As we look forward to Opening Day 2014, I thought it would be fun to countdown the days by looking back at Cub greats and the uniform numbers they wore – corresponding to the number of days remaining until Opening Day is here on March 31.
That being said, we are 39 days away from the opener in Pittsburgh. So, who was the best Cub to wear the number 39? Well, we have had a wide array of guys wear 39 over the years. Everything from future managers (Chuck Tanner in 1957) to future broadcasters (Mike Krukow from 1977-81). There was even a Zambrano in there. No, not Carlos. Eddie Zambrano in 1993. Yeah, I don’t remember him either.
It turns out the best Cub to wear the number 39 is also the FIRST Cub to wear number 39, Stan Hack.
The proverbial wrench being thrown in is that Hack only wore 39 in 1935-36. He played virtually every day from 1936-43 and was in the top 10 in MVP voting on two different occasions – 1938 and 1940. In fact, Hack was in the Top 20 in MVP voting in seven out of eight years between 1938 and 1945.
This guy was a statistical anomaly. Think he had an eye at the plate? He walked over 1,000 times and struck out less than 500 in his career. He also led the league in steals in both 1938 and 1939. How many third basemen in today’s game can make a claim anything close to that? Keep lookin’…and good luck finding one.
And, yes, I am aware that Miguel Cabrera has been a third baseman until this year. I’m not saying Hack is better than Miggy in the big picture. I am saying that Hack – especially in his day – was about as good as it got at the position. Even in today’s game it’s not easy to find a guy who mans the hot corner with Hack’s bat, glove AND speed. By the by, Cabrera has had exactly ONE season when he has walked more than he struck out, in an era when pitchers avoid pitching to him like the plague.
A career .301 hitter, Hack hit .311 at the age of 25 in 1935. He then hit .323 at the age of 35 in 1945. I think we all know about 1945, right Cub fans?
Tomorrow: #38. Who will it be?