Topps and Beckett Name Cubs No. 3 All-Time Trading Card Lineup
At the start of the 2018 season, Topps and Beckett Media announced they would rank all 30 major league teams based on their all-time baseball-card lineups. The rules were simple: A player needed to have had a Topps card at some point in their career. After unveiling the first 27 teams, it was announced this week that the Cubs were ranked No. 3 on the list.
I recently caught up with Mike Payne, editor at Beckett Baseball, to discuss which legendary Cubs made the list and why they were picked over other potential candidates. The lineup is listed below, with notes on the thought process behind each selection.
If you would like to get a look at the terrific baseball cards tied to each player check out the official website: 30teams30weeks.com.
Starting Pitcher: Fergie Jenkins (1967 Topps Card)
While Greg Maddux might have been a candidate if he had stayed with the Cubs his whole career, Jenkins was the clear choice. Playing a decade for the Cubs, he was one of the best pitchers in the late 1960’s, an era known for great pitchers.
Catcher: Willson Contreras (2016 Bowman Chrome Prospect Series Card)
Payne told me the legendary Gabby Hartnett was actually the first choice at catcher. So why was he left off? Alas, Hartnett did not have a Topps card, so they went in favor of potential with this pick. Payne noted how Contreras has already done a lot in his short career as a Cub and that he won a World Series, a fact people sometimes forget.
First Base: Mark Grace (1988 Topps Traded Card)
Cap Anson, original Cubs/White Stockings star, also got consideration for first base, but Payne said the staff felt Grace was a worthy choice. A Gold Glove fielder and a terrific hitter, Grace was the heart of the Cubs in the 1990’s. He also had the most hits of any player in the 90’s, hardly something to sneeze at.
Second Base: Ryne Sandberg (1983 Topps Rookie Card)
This choice literally generated no debate for the crew at Beckett Baseball. Hall of Famer, 1984 MVP, 10-time all-star, and a nine-time Gold Glover; Sandberg may be the best second baseman of all time. He certainly holds that title for the Cubs.
Third Base: Ron Santo (1961 Topps Rookie Card)
Santo is a fan favorite, but was also a heck of a third baseman, making nine All-Star teams and winning five gold gloves. He showed impressive power in the Pitchers Era, while also leading the league in walks and on base-percentage several years. Payne regrets that Ronny didn’t reach the Hall of Fame in his lifetime, a feeling all Cubs fans share.
Shortstop: Ernie Banks (1954 Topps Rookie Card)
Payne shared that the Beckett crew debated making Mr. Cub the all-time first baseman since he played there a lot late in his career. In the end, they agreed shortstop will always be the position associated with Banks, so it was a natural fit. With over 500 homers, two MVP’s, and 14 All-Star games; Banks makes a strong case for being the greatest Cub of all time.
Left Field: Billy Williams (1961 Topps Rookie Card)
Sweet-swinging Billy Williams was a pure hitter. He won Rookie of the Year in 1961 and hit 426 homers in his Hall of Fame career. Amazingly, he won the batting title at age 34 with a .333 batting average.
Center Field: Hack Wilson (2002 Topps Tribute Card)
When Mike told me the Cubs all-time center fielder was Hack Wilson, I had the same reaction so many other have had: He played center? Yes, the man once described as a beer keg with arms primarily played center field in his Cubs career. Wilson was one of the greatest hitters in Chicago history, but no year stood out more than 1930, when he slugged 56 homers and knocked in a major-league record 191 runs. I agreed with Payne that Wilson’s RBI record will likely never be topped.
Right Fielder: Sammy Sosa (1992 Topps Traded Card)
Controversy aside, Slammin’ Sammy is undoubtedly one of the greatest Cubs of all-time. Payne noted he hit over 60 homers three times (1998, 1999, 2001) and finished with over 600 for his career. Anyone who was a Cubs fan during Sosa’s time in Chicago can attest that he was must-watch TV. Though he wasn’t a unanimous choice, the man beat out for right field still found a place on the list.
Utility Man: Andre Dawson (1987 Topps Traded Card)
Dawson joined the Cubs at age 32 in 1987 and had an immediate impact, winning the MVP with 49 homers. He also led Chicago to the playoffs in 1989. Payne said that although his time with the Cubs was relatively short, Hawk remains a legend in the eyes of fans.
Relief Pitcher: Bruce Sutter (1977 Topps Rookie Card)
Sutter played his first five seasons at Wrigley Field, saving a whopping 133 games. He won the 1979 Cy Young for the Cubs with 2.22 ERA and 37 saves. And he usually went two or three innings in his saves in those days, making the feat even more impressive.
There you have it, the all-time Cubs lineup as presented by Topps and Beckett. Do you agree with the lineup? Think one of your favorites got a raw deal? Let us know below. Personally, I think they did a heck of the job with the list, but I’d love to see some current Cubs eventually earn their way to legend status as well.