I’ve been a Cubs fan for more than 30 years (which doesn’t seem possible). While the last three decades haven’t produced a championship, they have given us a few interesting players to follow. Here are a few of my favorites.
Bill Buckner—Billy Buck never met a pitch he didn’t like, but that didn’t stop me from rooting for him. To be fair, I had no idea what on-base percentage was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was simply a young baseball fan who liked how hard he played. Buckner was part of some awful Cubs teams, but he still put up solid numbers. In 1978 he hit .323 in 117 games. Two years later he won the NL batting title. Though he never hit for power, the Cubs 1B was a doubles machine. My fondest memory of Billy Buck was his fight with Gary Carter. I always hated Gary Carter.
Rick Sutcliffe—It’s hard to believe, but in the mid 1980s it was tough to find an American League game on television (at least in Central Illinois). I knew a little bit about Sutcliffe when the Cubs acquired him from the Indians in 1984, but not enough to predict how dominant he would be. His 16-1 season produced a Cy Young Award and a trip to the playoffs. Though he never duplicated that magical season, I always enjoyed watching Big Red pitch (even after the arm injury).
Rafael Palmeiro—I was thrilled when the Cubs drafted Palmeiro out of Mississippi State in 1985, and ecstatic when they called him up one year later. Palmeiro had all the makings of a superstar. To the surprise of many, the Cubs sent him packing in the Mitch Williams deal in December of 1988. The word out of Wrigley was that the Cubs didn’t think Palmeiro would ever hit for power. Oops.
Rick Wilkins—You have to like a catcher who hits for power from the left side. Wilkins mashed 30 home runs in 1993, and at age 26 the future looked bright indeed. Unfortunately, Wilkins was a one-hit wonder. He knocked around the league for eight more seasons, but never came close to his previous production.
Brian McRae—After several decent seasons with the Royals, CF Brian McRae was traded to the Cubs for Geno Morones and Derek Wallace in April of 1995. McRae was a gifted defender with a decent bat, but his style of play was appealing. Plus, he wore a linebacker’s uniform number (56). Hal’s kid was an aggressive player who always seemed better than he actually was.
Ryne Sandberg— I saved the best for last. What’s not to love about the Hall of Fame 2B? Ryno was the perfect combination of talent and work ethic. Of his many great seasons, 1984 is still my favorite: .314/.367/.520, 19 HR, 36 2B, 19 3B, 84 RBI, 114 runs, 32 SB, 7 CS. Six years later, he led the National League with 40 homers. His career fielding percentage at 2B was .989. He played hard every day and kept his mouth shut. Sandberg was everything a Major Leaguer should be.