The Cubs head into the Bronx this weekend to face off against their old friend Anthony Rizzo and the Yankees.
Last September, Kris Bryant made his return to Wrigley Field as a member of the Giants. Neither Rizzo or Javier Báez will make a trip to the North Side this season, but this will be the first time the Yankees first baseman will go up against Cubs pitching since September 28, 2011 when he was a rookie with the Padres. Rizzo went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout on a day Ryan Dempster, Ramon Ortiz, Andrew Cashner, and James Russell pitched in the Padres’ 9-2 victory.
The rest is history.
Theo Epstein was hired early that offseason and the plan to build to a Cubs World Series title had begun under a new regime. Here are my top five moments from Anthony Rizzo’s Cubs career:
The Final Out
Nothing will be more iconic in modern day Cubs history than the final out made by Rizzo and Bryant in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Rizzo makes the catch and his arms go up in celebration. The moment was so special to Cubs fans that it might be crafted into a statue outside Wrigley Field one day. Rizzo was arguably the most beloved Cub during what many call the Golden Era of Cubs baseball. After being the first piece to the rebuild to get to the majors, which included playing in three consecutive losing seasons, the Cubs could not have ended the 108 year drought in a more storybook way.
The tarp catch
Rizzo was notoriously known for his elite defense in the prime of his career with the Cubs. The four-time Gold Glove winner made a ridiculous catch in August 2015 that Cubs fans still talk about to this day. The Cubs were hosting Milwaukee when Ryan Braun hit a foul pop up to the first-base side. As the ball made its way foul and closer to the stands, Rizzo jumped atop the Reynolds Wrap-branded rolled tarp and made a miraculous catch while falling into the stands. The catch was one of the many memorable highlights from the magical 2015 season where the Cubs won 97 games in a season they were expected to maybe win 80.
The Cubs eventually had a promotional Rizzo tarp catch bobblehead giveaway in May 2016. That season, Rizzo made a similar catch against the Brewers, once again by the tarp, but this time stepped up on the ledge and caught the baseball while landing just in front of the tarp.
Opening Day 2.0
Last season, the Cubs announced June 11, 2021, would be “Opening Day 2.0,” when Chicago lessened COVID-19 restrictions. It was the first home game where 100% full capacity was welcomed to Wrigley Field.
The Cubs trailed 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Cardinals. Rizzo came to the plate with one out and the bases empty, but a very long battle was coming. Daniel Ponce de Leon was pitching for the Cardinals, and on a 2-2 count — coming on the 14th pitch of the at-bat — Rizzo shot a laser into the right-field basket to tie the game.
The Cubs went on to win the ballgame on a special day that celebrated some new found normalcy after many games with empty ballparks.
Rizzo walks it off against the Diamondbacks
On July 26, 2018, the Cubs were on the verge of losing a home series against a Diamondbacks team that was 56-48 at the time.
The Cubs had already dropped two of the four-game set, but David Bote and Rizzo salvaged the series when the Cubs needed it while in the middle of a division race with the Brewers. The Cubs trailed 6-4 entering the ninth inning, but Bote hit a two-run homer to tie the ballgame in part of his magical season following his call up from the minor leagues. Rizzo was the next batter and he did not waste his chance to end it.
Rizzo strikes out Freddie Freeman
Blowout losses are never fun to watch or be a part of, but in an early season game in Atlanta last year, Rizzo showed fans why baseball is fun, even in moments that might not be so exciting.
The Cubs were getting steamrolled by the Braves, 10-0, on April 28, 2021. So, to help preserve the Cubs bullpen, David Ross let Rizzo pitch in the seventh inning. Not only did Rizzo get two outs, but he got All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman swinging on a curveball. It’s surely a moment Cubs fans and Rizzo will never forget.
There are many more memorable moments of Rizzo’s career in Chicago. He helped bring the coveted World Series championship back to the North Side and was essential off the field to many in the community. Cubs fans will try their best to remember the good times while in New York this weekend, but it certainly won’t be easy while he shows off his Yankee pinstripes.