (40)||38||Randy Hundley (79)|
|11||Joe Tinker (14)||25||Hack Wilson (41)||39||Rogers Hornsby (81)|
|12||Charlie Root (15)||26||Lee Smith (42)||40||Glenn Beckert (84)|
|13||Johnny Evers (16)||27||Heinie Zimmerman (43)||41||Don Kessinger (92)|
|14||Billy Herman (18)||28||Ed Reulbach (47)||42||Bill Buckner (126)|
Clearly, if you played for the Cubs in the late 60s, you’re golden. I don’t know what Bill Hands did to anger Ed Hartig (official Cubs Historian), but eight (!) of Bill’s teammates he played with from 1966-1971 are on the list, and Hands was better than four of them. This little nugget of info reveals some of the inherent flaws in the process. I don’t know if Hartig has been leading this process from the very beginning or not, but it seems like there have been different visions and different criteria in place over the years. I’m glad the Cubs are addressing this, but currently the criteria is weird and vague: 5 or more years with the Cubs (there are at least two players on the list that don’t meet that), and “significant contributions to the organization” (vague as can be, and in my opinion there are players that clearly don’t meet that). If we assume that 42 is the right number of players to honor (seems fine to me, maybe a little too many), then I think there are some arguments to be made about players that should and should not be on the wall.
Let’s start with who is missing from this list and why they might be missing. We’ll divide it up by era. My personal ranking in parentheses.
Ultra-modern: Anthony Rizzo (17), Kris Bryant (28)
These two will be on this list eventually. I don’t know what the Cubs’ policy will be on adding active (or recently active) players to this list, but obviously there has not been enough time to add #Bryzzo. Don’t worry, they’ll be there. Whether either of them gets a chance to climb higher on this list remains unknown. ☹
Modern: Sammy Sosa (9), Mark Grace (13), Carlos Zambrano (23), Kerry Wood (36), Aramis Ramirez (45)
I’m not saying every one of those names deserves to be on this list. But these are all notable players that ended their careers with the Cubs after the Walk of Fame was last updated in 1998. The only additions to the Cubs Hall that have occurred since then are players who were elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, names like Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Bruce Sutter, and Lee Smith. Sosa, Grace, and company are not Hall of Famers, so it doesn’t look like, before this year, there was a way to getting them on this list. The Cubs added one name to the Hall in 2021, non-player Margaret Donahue, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of them get an induction ceremony at Wrigley in the near future. What I’m trying to say is, obviously Mark Grace belongs here and will be here soon. Sammy? Obviously he belongs here and…will be here eventually? I think Zambrano belongs also, although that might take some convincing. Wood and Ramirez are borderline. The Sosa issue really is up in the air and ripe for some controversy, but don’t take Grace’s absence to mean anything. He’ll be in.
Post-War: Bob Rush (29)
I’m able to lump the whole of 1948-1988 together in one group because there is virtually no one missing, and there are probably too many. This has a lot to do with the timing of the first Cubs Hall of Fame. The voters in the 80s would still have fond memories of the players of their childhood and might lack some objectivity when it comes to their analysis. The only name I think is missing is Bob Rush. No one ever talks about this Cubs great, which often happens with pitchers not named Fergie or Greg or Three-Finger. Rush pitched 10 seasons for the Cubs, topping 200 innings in 8 of them, while posting a 3.71 ERA. But he played for some bad teams and tallied a record of 110-140. Nevertheless, he absolutely belongs.
Pre-war: Bill Nicholson (27), Claude Passeau (30), Lon Warneke (33), Bill Lee (39)
The Chicago Cubs of 1929-1938 (plus 1945) are legends, thus this era is also represented well. All of the sports world knows about 1908 and 2016 when it comes to the Cubs, but they might not know about the Cubs playing in the World Series 7 times between those dates, including 1929, ’32, ’35, ’38, and ’45. Gabby Hartnett, Charlie Root, and Stan Hack each played on four of those five teams. Hartnett and Root were batterymates for 15 seasons. This is probably my favorite Cubs era, despite the absence of a championship. As for Bill Nicholson, he is the Bob Rush of outfielders. Very solid player that often gets forgotten. 10 seasons, .840 OPS, led the league in HR and RBI twice. Passeau, Warneke, and Lee are less essential but I think they are worth a look.
Tobacco cards: Cap Anson (2), Wild Bill Hutchinson (22), Ned Williamson (31), Johnny Kling (34), Bill Dahlen (37)
An argument could be made that Cap Anson is the greatest Cub of all time. Of course, he was never actually a Cub. Back then (1876-1897) they were the White Stockings, and later the Colts. His career and statistical record would make him an obvious choice, but Cap is infamous for the role he played in perpetuating segregation in baseball. Obviously that is the reason the Cubs have chosen not to honor him, and I can’t argue against that. If I was constructing this list, I would include him but also include the whole story of Cap Anson on his plaque.
I know nothing about Wild Bill Hutchinson’s views on integrating baseball, but his career numbers indicate he should be honored by the Cubs. Only 7 seasons, but here are his innings pitched numbers for those seasons: 318, 603, 561, 622, 348, 279, 291. In my opinion, Wild Bill is the most glaring omission from the list. Everything else I can find a way to explain. There are two other 19th century pitchers included, Clarkson and Griffith. Both of them are in the MLB Hall of Fame, so maybe that’s the reason they made it. But non-HOF outfielders Jimmy Ryan and Bill Lange are on the list, which tells me they did indeed look closely at this era, and if that’s the case, I can’t believe they would leave off Hutchinson. He needs to be in. Two more of Anson’s teammates, Williamson and Dahlen, also deserve consideration. And Johnny Kling is the only Cubs star from the 1907-1908 World Series era that isn’t in the Cubs Hall.
Up next: They included that guy?