Cubs Throwback Thursday: Can you guess this underrated former Cub?

(Photo by SPX/Ron Vesely Photography via Getty Images)
(Photo by SPX/Ron Vesely Photography via Getty Images) /

As a kid, I was a bit of a nerd. If I had spent as much time practicing baseball as studying baseball, I may have been better at it. In retrospect, I may have been given a bit better brain, and imagination, than arms or legs. This being said, I did bat third one season in our team in the local Little League.

I loved, um, still love stats. I am also a happily married man with friends, but I am very happy spending my time perusing Baseball Reference. I read the back of the baseball cards, thoroughly, and annually got a Street and Smith’s Baseball edition and Who’s Who every year. I have a lot of numbers in my head and I am sure I am not alone.

There are a lot of new-school stats that I haven’t adopted into my study of the game. You enjoy them, I’m good. Slugging has always been around, on-base percentage to some extent and you don’t need to be Bill James to figure out OPS. WHIP for pitchers makes sense, but the rest, nah. I do like WAR (Wins Above Replacement), but obviously not the military conflicts (I did teach history a LONG time), and I do like the song. I discovered by accident in my geeky pursuits that a man who called Wrigley home for many years, but was not a career Cub, has the 106th-best WAR in history out of 20,272 players. Do you know who I’m talking about?

DON’T LOOK IT UP!!! Wait. I found 11 Chicago Cubs, who spent much of their career with the team (I did not consider someone like Jim Edmonds who played part of 2008 with the Cubs) in the top 260 players in WAR. Ron Cey (4 years) is in that slot with a WAR of 53.8, tied with White Sox legend and recent Hall of Fame inductee Minnie Minoso. Tony Perez is right above at 259 and is in the Hall, and Harry Hooper and two others are right below Cey at 262 and Hooper is in the Hall. Our longtime Cub, at #106, is not.

All these Cubs rank higher than 106th. Greg Maddux (10 of 23 seasons as a Cub), Cap Anson (I’m not a fan, but that’s another story), Fergie Jenkins (10 of 19 in Wrigley), and Ron Santo at #99, all fared better. Surprisingly, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Andrew Dawson, Billy Williams, Sammy Sosa, and Cey all rank below. Four of those men are enshrined in Cooperstown.

I’m writing this differently, as it is the offseason, and we’re still a few weeks away from the hot stove really heating up. We have time to kill. Very few of the names being bandied about even from the so-called experts will ever be in pinstripes. Did you pass the Cubbies Crib ‘Marshmallow Test’, or did you already look up to see who it is? The longtime Cub pitcher, #106, is Rick Reuschel.

The big-bodied Rick Reuschel carried a heavy load for the Chicago Cubs

Reuschel didn’t have a cool nickname (and disability) like Mordecai ‘Three Finger’ Brown. I don’t know that ‘Big Daddy’ wasn’t especially complimentary considering his physique, but he was a very effective and athletic ballplayer. He didn’t have the 20-strikeout game of Kerry Wood, or the amazing second half of 2015 and first half 2016 greatness of Jake Arrieta. He just got the job done  when handed the ball.

The big right-hander came up midseason 1972, going 10-9 with a 2.92 ERA and a 2.9 WAR. Until the Cubs traded him to the Yankees in nearly a decade later (rather sold, since they received $400K in return – about $1.3 million today) he was never below a 3.3 WAR, and turned in a remarkable 9.5 WAR in 1977 when he won 20 games and finished third in Cy Young voting. If you weren’t around to follow the Cubs during this time you didn’t miss anything. Chicago had a winning record during Reuschel’s rookie campaign, finished .500 in his 1977 season, and were below .500 the rest of the time.

His ERA with the Cubs was 3.50, and taking away a 4.30 in 1974 and 5.17 in an unsuccessful Cub comeback in 1984, ‘Big Daddy’ was bright star during dark times. His career lasted several more seasons after he left the Cubs following the 1984 campaign. He moved on to Pittsburgh in 1985 and was really good and the year after, not so much. Reuschel finished his career with the San Francisco Giants, going 19-11 in 1988 and 17-8 in 1989 at the age of 40. He started the 1989 All-Star Game – thanks to my buddy Brian for remembering that.

dark. Next. Where does Rick Reuschel fall on our all-time Cubs list?

His brother Paul also pitched five seasons in the bigs, winning sixteen games and saving thirteen, primarily as a reliever. The brothers rank eleventh all-time in “best brother pitchers”, with 230 wins and I had not considered that the Niekro brothers (Phil and Joe) won 539 games, with Gaylord and Jim Perry a close second at 529. Coincidentally, Joe was a Cubs prospect (24 Cubs victories), and would win 187 games after being traded away. He later would be traded for a Yankees prospect name Jim Deshaies.