Reflecting on Anthony Rizzo’s Cubs career: His greatest moment from each season
After calling Wrigley Field home for nearly a decade, Anthony Rizzo will now don a different set of pinstripes in New York.
The Cubs traded Rizzo to the Yankees Thursday evening, saying goodbye to the longest-tenured member of the clubhouse and the face of the franchise.
Rizzo was the first major acquisition Theo Epstein’s front office made in a January 2012 trade with the San Diego Padres. He played parts of 10 seasons in Chicago, enduring last-place teams before helping to lead the Cubs to back-to-back-to-back National League Championship Series, including a World Series title in 2016.
Rizzo sits at 6th place all time in franchise history with 242 home runs, trailing only Sammy Sosa (545), Ernie Banks (512), Billy Williams (392), Ron Santo (337) and Ryne Sandberg (282).
Only 18 players have appeared in more games as a Cub than Rizzo (1,308).
As Chicago bids farewell to Rizzo, let’s reflect back on his greatest moments from each year with the Cubs.
Cubs debut (June 26)
The fanbase was eagerly anticipating the arrival of Rizzo, who hit .342 with a .405 on-base percentage and 23 homers in 70 games with Triple-A Iowa before his promotion.
He gave the fans what they wanted right off the bat, collecting 2 hits — including a double — and an RBI in his Cubs debut at Wrigley Field against the Mets.
Rizzo hit his first Cubs homer a few days later, on June 30 against the Astros.
Opening Day HR (April 1)
Rizzo began his first full season with the Cubs in a big way, smacking a 1st-inning 2-run shot on Opening Day. The homer off A.J. Burnett sparked the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Pirates. Jeff Samardzija threw 8 shutout innings that day to get the win.
Taking on Reds dugout (July 10)
Long before Amir Garrett was even in the big leagues, the Cubs and Reds had their fair share of scuffles. One such incident came on July 10, 2014 when Aroldis Chapman buzzed a pair of fastballs up and in to Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz. Rizzo and John Baker had already been hit earlier in the game, so tensions were at a boiling point.
To start the next inning, Rizzo took his position at first base in the field but heard something from the Reds dugout a few feet away and took action. He tossed his glove and hat down and marched toward the dugout to take the entire Reds roster on by himself.
A benches-clearing incident ensued but no punches were thrown and nobody was ejected. It was a surefire leadership moment from Rizzo that will be etched in the minds of Cubs fans for generations.
NLDS Game 4 game-winning homer (Oct. 13)
Before 2016’s magical run, the Cubs formed their winning culture with a couple of postseason series victories over divisional opponents. After beating the Pirates in the NL Wild-Card Game, the Cubs went down 1-0 to the Cardinals in the NLDS.
But they rallied back to win the next two games. In the decisive Game 4, the two teams were tied up entering the bottom of the 6th inning when Rizzo stepped to the plate with 2 outs.
He hit a line drive home run to give his team a 5-4 lead it did not relinquish. The Cubs went on to win 6-4 and advanced to the NLCS.
Game 7 final out (Nov. 2)
What else could it possibly be? Rizzo was on the receiving end of Kris Bryant’s throw to retire Michael Martinez and give the Cubs the franchise’s first championship since 1908.
Rizzo also had impressive wherewithal in the epic moment to tuck the ball from the game-ending out into his back pocket before celebrating in the middle of the diamond.
‘Respect me’ Game 3 NLDS (Oct. 9)
Before the Cubs could advance to their third straight NLCS, they needed to get through the Nationals in the 2017 NLDS. It was a hard-fought series and Game 3 was no different.
Deadlocked in a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 8th inning, Rizzo came to the plate with 2 outs and a runner on second base. Right-hander Brandon Kintzler was on the mound for Washington and instead of pitching around Rizzo with first base open, they opted to go right after the 3-time All-Star.
He responded with a bloop single to shallow center field that drove home the game-winning run and set Wade Davis up for the save in the top of the 9th.
Walk-off HR vs. DBacks (July 26)
The Cubs entered the bottom of the 9th inning trailing 6-4 against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks. Ben Zobrist led off the frame with a walk and Javy Báez followed with a lineout.
David Bote came up and smacked a 2-run shot to tie the game. Rizzo followed 2 pitches later with a shot of his own to send Wrigley Field into euphoria and give the Cubs their 60th win of the 2018 season.
Playing on badly sprained ankle, homers in return (Sept. 19)
As the Cubs were in the midst of an intense pennant race, Rizzo stepped awkwardly on the infield grass trying to catch a popup against the Pirates one afternoon at Wrigley Field. That was on Sept. 15 and the initial diagnosis was a badly sprained ankle that could be a season-ending injury.
Rizzo was in a walking boot and actually used a scooter the first day after the injury because he couldn’t put any weight on the ankle.
As the Cardinals came into town for an all-important four-game series, a buzz started to circulate around Wrigley about 20 minutes before the first game was to begin. Rizzo — who couldn’t even walk earlier in the week — was in full uniform (cleats and all) in shallow left field, running and testing his injured ankle.
He was inserted into the lineup as the Cubs leadoff hitter and homered in his 2nd at-bat. It was a heroic and legendary return that continued throughout the week. He walked and singled the next night and then collected 5 hits over the final 2 games of the series.
Hand sanitizer gag (July 24)
Coming out of the pandemic-induced shutdown, the Cubs opened up the shortened 2020 season at Wrigley Field hosting the Brewers. Rizzo — always one who lets his sense of humor shine through — was ready for the moment.
When the first Brewers baserunner reached first base, Rizzo pulled out a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer and offered it up to Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia.
It was a great moment of levity in the midst of what turned out to be a great game for the Cubs as Kyle Hendricks shut out the Brewers.
14-pitch AB on Opening Day 2.0 (June 11)
As Wrigley Field opened back to 100% capacity for the first time since late 2019 (the same series Rizzo returned from his badly sprained ankle), the face of the franchise was once again a central part of the day’s action.
The Cubs fell behind 5-1 to the Cardinals early in the game but rallied to pull within a run. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Rizzo worked an incredible at-bat, fouling off pitch after pitch as the crowd rose in volume with each offering from St. Louis’ Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Finally, on the 14th pitch, Rizzo smacked a line drive into the Budweiser bleachers in right field for a game-tying homer that led to one of the loudest moments in recent Wrigley history. It also set some history as the longest at-bat to end in a homer since pitch counts started being tracked in 1988.