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The 7: Chicago Cubs Retired Number Legends

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Chicago Cubs Retired Number Legends

The Chicago Cubs have a long and storied history that dates all the way back to 1876. In fact, with more than 21,100 games played, it the Cubs have played more contests than any other pro team in the history of baseball.

Nearly 2,000 players have donned the Cubs uniform throughout their history, but the team has retired only seven numbers — six players who played with the team, as well as Jackie Robinson’s No. 42, which is retired throughout Major League Baseball.

Nearly 2,000 players have donned the Cubs uniform throughout their history but the team has retired only seven numbers.

Here we take a look at all seven players whose numbers have been retired by the Cubs franchise, along with some notable facts and tidbits about each.

Ernie Banks, No. 14

He’s known as “Mr. Cub,” and there is no wonder why — Banks played more games with the Cubs than anyone else in baseball history. Alas, the Cubs weren’t particularly competitive during Banks’ years.

In fact, the team finished in second place just twice during his 19 years, the same number of times it lost 100 games or more in a season during that stretch. You would never know it from his disposition, however. Banks was known as one of the most enthusiastic and generally happy-go-lucky players ever to play, and his love for the game continued well after his playing career ended.

His best season came in 1959, when he led the National League with 143 RBIs while also belting 45 home runs en route to his second straight NL Most Valuable Player award. He remained a viable player deep into his career, including appearing in 153 games and making the All-Star Game in 1969.

As good of an ambassador for the game as there was during his playing days, Banks remained so when he retired. He eventually won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for his years of contribution to the sports industry. When he found out about the award, he told The Chicago Tribune, “This award means a lot to me. It’s almost like the Nobel Peace Prize to me.”

Barack Obama Quote

Following his death in 2015, then-President Barack Obama said, “As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV.”

Years With the Cubs

19 (1953-1971)

All-Star Appearances

14

Major Awards

Two-time National League Most Valuable Player (1958 and 1959); Gold Glove Award (1960); National League home run leader (1958, 1960); National League RBI leader (1958, 1959); Baseball Hall of Fame (1977).

Playoff Appearances

0

Year Number Retired

1982

Notable Stats/Records

Banks remains the Cubs’ leader in games played with 2,528, at-bats with 9,421, extra-base hits with 1,009 and total bases with 4,706. He batted .274 for his career with 512 home runs.

Cubs Highlights

Unfortunately for Banks, he also holds a somewhat dubious record — most Major League games played without a postseason appearance (2,528). He hit his 500th career homer on May 12, 1970, at Wrigley Field, at the time just the ninth player in history to reach that mark. Banks still holds the team records for at-bats, total bases, plate appearances, extra base hits, sacrifice flies and intentional walks.

It's a beautiful day for a ballgame...let's play two!

Quotable

“It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame … Let’s play two!”

Billy Williams, No. 26

If Ernie Banks was the Cubs’ star during the 1960s, Billy Williams wasn’t far behind. He was one of the most consistent players in baseball during his era, hitting at least 20 home runs each season from 1961 to 1973.

Williams had many strong seasons, but his best may have been in 1970, when he batted .322 with 42 home runs and 129 RBIs, both career bests. He also led the National League in hits, runs and total bases, and he finished second to Johnny Bench in MVP voting that season.

He had another standout season in 1972, batting an NL-best .333 to go along with 37 home runs and 122 RBIs. That season he led the NL in slugging percentage (.606) and total bases (348), and again finished second to Bench in MVP voting.

Williams played the final two seasons of his career with the Oakland A’s in 1957 and 1976, making the only postseason appearance of his career in 1975. Boston swept the A’s in the American League Championship Series, and Williams went hitless in seven at-bats, though he walked once.

Years With the Cubs

16 (1959-1974). Also two years with the Oakland A’s (1975-76).

All-Star Appearances

6

Major Awards

National League Rookie of the Year (1961); National League batting champion (1972); Baseball Hall of Fame (1987).

Playoff Appearances

1, though not with the Cubs

Year Number Retired

1987

Notable Stats/Records

Williams batted .290 during his career while amassing 2,711 hits and 426 home runs. He hit more than 100 RBIs three times in his career, peaking with 129 during the 1970 season.

Cubs Highlights

Like Banks, Williams was a part of the seemingly endless era during which the team didn’t make the postseason. Individually, his best years with the team came in 1970, when he led the league with 205 hits and 137 runs scored, and 1972, when he led the league in batting with a .333 average. He finished second in NL MVP voting in each of those two seasons.

I hope they do it in my lifetime.

Quotable

“There’s a favorite saying in Chicago,’’ Williams told USA Today after the Cubs clinched a berth in the 2016 World Series, “‘I hope they do it in my lifetime.’ So everybody who’s living today got to witness this.”

Ron Santo, No. 10

One of the best third basemen in the history of the game, Ron Santo was known as a top defensive player in his day. He won five consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1964 to 1968, and his career fielding percentage was a sterling .954.

Santo’s defensive prowess often overshadowed his offensive ability. He was a particularly patient hitter, leading the National League in walks four times (1964, 1966-1968), as well as on-base percentage twice (1964 and 1966). He could also stretch the bases, hitting 67 triples during his career, including an NL-leading 13 in 1964.

He played with Banks and Williams for a number of years, and the three were all major factors during the Cubs’ very strong 1969 season, in which they finished with an impressive 92-70 record. However, that was still eight games behind the New York Mets, who won 100 games during their magical World Series championship season.

Santo played all but one of his 15 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Cubs. In his final season, he played for the crosstown rival White Sox, batting just .221 for a fourth-place team.

After his playing career, Santo became known to younger fans as one of the voices of the Cubs on WGN radio. He joined the team’s broadcasts in 1990 and continued with WGN until he died in 2010.

Years With the Cubs

14 (1960-1973). Also one year with the Chicago White Sox (1974).

All-Star Appearances

9

Major Awards

Five-time Gold Glove Award winner (1964-1968); Baseball Hall of Fame (2012).

Playoff Appearances

0

Year Number Retired

2003

Notable Stats/Records

Santo played 2,102 National League games at third base, just 52 behind Eddie Mathews’ league record. He batted .277 in his career with more than 2,200 hits and 342 home runs.

Cubs Highlights

Just like the aforementioned Banks and Williams, the Cubs teams of Santo’s era never made a postseason appearance. He played 2,243 games, fifth-most all-time without making it to the postseason.

Quotable

“I’m a Cubbie. I’ll always be a Cubbie.”

Ryne Sandberg, No. 23

At his peak, Ryne Sandberg was the true definition of a two-way infielder, combining Gold-Glove talents at second base with an offensive game that included timely hitting and strong base running. Still, if you had to pick a strength, defense would be it. He won nine straight Gold Glove Awards during his career from 1983 to 1991.

In 1984, Sandberg jumped into the national spotlight thanks to his performance in a game versus the rival St. Louis Cardinals that was televised nationally on NBC. In what many Cubs fans refer to as “The Sandberg Game,” the second baseman tied the game at 9-9 with a solo home run in the ninth inning off ace reliever Bruce Sutter. He tied it again in the 10th inning with a two-run shot, also off Sutter, before the Cubs went on to win in the 11th.

Sandberg ended up winning National League MVP honors that season, helping the team to the NLCS. He led the NL in both triples (19) and runs (114) that year.

Known as “Ryno,” Sandberg had a rare combination of power and speed throughout his career. In fact, only Barry Bonds, Brady Anderson and Sandberg have had both 40-home run and 50-steal seasons in their careers.

Since he retired, Sandberg has stayed involved with baseball, including a stint as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies from 2013 to 2015.

Years With the Cubs

16 (1981-1994; 1996-1997)

All-Star Appearances

10

Major Awards

National League Most Valuable Player (1984); nine-time Gold Glove Award winner (1983-1991); seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner (1984-1985, 1988-1992); National League home run leader (1990); Baseball Hall of Fame (2005).

Playoff Appearances

2

Year Number Retired

2005

Notable Stats/Records

Sandberg led the National League in home runs in 1990 with 42. At the time, he was only the third second baseman to hit 40 or more home runs in a season. No American League second baseman accomplished this feat until the Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier in 2016.

Cubs Highlights

Sandberg’s best chance at a World Series appearance came in the 1984 season. The Cubs won the National League East Division that season with a 96-65 record and faced the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series. The Cubs jumped to a 2-0 series lead, including a 13-0 drubbing in Game 1. The Padres would win three straight, however, to clinch a berth in the World Series, where they lost to the Detroit Tigers.

Ryne Sandberg Quote

Quotable

“Hit a home run — put your head down, drop the bat, run around the bases, because the name on the front is more — a lot more important than the name on the back.”

Ferguson Jenkins, No. 31

Better known as “Fergie,” Jenkins was the Cubs’ best pitcher from 1967 to 1973. During that stretch, he led the National League in complete games three times and allowed the fewest home runs among pitchers five times.

Jenkins won the National League Cy Young Award in 1971, posting a 24-13 record while leading the league with 30 complete games. He also led the NL in innings pitched (325) and batters faced (1,299) while generating a 2.77 ERA.

During his long and distinguished career, Jenkins posted a 3.34 ERA with 284 career wins and 49 complete game shutouts. He also struck out an impressive 3,192 batters.

During the final season of his first stint with the Cubs in 1973, Jenkins went through a lull. He wasn’t as in love with baseball as he had been previously, and it showed with a 14-16 record.

The Cubs promptly traded Jenkins to the Texas Rangers before the 1974 season, where the pitcher got up to his old tricks. He won a league-leading 25 games that season, a Rangers record that still stands. He also won the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award, and he was second in Cy Young voting behind Catfish Hunter.

After seven more seasons in the American League with both Texas and Boston, Jenkins returned to the Cubs for his final two seasons in 1982 and 1983.

Years With the Cubs

10 (1966-73, 1982-1983). Also six seasons with the Texas Rangers (1974-1975, 1978-1981), two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1965-1966) and two seasons with the Boston Red Sox (1976-1977).

All-Star Appearances

3

Major Awards

National League Cy Young Award (1971); two-time wins leader (1971, 1974); National League strikeout leader (1969).

Playoff Appearances

0

Year Number Retired

2009

Notable Stats/Records

Jenkins pitched seven separate 20-win seasons during his career, leading the National League with 24 wins in 1971. He also led the American League in wins with 25 while with the Texas Rangers.

Cubs Highlights:

Jenkins was a part of the Banks-Williams-Santo era and likewise never made a postseason appearance. In fact, his 594 career games started are the most ever by a pitcher who failed to make the playoffs.

Quotable

“Mental attitude and concentration are the keys to pitching.”

Greg Maddux, No. 31

In a sort of two-for-one deal, Greg Maddux and Jenkins both had No. 31 retired by the Cubs in 2009. Maddux is one of the most-decorated pitchers in baseball history, spending a total of 10 years with the Cubs across two separate stints.

Maddux is one of the most-decorated pitchers in baseball history.

In 1992, the final season of his first run in Chicago, Maddux won the National League Cy Young Award thanks to a 20-11 record and an extremely low 2.18 ERA. After that season, Maddux became a free agent, and with the Cubs looking in another direction, he signed with the Atlanta Braves.

That’s a move the Cubs no doubt regretted. During the next 11 seasons with the Braves, Maddux would go on to win three more Cy Young Awards while posting the league’s lowest ERA four times. He also made six All-Star appearances and won 10 Gold Gloves.

The pitcher returned to the Cubs for the 2004 season and won two more Gold Gloves before being traded to the Dodgers midway through the 2006 season.

During his career, Maddux won 355 games while posting a 3.16 ERA, striking out 3,371 batters. He holds the Major League record for finishing among the top 10 in wins, doing so 18 times.

Years With the Cubs

10 (1986-1992, 2004-2005, 2006). Also, 11 seasons with the Atlanta Braves (1993-2003), two seasons with the San Diego Padres (2007-2008) and two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2006, 2008).

All-Star Appearances

8

Major Awards

Four-time National League Cy Young Award winner (1992-1995); 18-time Gold Glove Award winner (1990-2002, 2004-2008); three-time MLB wins leader (1992, 1994, 1995); four-time MLB ERA leader (1993-1995, 1998) Baseball Hall of Fame (2014).

Playoff Appearances

1 with the Cubs (1989). Also 10 with the Atlanta Braves (1995 World Series champion) and two with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

Year Number Retired

2009

Notable Stats/Records

Maddux is a true legend, the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win at least 15 games for 17 seasons in a row. He also has the record for most Gold Glove Awards, winning 18.

Maddux is a true legend.

Cubs Highlights

The pitcher won his first Cy Young Award while with the Cubs during the 1992 season. He also won five Gold Glove Awards during his two stints with the Cubs, and he made two All-Star appearances.

Quotable

“The reasons I think I’m a good pitcher is I locate my fastball and I change speeds. Period. That’s what you do to pitch. That’s what pitchers have to do to win games.”

Jackie Robinson, #42

Any baseball fan knows Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball’s color barrier while playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired his uniform number, 42, across all teams, including the Cubs. This unprecedented tribute was certainly fitting for the man who opened the door for so many players after him.Jackie Robinson's uniform number, 42, was retired across all teams.

Robinson spent his entire Major League career with the Dodgers, facing the Cubs 195 times. During his career Robinson batted .294 against the Cubs, his third-lowest average against any team behind the Milwaukee Braves (.277) and Philadelphia Phillies (.287).

The legend also played 93 games at Wrigley Field, where he batted .295 during his career. There were only three other stadiums where Robinson had a lower batting average, and two were in Milwaukee, Braves Field (.284) and County Stadium (.248). The other was Roosevelt Stadium in New Jersey, where the Dodgers played 15 games in 1956 and 1957. Robinson batted .294 in six games there.

Old Wrigley Field was known as a hitter’s park, and Robinson certainly obliged. He hit seven triples during his career at Wrigley, the most of any away stadium during his career. That said, Robinson did hit just five home runs in his 93 games at Wrigley.

Years With the Cubs

  1. Robinson played with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956.

All-Star Appearances

6

Major Awards

National League Most Valuable Player (1949); Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year (1949); National League batting champion (1949); two-time National League stolen base leader (1947 and 1949); Baseball Hall of Fame (1962).

Playoff Appearances

6 (World Series champion in 1955).

Year Number Retired

1997

Notable Stats/Records

In his MVP season in 1949, Robinson had an outstanding campaign by even today’s standards, batting .342 with 16 home runs, 124 RBIs and a league-leading 37 stolen bases. Robinson had 197 stolen bases during his 10-year career, and he was caught just 30 times.

Quotable

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.

The Future and Beyond for Cubs Fans

Who do you think will be the next player immortalized in Cubs history with a retired number? Which players deserve it most? Who are your favorites?