Shady Acres: Wrigley’s Rundown Retirement Village

This is just a quick note on the whole Dawson number retiring blah blah blahness.

The way the Cubs retire numbers is really odd. Ernie Banks entered the HOF in ’77, but they didn’t retire his number until ’82 (the year after the Trib bought the team). At that point, it was pretty clear they didn’t take the ceremony very seriously. Not because Banks didn’t deserve it, but because it made it look like he was the first player worth recognizing after 100 years of Cubs baseball.

They didn’t go back and honor Gabby Hartnett or Hack Wilson, the only two primarily Cub HOF’ers who actually had jersey numbers—though Hack was lucky to get in via the Veterans Committee and Hartnett didn’t have enough clout on his own team to keep his jersey number (he had three). My point is, the recognition wasn’t based on entry into the Hall of Fame. They just singled out Banks as Mr. Cub. Okay.

Then in 1987 when Billy Williams was inducted, they retired his number almost immediately. That made it look like HOF entry was the main criteria. Gotcha.

Four years later, Jenkins got in. Nothing. They waited another twelve years . . . and retired Santo’s number. This signaled a change in policy: the Cubs would now retire jersey numbers based on the likelihood the player would die. Fair enough.

Meanwhile, the Cubs honored Fergie’s HOF entry by letting Maddux take #31 to the Braves. Then they let Kevin Foster, Bobby Ayala, Brad Woodall, Mike Fyhrie, Donovan Osborne, and Mark Guthrie all don the should-be-retired digits. Oh, and then Maddux brought it back in style from ’04 to ’06.

But when Maddux retired, the Cubs retired his number in a joint ceremony with Fergie. I loved both pitchers, but it just didn’t make much sense to wait this long after Jenkins entered the Hall or to act this immediately after Maddux left the game. Is the number retired upon Hall entry, upon the player’s retirement, or just whenever the crap the Cubs feel like it?

Now, apparently it’s just contingent on the hat Hawk will be wearing. Thus far, the criteria for jersey retirement are as inconsistent as Rich Hill. The best thing for the Cubs to do is completely reform the process. Andre’s number is the least of their worries.

One thought: completely renovate the outfield wall. Figure out a system to plant ivy over padded wall sections surrounding the wall. Cut out sections in some panels that display the outfield distances and some that display retired player names and/or uniform numbers that are more representative of the Cub greats throughout history. The wall would look just as magical and ivy covered, but you’d have more flexibility to recognize the greats, advertise in a few more spots, and not kill people who run into the wall. Just a thought.

2 Replies to “Shady Acres: Wrigley’s Rundown Retirement Village”

  1. Even if the HOF goes with the Expos hat, they should retire Andre's number. What team he goes in with isn't entirely his choice, he gets a say, but oltimately it is the HOF's choice.

    The day Andre said to fill in the contract with whatever amount so he could play in Wrigley, he proved he was a Cub. Then after winning MVP and having three 100 RBI seasons, it is only right to retire #8

  2. I think you could go either way. Some people think it's a no brainer to retire his number, and others think it's ridiculous to suggest it. I just think that the team's history of retiring numbers has been pretty haphazard. If they hesitated on Fergie Jenkins, I don't see how the decision on Andre is automatic. I think it would be a good move to revisit the whole process and find a way of honoring all the greatest Cubs, especially the ones who played before 1960.

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