These are the best Illinois-born Cubs

February 12th, 2021

CHICAGO -- There was an added layer to the fact that it was who delivered the decisive double in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series for the Cubs. Not only did it help erase a 108-year drought, it was one of Illinois' own who came through for the franchise.

Plenty of players have adopted Chicago as the city they call home, but only a select few in history have put on a Cubs or White Sox uniform as native sons. Zobrist -- a product of Eureka, Ill. -- grew up understanding the magnitude of the history he would, as fate would have it, eventually accomplish.

During the 2020 season, (Northbrook, Ill.) often spoke of how special it was to play for a team he grew up watching. The Cubs' first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Ed Howard (Lynwood, Ill.) could not believe his fortune when it was a Chicago team that called his name.

"I wanted to be a hometown kid," Howard said after the Draft.

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the best Illinois-born players to wear a Chicago Cubs uniform throughout the team's history:

1. Phil Cavarretta
Birthplace: Chicago

While Cavarretta was starring for Lane Tech in Chicago -- located roughly two miles west of Wrigley Field on Addison St. -- the Cubs gave him a tryout. He showed up to the Friendly Confines as a 17-year-old kid who looked more like a bat boy than a ballplayer.

"It was early in April," the late Cavarretta told Carrie Muskat in her book, Banks to Sandberg to Grace: Five Decades of Love and Frustration with the Chicago Cubs. "It was cold and there were snowflakes. I had a pretty good night. The first time up, I hit a home run."

A Chicago Tribune article from May 2, 1934, noted that Cavarretta was given a regular Cubs uniform featuring the No. 12, and that Cubs manager Charlie Grimm had the kid batting third in the order.

"How a kid like that can hit like that is beyond me," Hall of Famer Chuck Klein was quoted as saying, after witnessing Cavarretta's display at Wrigley Field.

Cavarretta threw a no-hitter in his final high school game, was signed for $125 per month by the Cubs (or "a bag of peanuts," as he quipped to Muskat) and reported to the Minor Leagues in 1934. He was in the big leagues by the fall, when he belted a homer in his first career at-bat at Wrigley Field to power a 1-0 victory that Sept. 25 against the Reds.

Cavarretta hit .381 in his seven-game taste of the Majors in '34, marking the beginning of what would be a 20-year run with the Cubs. The Chicago native finished his career with two seasons spent with the White Sox, ending with 1,977 hits, a .293 career average and far more walks (820) than strikeouts (598).

A four-time All-Star, Cavarretta's best season came in 1945, when he won a batting title (.355), picked up the National League MVP Award and helped lead the Cubs to the World Series. He hit .423 (11-for-26) in the seven-game Fall Classic loss to the Tigers, which wound up being the Cubs' last World Series appearance until the 2016 triumph, helped by Zobrist's heroics.

Birthplace: Quincy, Ill.

The Reuschel brothers were both 6-foot-4 Illinois farm boys who found their way to the Cubs. The elder brother Paul was picked by the North Siders in the fourth round of the 1968 MLB Draft, while Rick was taken in the third round of the 1970 Draft. They each played at Western Illinois University and, eventually, were teammates in Chicago.

And on Aug. 21, 1975, the Brothers Reuschel made history by becoming the first siblings to partner for a shutout in the big leagues with a 7-0 win over the Dodgers. Rick went the first 6 1/3 before a blister forced him out, and then Paul picked him up with 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.

"I like to be first," Paul quipped to the Associated Press after the game.

Out of the two brothers, it was Rick who emerged as the more successful pitcher in the Cubs' franchise timeline. He won 135 games for the North Siders and was a workhorse in the rotation, hitting his stride with an average of 245 innings per year from 1973-80. In 1977, Rick won 20 games, logged a 2.79 ERA in 252 frames and placed third in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

3. Bob O'Farrell
Birthplace: Waukegan, Ill.

O'Farrell's career with the Cubs spanned parts of 12 seasons, stretching from 1915-25 and then again in 1934. His 14.3 WAR (via Baseball Reference) with the Cubs is third behind only Reuschel (48.3) and Cavarretta (36.2) among Illinois-born players. O'Farrell was Chicago's catcher in the 1918 pennant season and hit .279 over 666 games with the North Siders. The Cubs traded him to the rival Cardinals on May 23, 1925, so of course O'Farrell won the NL MVP Award and a World Series ring in 1926.

4. Carl Lundgren
Birthplace: Marengo, Ill.

A native of northern Illinois and a product of the University of Illinois, Lundgren was a regular part of the rotation during the franchise's dominant years in the early 20th century. The pitcher spun a stellar 2.42 ERA from 1902-09 (including a 1.17 mark in 1907), but never pitched in the postseason for Chicago clubs that won three pennants (and two titles) in his final four years. Lundgren did not boast the same durability as other arms of his era, but was nonetheless impressive in a relatively short career.

5. Warren Hacker
Birthplace: Marissa, Ill.

Hacker's 13.5 WAR in his Cubs career ranks fifth among all Illinois-born players to suit up for the franchise. He came to the North Siders in 1948 and pitched for the club for parts of nine seasons. Hacker's best year arrived in 1952, when he received NL MVP votes after going 15-9 with a 2.58 ERA in 185 innings. Hacker rounded out his career by playing for the White Sox in the 1961 campaign.

Other notable Illinois-born Cubs

Max Flack (Belleville, Ill.) was an outfielder for the Cubs from 1916-22, and part of the 1918 NL pennant winners.

(Peoria, Ill.) was picked in the fifth round of the 1986 Draft out of Northwestern. He played seven years for Chicago, making an All-Star team in 2000.

Don Johnson (Chicago) played second for the Cubs from 1943-48. He made an All-Star team in 1944 and hit .302 for the Cubs' 1945 pennant-winning club.

Tony Kaufmann (Chicago) played for the Cubs from 1921-27, serving as a pitcher (3.89 ERA in 172 games for the North Siders) and an occasional outfielder.

Dutch Leonard (Auburn, Ill.) was more renowned for his work on the mound for the Senators and Phillies, but he ended his 20-year career with the Cubs (1949-53).

Al Spalding (Byron, Ill.) famously won 47 games in 1876, and founded the Spalding sporting goods company. He became a Hall of Fame pioneer and executive.

(Belleville, Ill.) was picked in the 38th round of the 2002 Draft out of Southwestern Illinois College. He finished sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009.