Chicago Cubs middle infielders

MLB Top 5: Chicago Cubs Middle Infielders

This is the third article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Chicago Cubs. In this installment, second basemen and shortstops. 

Second base and shortstop have been defense-first positions throughout baseball history. However, the starters at both spots for the Chicago Cubs have so much power and productivity that they ended up in the Hall of Fame. Also on these lists are two players who were part of a double-play combination that was so memorable that the players were immortalized in a poem.

The Best Middle Infielders in Chicago Cubs History

Second Basemen

5. Glenn Beckert – He was a good hitter who had the misfortune of playing in an era in which the Cubs did not make the playoff. Beckert was a four-time All-Star and a gold glove recipient during his nine seasons in Chicago (1965-73), and he led the league with 98 runs scored and added a career-high 189 hits in 1968. Three years later, he hit a career-best .342 and made the All-Star team for the third time. In 1,247 games, Beckert hit .283 with 672 runs, 1,423 hits and 353 runs batted in.
4. Fred Pfeffer – He was a part of two pennant-winning teams during his 10-year Chicago tenure in three stints (1883-89, 91 and 96-97). Pfeffer’s best year was 1884, when he took advantage of the short right field fence at Lakefront Park by hitting .289 with 105 runs, 135 hits, 10 triples, 25 home runs and 101 RBIs in 112 games. Overall, he played in 1,093 games with the White Stockings, totaling 742 runs, 1,087 hits, 72 triples, 78 homers, 677 RBIs and 263 stolen bases.
3. Johnny Evers – He was a timely hitter and a great fielder, but he also was given the nickname “The Human Crab” because he couldn’t get along with anyone, whether you were a coach, umpire, reporter or even a double-play partner. As the story goes, Evers had taken a taxi to a 1905 exhibition game, leaving shortstop Joe Tinker stranded. Apparently, Tinker eventually made it because the two of them got in a fistfight on the field and didn’t speak after that for more than 30 years. Evers spent 12 years with the Orphans and Cubs (1902-13), helping the team win four pennants and two World Series titles in that span. His best year was the 1912 championship season, when he posted career highs with a .341 average, 163 hits and 61 runs batted in. Overall, he 742 runs, 1,340 hits, 444 RBIs and 291 stolen bases (seventh in team history) in 1,409 games. Evers was fired as Cubs manager and was traded to the Braves in 1914 after refusing to return as a player. All he did that first season was win the MVP award and lead the “Miracle Braves” to the championship. Evers and Tinker eventually ended their feud and the two of them, along with the late Frank Chance, were all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.
2. Billy Herman – During his 11 seasons in Chicago (1931-41), Herman amassed 30 or more doubles in a season seven times, hit .300 or better six times, scored 100 or more runs four times and reached 200 hits three times. Herman led the National League and set team records with 227 hits and 57 doubles in 1936 (he matched the doubles total the following year). The seven-time All-Star hit .309 and totaled 875 runs, 1,710 hits, 346 doubles (tenth in team history) and 577 RBIs in 1,344 games. Herman also helped the Cubs reach the World Series three times, hitting a home run and driving in six runs during the loss to the Tigers in 1935. He got into a feud with new Cubs manager Jimmie Wilson, was traded to the Dodgers in 1941 and helped his new team win the pennant that year. Herman was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1975.
1. Ryne Sandberg – As a young third baseman, his starting spot was blocked by Mike Schmidt with the Phillies, so he was traded to the Cubs in 1982 and eventually converted to second base. After moving teams and positions, Sandberg’s career took off. He was selected to 10 straight All-Star Games and earned nine consecutive gold gloves along with seven silver slugger awards. Sandberg was named National League MVP in 1984 after leading the league with 114 runs scored and 19 triples, setting career highs with a .314 average, 200 hits and 36 doubles, and well as producing 19 home runs and 84 RBIs. In 1990, Sandberg led the league with 116 runs and 40 home runs (also a career-high). He ranks high on the club’s all-time list with 1,316 runs (third), 2,151 games, 2,385 hits, 403 doubles and 344 stolen bases (fourth), 3,786 total bases and 282 home runs (fifth) and 1,061 runs batted in (seventh). Sandberg retired after the 1994 season citing a lost desire to play and wanting to spend time with his family. However, after his personal life improved, he returned a year later and set the Major League home run record for a second baseman. Sandberg retired in 1997 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.


Honorable Mentions – Billy Jurges was a member of three pennant-winning teams during his 10 years with Chicago (1931-38 and 46-47). He earned his only All-Star selection with the Cubs in 1937 when he hit .298 with 134 hits, 10 triples and a career-high 65 runs batted in. Shawon Dunston spent 12 seasons with the Cubs (1985-95 and 97) and was the starter on the 1989 team that went to the National League Championship Series. The two-time All-Star had 563 runs, 1,219 hits, 107 home runs, 489 RBIs and 175 stolen bases in 1,254. However, he lost nearly two seasons with a herniating a disc in his back that occurred while he was picking up his daughter. Starlin Castro was a three-time All-Star in six seasons with the Cubs (2010-15). He hit .281 with 991 hits (including a league-leading 207 in 2011) and 363 RBIs in 891 games with Chicago. Castro also played in nine games during the 2015 playoffs as the Cubs advanced to the National League Championship Series.

5. Don Kessinger – He spent his first 12 Major League seasons with the Cubs (1964-75), earning six All-Star selections and two gold gloves. Kessinger’s best performance came in the heartbreaking 1969 season, when he set career highs with 109 runs, 181 hits, 38 doubles and 53 runs batted in. He scored 769 runs, had 1,619 hits and drove in 431 runs in 1,648 games with the Cubs. Kessinger won the Lou Gehrig Award for spirit and character in 1978.

4. Bill Dahlen – Over eight years with the Cubs (1891-98), he hit .299 with 897 runs, 1,170 hits, 106 triples (fourth in team history), 561 RBIs and 286 stolen bases in 987 games. Dahlen scored at least 100 runs in each of his first six seasons, and he topped 150 hits four times. His best season was 1894, when he set career highs with a .359 average, 150 runs, 182 hits, 32 doubles, 15 home runs, 108 RBIs and 43 stolen bases.

3. Javier Baez – He was a two-time All-Star who also earned gold glove and silver slugger honors during his eight-year stint with Chicago (2014-21). In 2018, Baez set career highs with 101 runs, 176 hits, 40 doubles, nine triples and 34 home runs, and he also led the National League with 111 RBIs. Overall, he had 754 hits, 140 homers and 433 RBIs in 815 games with the Cubs. Baez was the 2016 NLCS co-MVP after hitting .318 with seven hits and five runs batted in against the Dodgers., and he hit a home run in the World Series win over the Indians.

2. Joe Tinker – Not only was he a key player on four pennant-winning teams, he also was a major part of one of the most famous baseball-related poems. Tinker was not a good fielder in his early years, but improved greatly and led the league in fielding percentage four times. In 12 seasons with the Cubs (1902-12 and 1916), he had 670 runs, 1,439 hits, 93 triples, 673 RBIs and 304 stolen bases in 1,539 games. Tinker had 16 hits, six RBIs and eight stolen bases in 21 career postseason games, and he homered and drove in four runs in the 1908 World Series win. He played with the Chicago Whales in the short-lived Federal League and was brought back to the Cubs for one final season as a player-manager in 1916. Tinker went into the Hall of Fame with Evers and Chance in 1946.

1. Ernie Banks – While his accolades at first base were looked at in a previous article, his entire career will be the focus here. Banks played 19 years in Chicago (1953-71) but somehow never went to the playoffs despite earning 14 All-Star selections, driving in 100 runs eight times and hitting 30 or more home runs seven times. “Mr. Cub” also won back-to-back National League MVP awards. In 1958, Banks won his first, posting career highs in runs (119), hits (193), home runs (47) and batting average (.313), and leading the league in both homers and RBIs (129). The following year, he hit .304 with 45 home runs and a league-leading and career-high 143 RBIs. Add in his 1960 season and he has a three-year total of 133 homers and 389 runs batted in. Known for his famous line, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two today,” Banks is the all-time franchise leader in games (2,528) and total bases (4,706) ranks second in hits (2,583), home runs (512) and runs batted in (1,636), third in doubles (407), fifth in runs (1,305) and seventh in triples (90). A 1967 Lou Gehrig Award recipient, Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

Upcoming Stories

Chicago Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Outfielders – coming soon
Chicago Cubs Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

A look back at the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers

A look back at the Atlanta Braves

Catchers and Managers
First and Third Basemen
Second Basemen and Shortstops

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Catchers and Managers
First and Third Basemen
Second Basemen and Shortstops

Main Image: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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