Derrek Lee and the Chicago Cubs Top 10 Adopted Sons of All Time
Late last month, in Cooperstown, New York, Andre Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo. This was much to Andre's chagrin, as he'd hoped to go into the Hall of Fame as a Chicago Cub.
You see, Andre spent 11 of his 21 seasons playing for the Expos. He won the Rookie of the Year for the team in 1977, and won six of his eight Gold Gloves in Montreal. Most of his best years and his career stats were accumulated in Montreal.
Nevertheless, as Andre told us on that beautiful day last month, it was the Chicago Cubs fans who reminded him why he loved to play the game of baseball. Andre said that playing in front of the Cubs fans was an experience he'd never forget, and that the people of Chicago truly reminded him that, as Andre said it best, "if you love this game, it will love you back."
Derrek Lee is no longer a Chicago Cubs today; the newest former Cubs star has been traded to the Atlanta Braves for what Cubs fans hope will be the Cubs stars of tomorrow.
In the ironies of ironies, the Braves will be playing at the Cubs this weekend. You can bet that when Lee steps to the plate, he will be showered with the adoration that Cubs fans heap upon their adopted sons, the players who didn't necessarily get their start in Chicago but who showed the Cubs a good time, and to whom the Cubs are forever grateful.
Here's a look at the top ten adopted sons (i.e., players who didn't start their career in Chicago) in Chicago Cubs history.
10. Dave Kingman (1978-1980)
Kingman had what we might call a "Wrigley Field Swing."
We tend to remember Dave Kingman as a sociopathic jerk who swung for the fence above all else and, as a result, sets the standard for elite power hitters (442 home runs) who have no chance at the Hall of Fame.
And that reputation is well earned. By the time Kingman got to the Cubs in the spring of 1978, he was joining his fifth team in 12 months, having set a major league record by playing for four different teams (Mets, Padres, Angels, Yankees) the year before.
But Kingman made the most of his time in Chicago, hitting a career high 48 home runs in 1979, the same year he won his only OPS title. He also made two of his three career All Star appearances while with the Cubs, and finished 11th in the NL MVP voting in 1979.
9. Gary Matthews, Sr. (1984-1987)
One Chicago Cubs fan website has "Sarge" listed as the 58th best Chicago Cub of All Time, while obviously Fleer saw fit to anoint GMS one of the Cubs' greats.
Keep in mind, this is a guy who spent three and a half of his 16 seasons with the Cubs.
Of course, when you win a division with the Cubs, like Matthews did in 1984, you become the stuff of instant Cubs legend. And Matthews was just that. After winning a World Series with the Phillies in 1980 and appearing in another in 1983, Matthews joined the Cubs in '84 and scored 101 runs, led the NL in walks with 103, and led the NL in on-base percentage with a .410.
Matthews also had 82 RBI, which in 1984 was nothing to sneeze your nose at.
8. Milt Pappas (1970-1973)
Milt Pappas was a Chicago Cub for all of three and a half seasons, at the end of his career from 1970 to 1973. Of course, those were some of the winningest years of the 20th Century for the Cubs, and they loved him for it.
Pappas debuted with the Baltimore Orioles in 1957 at the age of 18, won 10 games at the age of 19, and pitched 209.1 innings at the age of 20. He was regrettably part of what the Reds got from the Orioles in exchange for Frank Robinson, and by 1970 he was a struggling 31 year old starter for the Atlanta Braves.
With the Cubs, however, Pappas went a combined 51-41 with a 3.33 ERA (120 ERA-plus) and improbably won his 200th game before fading prematurely at the age of 34.
To tell you the truth, as a Cubs fan, I was surprised to learn that he'd ever played for another team.
7. Ron Cey (1983-1986)
What was I just saying about being a part of a winning Cubs team making you a legend for life?
Ron Cey, of course, was part of the infamous Los Angeles Dodgers infield–along with Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, and Bill Russell–that set the major league record for being the infield that stayed together the longest.
During Cey's career with the Dodgers, they went to four World Series and finally won it all in 1982. By 1984, Cey was patrolling third base for a Cubs team that famously blew a 2-0 lead in the (then best of five) NLCS to the San Diego Padres.
To explain Cey's popularity in Chicago, know this: between the time Ron Santo joined the Chicago White Sox after the 1973 season and the time the Cubs acquired Aramis Ramirez in 2003, Ron Cey was the only thing resembling a third baseman Cubs fans ever got to see.
6. Rick Sutcliffe (1984-1991)
Rick Sutcliffe won a Rookie of the Year with the Los Angeles Dodgers and won 17 games with the Cleveland Indians in 1983, but it was his 1984 season with the Cubs for which he will always be remembered.
After 15 starts with the Indians to start the 1984 season, Sutcliffe was 4-5 with a 5.15 ERA. The Cubs acquired Sutcliffe to bolster their rotation, and boy did he: to the tune of a 16-1 record with a 2.69 ERA in his final 20 starts of the season.
"Sut" was rewarded with the NL Cy Young Award for 150 innings worth of work, and went on to become one of the very few players in the 20th Century to win two division titles with the Chicago Cubs, in 1984 and 1989.
5. Bill Buckner (1977-1984)
Bill Buckner should be known for many things.
Like, for example, his 1077 career runs, 2715 career hits, 1208 career RBI, and 3,833 total bases.
Or, perhaps, for being a member of the Four Decade Club by virtue of going 0-for-1 in his only appearance of the 1969 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Or for leading the National League in doubles for the Chicago Cubs twice, in 1981 and 1983, and for winning the batting title with the Cubs in 1980.
We all know what Buckner is best remembered for, but we also all know that the best years of Buckner's career came with the Cubs.
4. Derrek Lee (2004-2010)
In a sense, Derrek Lee should have never become a Chicago Cub. There should be an unwritten rule that when a player plays a part in the worst moment in a franchise's history, he should never ever be allowed to subsequently join that franchise.
It was Lee who came to bat in that fateful Game Six of the 2003 NLCS with the bases loaded after Alex Gonzalez had dropped the double play ball that would have ended the eighth inning, after Steve Bartman bungled the foul ball that would have been the second out.
Lee hit a bases loaded double, and we all know the rest.
That Lee would join the Cubs the very next season, and would be in a Cubs uniform to accept his World Series ring that rightfully should have belonged to the Cubs, is bizarre.
Nevertheless, Lee became a Cub and in 2005 had one of the best non-steroid-implication seasons in Cubs' history, leading the National League in hits, doubles, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS-plus, and total bases. Lee chased the Triple Crown into July before succumbing to Andruw Jones in the home run and RBI departments, and lost out to Albert Pujols in the NL MVP voting.
But it was a season to remember for Derrek Lee and the Chicago Cubs, and the Cubs fans won't soon forget it.
Lee was also one of the main drivers behind the first Cubs team to go to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since the Championship team in 1907-1908.
3. Rogers Hornsby (1929-1932)
True Story: Every time I heard the Rolling Stones' song "Paint It Black," I think of Rogers Hornsby.
Because from 1920 to 1925, with the St. Louis Cardinals, Hornsby did just that; for six solid seasons, the greatest second baseman of all time led the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS-plus, and batting runs every single season.
Meanwhile, he captured the league lead in total bases five out of six times, hits and doubles four out of six times, and runs and RBI three out of six times.
The backs of his baseball cards are, simply put, painted black.
In 1929, Hornsby was acquired by the Chicago Cubs and had one more year in the sun. After having played for the New York Giants and Boston Braves one year each, Hornsby hit Wrigley Field and reeled off 39 home runs, 149 RBI, 229 hits, 47 doubles, a league leading 156 hits and an incredible 409 total bases. Hornsby won the NL MVP and the Cubs won the National League Pennant.
It would be his last full season in baseball.
2. Grover Cleveland Alexander (1918-1926)
By the time Pete Alexander left the Philadelphia Phillies to join the Chicago Cubs in 1918, he was probably already one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
In seven seasons with the Phillies, he went 190-88 with a 2.12 ERA (143 ERA-plus) and 1,403 strikeouts in 2,492 innings pitched. He had 219 complete games and 61 shutouts. He also led the NL in innings pitched six out of seven years, strikeouts and wins five out of seven years, and ERA and WHIP twice.
Alexander missed most of 1918 due to World War I, and then returned to win back-to-back ERA titles for the Cubs in 1919 and 1920.
1. Andre Dawson (1987-1992)
Take a close look at that picture.
That's Andre Dawson, and he's in a Florida Marlins uniform.
This picture was taken in 1996, shortly after Dawson announced that he would retire at the end of the season.
In his first game back at Wrigley Field, the Bleacher Bums showed Andre just how much they appreciated all he'd done for the Cubs in his time with the team.
And for a taste of the love that the Wrigley faithful had for Andre, take a look at this video.
As you watch the crowd's reaction to Andre's last home run of the 1987 season, remember that at the time of the home run, the Cubs were in last place in the NL East and the fans (not to mention Harry Caray) are acting like they just won the World Series.