While it may not feel like baseball season in the Windy City yet, Opening Day is rapidly approaching for the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs, as we are just four days away from the first game of their title defense.
With just four days until the regular season begins, we figured it would be fun to start off a countdown of sorts to help fans get pumped up for the coming year.
4 in Cubs History
The number 4 in terms of Cubs jerseys has largely been the domain of managers and coaches, as everyone from Lee Elia to Don Zimmer to Gene Michael has worn the number on their backs while serving as the club’s skipper.
In terms of players, the list of athletes that have worn the number for more than one season is preposterously low. The longest a player has ever worn the jersey is for five seasons, and two players share that distinction, as both Billy Herman and Hal Jeffcoat wore it in their careers with the Cubs.
There is one claim to fame for the number four that some Cubs fans may not be aware of, which is that the team has had four different nicknames during its history as a charter National League franchise.
Originally known as the Chicago White Stockings (which the team dumped after the 1889 season), the Cubs have also been known as the Colts (1890-1897) and the Orphans (1898-1902) in their history, but it was the Cubs name that stuck around thanks to a nickname the Chicago Daily News came up with in 1902. That name wasn’t officially given to the team until 1907, and in their first two years with the new name they won the World Series.
Notable “4’s” for the 2016 Cubs
4 – Only one pitcher appeared in all four games of the 2016 NLDS for the Cubs, and that was closer Aroldis Chapman. He wasn’t perfect in those appearances, giving up three hits and an earned run, but he did have seven strikeouts and racked up three saves as the Cubs advanced to the next round.
4 – Against a powerful Los Angeles Dodgers lineup, the Cubs were able to largely keep the baseball in the park, allowing just four home runs in the six game series. Jake Arrieta unfortunately surrendered two of those long balls, but the Cubs’ bullpen was strong, giving up zero home runs in 18 innings of work in the series.
4 – Pitching was a big part of the Cubs’ NLCS victory over the Dodgers, but their offense was strong too, and three different Cubs hitters racked up a team-leading four extra-base hits in the series. Dexter Fowler (three doubles, one home run), Javier Baez (four doubles), and Anthony Rizzo (two doubles, two home runs) all led the team in that category as the team’s well-rounded offense confounded the Dodgers.
4 – The number of strikeouts that Kyle Schwarber had in the 2016 World Series, and while striking out once in every four at-bats may be less than ideal, the fact that he was able to register seven hits in 17 at-bats after not having played in a meaningful game in nearly seven months was a complete miracle for the Cubs in the series.
4 – Jon Lester isn’t known for his bullpen prowess, but he came out of the pen for the Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series and punched out four Indians batters in three innings of work. He did give up two earned runs, but he was able to get the game into Chapman’s hands, and that’s exactly what Joe Maddon had wanted him to do.
Did You Know?
Fortunately for the number 4, there is one player that saves it from complete oblivion. When he made his big league debut in 1959, a 21-year old slugger by the name of Billy Williams wore that number, registering a triple and two RBI in 34 plate appearances for the Cubs in that season.
Williams’ iconic number 26 currently flutters from the right field foul pole at Wrigley Field, but it wasn’t until 1961 when he would don that number for the first time. In the 1960 season, Williams once again changed numbers, with the number 41 on his back for that season.
By the time he switched to the number 26 for the 1961 season, Williams was primed to break out, and he did just that as he slugged 25 home runs and drove in 86 RBI to secure the National League Rookie of the Year award in his first full big league season.