A good Hall of Fame doesn't just collect the best of the best. That's why we all think Ron Santo belongs in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Santo is not an elite player, not one of the true greats of the game's history, but he exemplifies, no embodies what baseball should be all about. He hustled; he had fun playing the game; he showed intensity, even fire. And he also did everything well on both sides of the ball.
In light of the notion that any given entity's Hall of Fame should contain those people who embodied its essence best, I wish to put forward my proposal for the Cubs Hall of Fame that owner Tom Ricketts reportedly intends to install as part of the infamous Triangle Building renovation.
This Hall of Fame won't contain the best Cubs to ever don the royal blue pinstripes. It won't house Santo, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams or Mark Grace. All of these were great players and played the game the right way, but that is exactly what will keep them out. The Cubs are not about greatness. They are not about fundamentals. They are not about tradition. The Cubs are about hilarious, heartbreaking, wonderful, terrible, spectacular and consistent failure.
Bearing that in mind, here are the candidates who would receive my vote for enshrinement in the Cubs Hall of Fame should they make the ballot:
Bill "Billy Goat" Sianis: The Cubs may not be more strongly identified with any person than they are with Sianis and his infamous pet goat, whom the Cubs refused entrance to a World Series contest in 1945, thereby bringing the wrath of some ancient Greek voodoo thunderously down upon them. If you are a Cubs fan, Chuck Brodsky's "The Curse of the Billy Goat" is a can't-miss folk tune.
Fred Merkle: Though Merkle played for Chicago from 1917-20, this selection is purely an honorarium. Merkle helped the Cubs win their last World Series (in 1908) by failing to touch second base at the end of a would-be walk-off New York Giants win against Chicago in September. More important than that tangible contribution, however, is the undeniable air of Cubsness that surrounds that sort of error. I hate to sound like a mouthpiece for the guy, but Brodsky demonstrates his brilliance again in "Bonehead Merkle."
Kevin Orie: He was Alex Gordon before there was Alex Gordon. He had all the tools. He was the top pick prodigy, the slugging third baseman who would save his once-great franchise from its lowly fate. Like Gordon has so far, Orie flopped magnificently: a .243/.315/.377 line in not even three seasons as a Cub. If you think the Gordon comparison is an unfair indictment of the still-youthful Gordon, check Baseball-Reference.com's list of Orie's comparable players. Gordon is fourth.
Todd Hundley: The kid who grew up following his father (Cub great Randy) around Wrigley Field was already a fat, chain-smoking old man by the time the Cubs signed him to a four-year, $23.5 million deal in December of 2000. Hundley has a miserable run in the two seasons he actually lasted in Chicago: .199/.285/.398. And don't forget, not only was he bad, he was a jerk about it.
Brant Brown: I would normally love to include Ron Santo in my readership, unlikely though it may be. In this circumstance, however, I sincerely hope he never sees this name. I doubt his aging organs could take it. In a move highly indicative of former General Manager Ed Lynch's baseball IQ, the Cubs retained Brown as their fourth outfielder heading into 1998 while trading Doug Glanville to Philadelphia. Their respective 1999 seasons demonstrate the intelligence of that move: Brown managed a .232/.283/.449 for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Glanville hit .325/.376/.457 and added 34 stolen bases. None of that is why Brown makes this list, however. Rather, it is an infamous dropped fly ball in September of 1998, costing the Cubs a game against Milwaukee and nearly their bid for the Wild Card. Santo nearly had an aneurysm on the air.
Alex Gonzalez & Leon Durham: Each man hit clutch homers in bunches for Cubs teams that eventually made the playoffs. Each did so with a low batting average and not much plate discipline. Each flubbed ground balls in the postseason that ultimately cost their team a chance at the pennant. Other than the difference in their positions (Gonzalez played shortstop, Durham first base) and their statures (Durham stands a full two inches taller and outweighs Gonzalez by 30 pounds), they're practically the same guy.
Steve Bartman: Nothing more need be said.