This week MLB unveiled what they called as the four greatest living ballplayers: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, and Sandy Koufax. I see Mays and Aaron hands down no brainers. I could also see Barry Bonds in that list, had he not enlarged himself, would have been one on the list. Where’s Ken Griffey, Jr.? Greg Maddux? Yogi Berra? And one of my favorite players growing up, Reggie Jackson? It is something fans could debate for long periods of time.
When it came to the Cubs Franchise Four, fans got to choose from:
Moredcai “Three Finger” Brown
Clark and I decided to pick who we thought should be on the list. With me growing up in the 60s and 70s and Clark in the 80s and 90s, our lists are going to have different slants and reasoning.
I come from a family of Cubs fans. My mother’s grandfather Forest was 10 years old when the Cubs last won the World Series. I watched Cubs games at his house on W. Benham Street in Kirkland, IL in the 90’s. Grandpa “Trees” was the only Cubs fan I ever met who was alive when they won the World Series. Sadly he never saw a 3rd Cubs title in his lifetime that ended in his 103 year on September 24, 2001. His “Franchise Four” would probably look different than the one you are about to read.
My mother has his autograph on notebook paper framed and on a wall at her house. My father’s favorite Cub of all time is Ernie Banks. His buddies even ribbed him by giving him the nickname “Louie” because Louie Aparicio was the star short stop on the other side of town. It was always great to see Mr. Cub around the ball park for big events.
My affection for Santo comes from his time as broadcaster, but I wish I had been around to see him in his playing days. Listening to him and Pat Hughes was like listening to my father and his brother calling a game.
A baseball man through and through, Sandberge is a career Cub who owned second base for the better parts of two decades with eleven straight Gold Gloves and 11 straight trips to the All-Star game. He’s undoubtedly is on this list.
Was it natural? Probably not. Did his batting practice cork story make sense? Nope. Did he pick up his glove and head home when things didn’t go his way? Without a doubt. Here’s the thing – watching him play for the Cubs may have been the most exciting Cubs baseball I can recall outside of the year 2003. His ability to change the game with one swing is what has him on my list.
I surprised myself a bit with the last one, but one thing is for sure – the current (and near future) Cubs should shake this list up a bit by the end of the decade.
I have seen all but two of the eight names on the list play. Being a historian, I also have a different viewpoint than Clark on who I would pick and why.
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown is a no brainer to me. The man lead the Cubs to three consecutive World Series and won two in a row in 1907 and 1908. This is the historian in me making this pick, and yes, I know it is not the popular choice. But it’s the right one. The Cubs have existed a long time and not just since 1969.
Ernie Banks – the Man transformed the shortstop position with his size and power. He hit 512 homers playing SS and 1B and came to epitomize the franchise. He made power hitting from the shortstop position a thing.
I love Billy Williams! He wore #26 and as a kid I wore #25 just to be one number by him. The man punished baseballs for a living and in 1970 he had one of the greatest seasons a Cub could have hitting .322 with 42 HRs and 129 RBIs.
This will not be the popular choice, but I am going with Sammy. Steroids or no steroids, the man was revered in the bleachers. He hit 545 HRs as a Cub. People turned on the TV and the radio to WGN to watch him hit home runs. He was must see baseball. He is the reason the generation after me are Cub fans. I think it is time to bury the hatchet and let bygones be bygones and recognize that he was one of the greatest Cubs of all-time. Everyone knows what he did. He has paid his penance and will continue to do so for the rest of his life.
It’s a shame we could only pick four.