Rizzo built Cubs legacy to last 'forever'

July 30th, 2021

CHICAGO -- threw his arms out wide, smiled big and leaned back into the famous ivy covering Wrigley Field's outfield wall. His family looked on and his dog trotted around the warning track.

Rizzo was soaking in a few final moments inside the Friendly Confines, where he might very well someday have a flag with his No. 44 on it rippling in the wind. Over the past decade, the first baseman grew into a fan favorite, World Series champion and franchise icon.

"I grew up here. All good things come to an end," said Rizzo, who spoke with a small group of reporters before leaving Wrigley Field. "This city will be ingrained right in my heart for the rest of my life."

The Cubs traded Rizzo and cash to the Yankees on Thursday in exchange for a pair of prospects (outfielder Kevin Alcántara and pitcher Alexander Vizcaino). It was the kind of core subtraction forecasted for weeks, but it was nonetheless a stunning transaction.

After taking some photos inside the old ballpark with his wife, Emily, Rizzo made his way to the players' parking lot across Waveland Ave. Beyond the left-field wall, fans gathered to cheer him on and shout their thanks on his way out.

"Thank you, Rizzo!"

"We love you, Anthony!"

"We'll miss you!"

Asked for his message to Cubs fans, Rizzo did not hesitate.

"I just love them. It'll always be nothing but love," Rizzo said. "It's been the best nine years, 10 years of my life here. It'll continue. The memories here last forever. That's why I always cherished every moment."

The lasting image of Rizzo will not be that departure, with a smile and a wave as he left for the Bronx. What will stand the test of time is the moment he caught the final out in Game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland, ending the Cubs' 108-year championship drought.

That title came as part of a run of five postseason berths in six years, including three consecutive trips to at least the National League Championship Series. Chicago captured three division crowns along the way, helping erase decades of the "Lovable Losers" label.

The Cubs acquired Rizzo from the Padres on Jan. 6, 2012, in a trade that sent pitcher Andrew Cashner to San Diego. Javier Báez and Kyle Hendricks broke into the big leagues by '14. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber arrived by '15.

The franchise took off, along with the internal and external expectations.

"Those guys helped shape that culture here," Cubs outfielder Ian Happ said. "It's made a huge impact, I think, through what the fan base expects and what we expect and what people, free agents coming over, guys that are traded here, expect when they show up and put on the pinstripes.

"So, I think it's pretty special and no matter what happens this year, how this next couple days or how the year concludes, I think the impact that every single one of those guys has had that's been here for the last seven years plus can't be overstated."

On the field, Rizzo made three All-Star teams and took home four Glove Glove Awards (including the 2016 Platinum Glove). He climbed to sixth on Chicago's all-time home run list with 242, trailing only Sammy Sosa, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg.

Rizzo hit .272/.372/.489 in his tenure with the Cubs with a unique, close-to-the-plate stance that helped him set the club record for being hit by pitch (165).

On the October stage, Rizzo famously belted a homer off Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS. Then, the first baseman hit .360 with five RBIs and seven runs scored in the seven-game Series with Cleveland. That included a homer in Game 6 and an RBI single in Game 7.

Fans can probably picture Rizzo mouthing, "Oh my God," with his hands atop his helmet in disbelief, following Ben Zobrist's go-ahead hit in the 10th inning of that epic seventh game.

"What we did here," Rizzo said, "I think in due time I'll be able to speak more on it. But it's just unbelievable, the run. And we won't ever take it for granted."

Rizzo's legacy in Chicago does not end there, either.

A survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma, the first baseman formed the Anthony Rizzo Foundation to help support families dealing with pediatric cancer. He did regular hospital visits during his time in Chicago, forming strong bonds and raising considerable funds over the years.

Rizzo took home the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable endeavors in 2017. During baseball's shut-down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, his foundation shifted to also helping taxed hospital workers get warm meals, while getting supplies to families in need.

"I'll have a legacy here forever no matter what," Rizzo said. "With my foundation, and this fan base and the people. That's what matters most -- just leaving this place better than when I found it. I think I can say that mission is accomplished."