Riggs Stephenson

Riggs StephensonRiggs Stephenson

Riggs Stephenson
Born:  January 5, 1898
Died: November 15, 1985

  • Played with the Cubs from 1926 to 1934
  • Played left field, second base, and third base
  • Batted over .300 for the Cubs from 1926 to 1933
  • Led National League in doubles in 1927 with 46
  • Played in 2 World Series for the Cubs (1929, 1932) batting .378 with 7 RBI and 2 doubles in these 2 Series that the Cubs lost.

The modern day comparable player, at least by the statistics, seems to be Mark Grace.  A doubles hitter who didn't hit a lot of home runs, but batted well enough to drive in a lot of runs for a hitter without much power (Stephenson drove in a career high 110 runs with just 17 home runs in 1929

Mark Grace's RBI career high was 98 with just 14 home runs in 1993.

Yesterday's Cubs, Today's Metrics

One of my favorite things about digging into Cubs history is learning more about relatively unknown Cubs in past history that do not get the recognition that they deserve.  Riggs Stephenson is certainly one of those Cubs players.

First, Stephenson's low profile in Cubs history is certainly due, in part, to the era he played in.  His Cubs career was from 1926 to 1934.  This era is actually a rather under appreciated timeframe in Cubs history.  The Cubs had some great teams that went to the World Series often (1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 & 1945) but none of these teams won a World Series.  Even the Cubs outfielders he played with include Hall of Famer's Hack Wilson & Kiki Cuyler.

How does Riggs Stephenson compare to other 

great Cubs Outfielders in team history?

Riggs Stephenson played 9 years with the Cubs, played in 978 games with a career WAR (as a Cub) of 25.5.  This WAR figure is better than 2 Cubs who won MVP as OF'ers for the Cubs (Hank Sauer & Andre Dawson).   Stephenson did play over a hundred more games than both of these guys, but the difference in WAR (Stephenson,  25.5, Sauer, 18.5 & Dawson at 17.2) is significant enough that even if both Cubs had played as many games as Stephenson, they probably wouldn't have matched Stephenson's WAR figure.  

A better comparison of a hitter's overall value compared to other players of their respective era is WRC+ A WRC+ of 100 means a player is an average MLB hitter for their time period.  Stephenson's WRC+ of 133 is comparable to HOF'er Billy Williams (134) and all-time Cubs HR leader Sammy Sosa (134).  

Stephenson's .336 career batting average as a Cub is tied for 1st with Bill Madlock (after 2017 season).

  • Stephenson's 5.3 WAR in 1927 is tied with Sammy Sosa in 1999 for 32nd best for an OF in Cubs history (after 2017 season)
  • Stephenson's 5.1 WAR in 1929 is tied with 3 Cubs (1936-Frank Demaree, 2002-Sammy Sosa, 1970-Jim Hickman) for 37th in Cubs history (after 2017 season)

How did Riggs Stephenson compare to other OF in MLB history?

I went to Fangraphs hitting leaders stats and reviewed the statistics for all MLB outfielders from 1926 to 1934 (Riggs Stephenson career with the Cubs) to compare Stephenson to players in his own era. 

Stephenson was 17th in total WAR (25.5) and his WRC+ was 13th (133).  Some of the names of players that ranked higher than Stephenson were Cubs outfielders (and Hall of Famers) Hack Wilson & Kiki Cuyler. Other non-Cubs were Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, Al Simmons & Paul Waner.  Riggs Stephenson may be one of the best Cubs players ever to not be elected to the Hall of Fame.  

Riggs Stephenson-This Day in Chicago Cubs History

May 10, 1927
At the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, the Cubs defeat the Phillies 6-3.  Riggs Stephenson goes 2 for 4 with a home run and 4 RBI.  His 8th inning 3-run homer breaks a 3-3 tie to give the Cubs the win. 

September 24, 1927
At Wrigley Field, the Cubs defeat the Phillies 10-2.  Riggs Stephenson
goes 2 for 2 with a walk, a triple, home run and 5 RBI.


May 7, 1928
At Wrigley Field, the Cubs defeat the Phillies 7-4.  Riggs Stephenson goes 2 for 3 with 2 walks, a home run and 4 RBI. 

July 3, 1928
At Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, the Cubs defeat the Cardinals 13-6. Riggs Stephenson goes 2 for 5 with a grand slam.  

July 4, 1928
In the 2nd game of a doubleheader, Cubs defeat the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Riggs Stephenson goes 5 for 6 with a double, home run, 3 runs scored and
3 RBI. 

July 21, 1928
Cubs get 2 walk-off victories in a doubleheader sweep over the Giants at Wrigley Field. 

Riggs Stephenson's RBI single is the walk-off hit in the first game and Gabby Hartnett's RBI triple is the walk-off winner to sweep the doubleheader. 


July 1, 1929

Cubs and Cardinals tie 11-11 in a day game at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis that lasts only 6 innings.  Riggs Stephenson goes 3 for 4 with a grand slam in the first inning and a 3-run home run in the 6th inning for 7 RBI.  He scored 3 runs. 


June 4, 1930

At Braves Field in Boston, the Cubs thump the Braves 18-10.  Riggs Stephenson goes 5 for 6 with 2 doubles, 4 runs scored and 4 RBI.  Kiki Cuyler goes 5 for 5 with a double, home run, 4 runs scored and 4 RBI. 


August 6, 1932

Cubs sweep the Phillies in a doubleheader in Philadelphia.  Riggs Stephenson and Billy Herman both have 7 hits on the day. 

In the 2nd game, Stephenson's 10th inning RBI single gives the Cubs a 9-8 lead in a 10-8 Cubs victory. 


Photo from Library of Congress.  Riggs Stephenson, Hack Wilson and Earl Webb pictured (right to left).

Riggs Stephenson Wikipedia Page
Riggs Stephenson Baseball Reference Page

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