The potential of Chicago Cubs number one prospect Nico Hoerner has everyone buzzing. The Cubs have created lots of buzz with call ups that made the Show.
The Chicago Cubs Nico Hoerner is having a ball. The 22-year-old is batting .417 with a 1.231 OPS. He slugged his first home run at Wrigley on the first pitch he saw. This is some The Natural stuff going on right here.
If he can realize the potential we have seen so far, he’ll join other Cubs of note that have also come up in September.
A pitcher like none other
1984 second-round pick Greg Maddux had been working his way up through the minors, making 46 starts between rookie ball and Triple-A. He was called up on September 2, 1986, and won his first game on September 7 against the Reds. Maddux would go on to pitch 23 seasons, including ten with the Cubs, win four Cy Young awards (1992-95), a World Series (1985), and win election to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2014. The Cubs retired his number 31 in 2009.
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Sixty-six years ago another 22-year-old shortstop was called up in September. Looking back to 1953 we find one of the most popular Cubs in franchise history. Ernie Banks debuted on September 17, 1953, and immediately made his mark, slashing .314/.385/.571 with a .956 OPS in 39 plate appearances. Banks would earn the undying affection of generations of Cubs fans with his infectious optimism and boyish love of the game.
The mid-1980s were heady days for Cubs fans. GM Dallas Green had come to town in after the 1981 season and resurrected a moribund franchise that hadn’t seen a playoff game since 1945. Greene rebuilt the farm system through the draft and shrewd trades, and by 1984 the team was putting together a stellar season.
What could have been
1986 saw the call up of first baseman Rafael Palmeiro on September 9 and over his three years, Palmeiro would slash .284/.366/.520 with a .886 OPS and earn an All-star selection in 1988. The Cubs traded Palmeiro after the 1988 season, and he would go on to earn two Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Gloves. However, later on, he would serve a ten-game suspension for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug testing protocol.
Looking back at another what could have been, Ken Hubbs was a September call up in 1961. While not posting stellar career numbers, in 1962 Hubbs would win Rookie of the Year and a Gold Glove at second base. Ken’s life ended tragically in a plane crash after the 1963 season. Ron Santo said of Hubbs, “Any athlete who ever played with Hubbs will dedicate the rest of his career to Ken because he was the zenith in inspiration and enthusiasm as well as desire and determination.”
I’m wrapping up this list by going back to a pitcher. September 1, 1980, saw the debut of Cubs legendary closer Lee Smith. In eight years, Smith would pitch to a 2.92 ERA, 134 ERA plus, and 1.255 WHIP. The big righty would lock down the back end of Cubs bullpens for eight seasons and save 180 games for the Chicago Cubs. Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year and remained one of the fan favorites.
This list isn’t exhaustive, and we’re a long way from being able to project the baseball career of Hoerner. The young infielder is in fine company, and the future looks bright. As with all these September call ups, we look forward to seeing what this kid can do next season and beyond.