Ugh, is anyone else just sick of hearing about how the Chicago Cubs win all the time? Give someone else a chance already! The Cubs are the new New York Yankees. However, before this past season, they were literally the exact opposite of the Evil Empire when it came to championships. Yes, I used the word literally correctly because I know people like to exaggerate the usage of the word when they actually mean figuratively. During the past century and change, the Yankees won 27 championships to the Cubs' zero. Since 2016, the roles have been reversed: Cubs one, Yankees (and the rest of the world) zero. As a great storyteller named Bob once sang, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
Think of all the great things we’ve accomplished in the last 108 years. Electricity and technology, penicillin and medicinal advancement, space exploration, civil rights, broken barriers, the internet, hypersensitive Millennials and all the generations before them who have just become numb to the fact that society is imploding. Okay, that last one was tad dark for a friendly sports article. Professional sports have also taken over the 20th and 21st centuries, and is one of the few things that brings everyone together. It doesn’t matter your race, sex, age, or status while sitting in the stands or cheering for your favorite team from wherever you are.
Everyone outside of Cleveland Indian supporters were fans of the Cubs during Game 7 of the World Series back on that classic and cold November night. Barrack Obama even denounced his South-side love for the White Sox to congratulate and admire the North-siders’ accomplishment. A curse was broken, Harry Caray can rest in peace, and Theo Epstein should be inducted into the Hall of Fame right now. It’s been a long long long time coming, but let’s go over the 10 best and 10 worst Cubs during the wretched curse.
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20 WORST: THE BLACK CAT
Yes, I get it, the cat isn’t a bear baby or a baseball player, but this is about having an impact during The Curse, and considering the cat was around the Chicago Cubs’ dugout on the field of play at Shea Stadium on September 9, 2016, we can just assume it was part of the team. Black cats have always been a devastating sign to the superstitious, and Cubs’ fans will remember the game when the devilish feline eerily stared at their players during a matchup with the Mets, continuing The Curse. The team would finish the season 9-18 after the incident, faltering their division lead and missing the playoffs, and this was a good team with players on the good side of this list on that roster. I wonder how many Northsiders have domesticated black cats in their Chicago homes? I wouldn’t and I’m not even superstitious. Well, I do – did – believe in curses so maybe I am.
19 BEST: MARK GRACE
Mark Grace gave the Chicago Cubs 12 seasons of greatness, reaching three All-Star games and accumulating four gold gloves. There was always some kind of hope with Grace in Chicago, but the team never seemed to get over the hump. However, it turns out it wasn’t him, it was the Cubs. The season after he left Chicago he won the World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. The Cubs failed to return Grace to the team by declining to offer salary arbitration. Is this a mini-curse amongst the bigger curses? I doubt it, but it’s something to think about. Grace was a staple at first base for the franchise, and was still rewarded the ultimate prize, just with a different team. What if he had stayed another year? Would they have made a run? As you are probably well aware from the last century or so, anything can happen in baseball.
18 WORST: STEVE BARTMAN
Fans are a part of the team too, except when the team and city just doesn’t want you around anymore. I don’t care how much you believe in curses, but you have to feel bad for Steve Bartman. Every baseball game is a chance for a fan to catch a foul bowl, and other than babies, people drop pretty much everything to try and do so - even babies! Maybe it was the architects of Wrigley Field who made the stands too close to the field of play? Maybe those eight runs in the inning by the then Florida Marlins wouldn’t of happened if the pitching was a tad better? I’m not buying it; it was Steve’s fault! Bartman had to be escorted out by security and went into hiding essentially. The guy is really a saint if you think about it; he never returned to Wrigley for a game, declined multiple interviews, a GoFundMe offer, a petition to throw out the first pitch, and probably some bribes from other teams fighting for postseason glory this past year. The lifelong Cubbies’ fan was ecstatic after the 2016 World Series win, but continued to not be a distraction.
17 BEST: SAMMY SOSA
Many Chicago Cubs’ fans will argue that Sammy Sosa doesn’t belong this high on the list, but as a non-biased fan of baseball (go Orioles!), I beg to differ. The excitement this man brought to the plate and field was unmatched. His boyish smile, his hop after a certain homerun flew out of the park, and his charming accent helped him become beloved for 12 seasons in Chicago. Not to mention he made the All-Star game 7 times, and was part of that amazing record-breaking run he shared with Mark McGwire that made 1998 one of baseball’s greatest seasons. Let’s not forget he was also one of the catalysts to a great Chicago squad that came close to breaking The Curse in retrospect. Who cares if he had a corked bat that one time? Who could be mad at someone with a smile like his? Slammin’ Sammy was great for the Cubs and for baseball.
16 WORST: BILLY SIANIS
Billy Sianis was just the absolute worst (non-player). Not because he cursed the team, but what kind of jerk brings a goat to a baseball game – continuously? What kind of jerk brings a goat anywhere other than a State Fair or farm dealing? Billy is the kind of jerk to do such, and Murphy was his goat, and in 1945 he claimed, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” after he was asked to leave Game 4 of the World Series due to Murphy’s odor. Well, Sianis, you were wrong! The Cubs certainly showed him, it only took them a long while. I’m not saying he’s Nostradamus or anyone, but Sianis did offer up one heck of a prediction that lasted 71 years. Word of advice: be careful what you talk about with your local tavern owner, you never know what might actually happen no matter how vague and poorly-said a statement is.
15 BEST: HACK WILSON
Lewis “Hack” Wilson was five years a Cub. He rivaled the play of Babe Ruth – he was this pretty good ballplayer back in the day if you didn’t know – and also the lifestyle. Both players are in the Hall of Fame – they don’t make players like that anymore. In those five seasons from 1926-1931 he only was able to lead the NL in home runs three years, RBI in two – actually, he holds the record for RBI in one season with 191 in 1930. Not bad I guess, but could he win a World Series? I think the answer to that question is quite obvious. I should be careful, one of his living relatives may hunt me down and beat me up for saying such a thing. Apparently in 1928, Wilson entered the stands to attack a fan who was heckling him, starting an intense brawl, and that was just one of the occasions he started a fight. I will say it again, they don’t make players like that anymore.
14 WORST: CARLOS ZAMBRANO
Well, maybe on a lesser scale. However, Carlos Zambrano challenged more water coolers to fights than fans. Fans could argue that he’s one of the better Chicago Cubs to have played for the team – at least this century – being the only pitcher in the National League during his tenure to post at least a 13-win year in each season from 2003-2008, and also being a tremendous hitter with career numbers of a .238 average, 24 home runs, and 71 RBI which is incredible for a pitcher to accomplish. The trouble with Zambrano was his temper – he loved to plunk batters who were on rival squads, argue balls and strikes with any umpire who dared stand behind the plate, argue performance with his teammates publicly in the dugouts during games, start brawls, get ejected, beat on poor defenseless equipment, and talk about the Chicago fans at Wrigley Field as if they were selfish. He went from one of the best to one of the worst because of his attitude.
13 BEST: FERGUSON JENKINS
Carlos Zambrano may have mimicked the bat of a Chicago Cubs’ player before his time in Ferguson Jenkins. They share the club record for most home runs by a pitcher in a season with six dingers. However, there are two major differences between the two: Jenkins was a Cy Young winner – the first Cubs pitcher and Canadian-born player to do so – and was also a Harlem Globetrotter. Okay, there are a lot of other differences as well like he didn’t need anger management classes, was fairly thin, has his number retired, and is also in the Hall of Fame. Pretty good resume if you ask me; I’d hire him. The only thing stopping Jenkins was The Curse really. I’m sure he doesn’t have a black cat, in fact, he probably doesn’t have any cats. They don’t let strays into Canada; it’s a nice clean country. To add to his legacy, he is only 1 of 4 pitchers to record 3,000 strikeouts and less than 1,000 walks, but only two others allowed more career home runs. Still though; it’s all the black cat’s fault.
12 WORST: LEON DURHAM
What’s worse than Bill Buckner’s error to continue a curse? Leon Durham’s error to continue a longer curse with less publicity since. Why would you want the attention, you ask? Well, I will tell you even if you weren’t really asking that question. At least people outside of the city you let down would know your name and eventually you could be part of a skit or the butt of sports jokes if you had a good sense of humor. Maybe Durham doesn’t have a good sense of humor? During the 1984 NLCS against the San Diego Padres – yep, they were good once – Durham was guilty of a costly error late in the match that tied the game and gave the Padres momentum. Treachery could have been afoot because before the inning, Gatorade was spilled on Durham’s glove. Curses! I thought Gatorade was in the business of helping athletes, not embarrassing them.
11 BEST: RYNE SANDBERG
Despite the strange spelling of his first name, Ryne Sandberg is among one of the most-recognized Chicago Cubs. “Ryno” – another strange spelling for Ryan – was once the NL MVP, a nine-time Gold Glover, a 10-time All-Star, has his number retired at Wrigley Field, and is a member of the Hall of Fame. Like Mark Grace, Sandberg was a hope to break the hex. He did everything for the Cubs from hitting to great fielding to stolen bases, but they still couldn’t win the big one during his 15 years as a player for the franchise. Unlike Mark Grace, he didn’t win a World Series after his time in Chicago was over. How dumb do the Philadelphia Phillies feel? They traded Sandberg to the Cubs after just one year. Well, they also won a whopping two World Series titles between Chicago’s so I guess technically it worked out. Sandberg wasn’t or wouldn’t have been involved in either.
10 WORST: TODD HUNDLEY
Todd Hundley had some cleats to fill because his All-Star father, Randy Hundley, played for the Chicago Cubs for almost a decade. Also, like father like son, both were catchers. When the Cubs signed Todd in 2001 he was coming off a solid couple of years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was his performance as a New York Met from 1990-1997 that created all the buzz, including being named twice an All-Star. However, as most things work out for the Cubs for a majority of their existence, when he arrived in Chicago his numbers dropped severely. He batted .187 his first year which is atrocious, and .211 his second which isn’t that great either. His runs, hits, home runs, and RBIs were split in half, if not more toward the lesser end, and he accumulated 11 errors in his sophomore stint with the Cubbies. Let’s just say that it didn’t pan out well for either party, and Randy is still the better Hundley to have played for Chicago.
9 BEST: GABBY HARTNETT
Now, let’s talk about a much better catcher who came through the Chicago Cubs organization. Actually, Gabby Hartnett was one of the best catchers to ever play the game. He played for the Cubs from 1922-1940, and during that span he was an All-Star six times and the NL MVP in 1935. Hartnett was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955 as an added bonus. One of Hartnett’s most famous moments was not on the field – well, it was on the field, but just not during play – when he was photographed signing an autograph for notorious gangster Al Capone. Now, I think we’re all familiar with mob mentality, if not, just ask one of your Italian friends who claim they have connections or watch The Godfather, and there is documented proof that Hartnett and Capone had met, so is this part of The Curse as well? I know gambling and throwing games was more of a South-side White Sox thing to do, but I’m just throwing it out there.
8 WORST: MILTON BRADLEY
I know what you’re thinking? This guy makes board games and plays baseball?? That’s insane! Well, it’s not insane or mind-blowing because it’s not true, just a strange coincidence that two famous people have the name of Milton Bradley. I get John Smith or something like that, but what are the odds? If you have time, feel free to figure that out; I’m not good at math. Baseball Bradley was a steady player his whole career – if you don’t count all the on-field antics and legal issues, but who’s really paying attention to that stuff anyway – and made the All-Star game in 2008 as a member of the Texas Rangers. So what do the Chicago Cubs do after that happens? They sign him in 2009 to a $30 million contract. Someone jumped the gun. Bradley was suspended by the team late in the year after all his antics and poor performance piled up. He simply said, “You understand why they [the Cubs] haven’t won in 100 years here.” What a jerk.
7 BEST: BILLY WILLIAMS
Billy Williams, now that’s a common name. So common you may not even be able to find a picture of this guy on Google unless you include the words, “Baseball Hall of Fame,” in your search. I guess you could type, “Chicago Cubs,” just as easily and save yourself some key strokes. Williams was a six-time All-Star, the NL Rookie of the Year in 1961, and has his number retired at historic Wrigley Field. He was part of that great roster during the ‘60s that just couldn’t get to the World Series, or even the postseason at that – an aforementioned pesky feline had something to do with that as we all have come to accept. He could hit home runs, drive batters in, and play the outfield with the best of them, making him beloved on the North side and a member of the Cubs All-Century Team. To top it off, he has a statue outside Wrigley – no cats are allowed on or around the figure.
6 WORST: LATROY HAWKINS
LaTroy Hawkins spent quite some time in Major League Baseball, playing into his 40s, and was a journeyman to say the least. Hawkins pitched for 11 different organizations and the only one who seemed to really like him was the Colorado Rockies who took two chances on the hurler. Of course, as you probably guessed since you’re reading an article on the Chicago Cubs, he played for them as well. This was another let’s-get-all-excited-about-nothing deal by the Cubbies, signing Hawkins to an $11 million contract in 2004. During the playoff push, however, the pitcher blew two September games that prevented Chicago from reaching the wild card round of the postseason – he actually blew a total of nine games that year which probably would have come in handy to help the Cubs make the playoffs. The fans certainly didn’t appreciate the fact, but he did save 25 games as well – yet, the world loves to focus on negativity. Excuse me, I have to take a break, my coffee is half empty.
5 BEST: RON SANTO
Ron Santo is another long-tenured Chicago Cub who had an impact during his time with the team from 1960-1973, but just couldn’t claim the ultimate baseball prize. He loved playing for the Cubs so much that he was the first to ever veto a trade in Major League Baseball – the guy had hope. He was a nine-time All-Star and a five-time Gold-Glover, and a member of the Hall of Fame and has his number retired at Wrigley Field. Here’s a fun fact – well, it’s not really fun per se – Santo battled diabetes since he was in his teens which made his accomplishments even more amazing. He passed away too soon for most – no black cat was involved then – but he will always remained beloved in Chicago for his work on and off the field. The Cubs even honored the late great Santo with a #10 patch they were on their sleeves for the entire 2011 season.
4 WORST: ERNIE BROGLIO
This isn’t about Ernie Broglio, it’s about Lou Brock. There we go again, the Chicago Cubs making everything about them. Broglio, coming off an 18-game win season, was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Cubs for Brock. In 1964, Brock led the Cardinals to a championship while Broglio went 1-6 on the mound during his first full year with Chicago. Don’t worry, it got better, he went 2-6 during his 1966 campaign. Long story short: this wasn’t the greatest of trades, actually, it probably was the worst of trades. This is why people need to be patient. For example, girls – if girls are reading this – you know that awkward kid in high school who is kind of shy and scrawny? Rather than poking fun at or ignoring him, just be nice and wait to see how he develops. You may not get Lou Brock out of it, but you could end up with Ernie Broglio if you don’t keep your options open. That’s mean; I’m sure Ernie is a great guy.
3 BEST: ERNIE BANKS
Let's talk about a different Ernie. It’s really amazing how many great players went through the Chicago Cubs organization. Up until the final out of the 2016 season, the Cubs were mostly affiliated with The Curse so the talent sometimes took a backseat. Ernie Banks, however, is a classic Cub, a classic ballplayer, and a classy person. He spent his entire career with Chicago from 1953-1971, was a 14-time All-Star, twice the NL MVP, home run leader, and RBI leader, a Gold-Glover, a member of Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team and the Hall of Fame, and his number was the first to be retired by the team. He was an ambassador for baseball and freedom, and his impact to society as a whole was amazing. Even Eddie Vedder wrote a song about the Cubs for Ernie Banks, and Pearl Jam wasn’t even from Chicago! Officially a legend, and though he wasn’t alive to see the Cubs’ victory this past season, his presence was still felt.
2 WORST: JACK WARNER
This is a best/worst list right? So you would think that you have to start looking at concrete statistics to find who was technically the worst player. Jack Warner is unfortunately that man. And though there are worse Chicago Cubs out there across the board, and many other players who have graced Major League Baseball with poor play over the years, Warner is number one because he never won, and curses are about not winning. Surprisingly, he’s not the only player to achieve this feat. Thanks to Baseball Musings, we were able to discover that Warner is one of only seven players who never won a game while playing for the Cubs and suffered a double-digit amount of losses, but Jack took the cake on this one with a whopping record of 0-32 while he was in the game. That just has to be depressing – like seriously depressing. He personally only pitched an 0-2 record during his tenure with the team from 1962-1965, but just being there seemed like a curse I guess.
1 BEST: THE 2016 CHICAGO CUBS
Is there really any question about this? Of course there is, but the focus was The Curse if you didn’t notice and that means the best Chicago Cub(s) has to be the ones who broke it. From Theo Epstein to Joe Maddon to Kris Bryant to Kyle Schwarber, this team accomplished the unthinkable: in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908. It’s still hard to believe, it’s still brings goose bumps even when typed or read or said. They finished the season with the best record in baseball at 103-58 and made it all the way to a thrilling championship series with the Cleveland Indians who almost spoiled everything… a couple of times, forcing the Cubs to win Games 6 and 7 on the road and sweat profusely in the process. However, the Indians are due next so now it’s time to despise the Cubs for winning all the time and fall in love with the Indians for the next half-a-century or so.
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