CHICAGO -- One of the beauties of baseball is that no one knows what will happen after the first pitch of a game is thrown. For the next nine innings, each player on the field has a chance to be a hero, make history or rise to the rank of legend.
Over the course of Cubs' history, plenty of players have had their moments in the spotlight. What follows are some of the greatest single-game showings in the long, storied annals of the franchise. There are MVPs, Hall of Famers and other players who simply stepped up for one magnificent day.
Here are our picks for the Top 5 single-game hitting performances in Cubs history:
1. Bryant torches Reds
Date: June 27, 2016
Before getting into Kris Bryant's performance, let's note that arguably the most famous individual performance has become known as "The Ryne Sandberg Game." We'll get more into the Hall of Fame second baseman's amazing day in 1984 in a moment.
For this, however, the nod goes to Bryant for the incredible one-man wrecking crew performance he posted against the Reds during an NL MVP campaign that ended with a World Series parade. In an 11-8 win on the road in Cincinnati, Bryant churned out five hits, including two doubles and three homers, scored four runs and collected six RBIs along the way.
Two of his hits gave Chicago the lead and two others helped spread the game open. It is the only time in Cubs history a player has amassed at least 16 total bases in a game. There have only been 24 such games in recorded MLB history, tracing back to 1901, with greats like Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt on that list.
"The best game of my whole life, obviously," Bryant said after that game in '16. "There's so many good players in this game, it's just, I feel so fortunate, so thankful for this opportunity to play on a stage like this every day."
Bryant’s showing is also just one of three instances since 1901 in which an MLB player had two doubles and three home runs in the same game. It was the first of its kind at the time. St. Louis' Matt Carpenter also achieved the feat on July 20, 2018, vs. the Cubs and San Francisco's Alex Dickerson did so against the Rockies on Sept. 1, 2020.
2. The Ryne Sandberg Game
Date: June 23, 1984
Bryant's game might rate better statistically, but Ryne Sandberg turned in a performance that was the stuff of legend during his '84 National League MVP campaign.
In a 12-11 win over the rival Cardinals, Sandberg belted not one, but two late game-tying homers off Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter. His leadoff shot in the ninth pulled the game into a 9-9 deadlock. Then, following a Cardinals rally against Hall of Famer Lee Smith, Sandberg hit a two-run shot in the 10th that evened things, 11-11.
"Roy Hobbs, The Natural, would be pleased by Sandberg's performance today," legendary broadcaster Bob Costas proclaimed on NBC's airing of the game that night.
Sandberg's five-hit, seven-RBI showing set things up for Dave Owens to deliver a walk-off single in the 11th inning. That came nine frames after Chicago was in an early 7-1 hole at Wrigley Field.
"I'm in a state of shock," Sandberg was quoted as saying in the Chicago Tribune after the game. "I don't even know what day it is. I was going up there thinking about pulling the ball against Sutter. I wasn't even thinking about hitting one out.
3. Kingman lights up L.A.
Date: May 14, 1978
On Mother's Day in '78, Dave Kingman sent a trio of homers out of Dodger Stadium to power the Cubs to a relentless, 10-7 win in 15 innings. As part of his four-hit, eight-RBI afternoon, the big slugger smacked a two-run, game-tying blast in the ninth inning and then a go-ahead, three-run shot in the 15th. He racked up 1.033 Win Probability Added in the victory.
4. Sosa's Coors trifecta
Date: Aug. 10, 2002
In a 15-1 romp over the Rockies, Sammy Sosa drilled three home runs and equaled a single-game club record with nine RBIs. The only other nine-RBI performance dating back to 1901 for the Cubs came via Heinie Zimmerman on June 11, 1911. Sosa had just the three hits in the win, in which he belted a three-run homer in three straight innings (third, fourth and fifth).
5. Cuyler's Giant walk-off
Date: Aug. 31, 1932
Kiki Cuyler had a heroic five-hit, five-RBI showing in a 10-9 victory over the New York Giants, piling up the most Win Probability Added (1.447) on record for a single-game effort by a Cubs' batter in history. The Hall of Famer collected an RBI triple in the third inning, came through with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth and then finished off the Giants with a three-run, walk-off homer in the 10th.
Honorable mention (by date)
April 4, 1994: Karl Rhodes (known as "Tuffy") hit three home runs off Mets star Dwight Gooden on Opening Day. Only four players have ever hit three homers in a season opener.
July 2, 1993: Sosa went 6-for-6 (five singles, one double) in an 11-8 win over Colorado. It is one of five six-hit games in a nine-inning game in Cubs history.
May 2, 1976: José Cardenal went 6-for-7 with homer, double, four RBIs and a steal in a 6-5, 14-inning with over Giants. He notched the go-ahead single in the 14th.
April 17, 1974: George Mitterwald went 4-for-4 with 14 total bases in an 18-9 win over the Pirates. He hit three homers (one grand slam) in an eight-RBI showing.
May 28, 1970: Jim Hickman launched two homers in a three-hit, four-RBI day in an 8-7 win over Pirates. He delivered a game-tying homer in sixth and the walk-off shot in ninth.
Aug. 11, 1966: Randy Hundley hit for the cycle in a 9-8 win over Houston. Had a two-run triple (fourth), double (sixth), game-tying homer (eighth) and single (11th), and scored the winning run.
July 5, 1937: Frank Demaree went 6-for-7 with three doubles, two RBIs and two runs in a 13-12, 14-inning win over Cardinals. He singled and later scored the walk-off run in 14th.
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.