17 Days to Opening Day and a peek at No. 17 nets reminds Chicago Cubs fans how good the Cubs looked at first base in the 1990’s When one of the best hitters came to Wrigley Field in 1988 he was greeted by a guy who was ready to lead the Cubs to a division title less than a year later.
Mark Grace made his debut with the Cubs in May of 1988 and wore No. 17 well for the next 11 years. Before we get to Mark Grace we have to talk about ‘Popeye’, Don Zimmer.
Zimmer managed the Cubs to a National League East division title in 1989 and already had the team on the right track in 1988, even though the team finished under .500. ‘Zim’ also wore No. 17 during his playing days at Wrigley 28 years prior. 1960 and 1961 were the only seasons Zim spent playing for the Cubs, they may have been his best as a player. The only All-Star bid Zim got was in 1961 as a Cub, when he hit .252 and had a .291 OBPS with 40 RBIs.
When Cubs fans look at players who have wore No. 17 they look at one of the most beloved Cubs of all-time, Grace or “Gracie” has he is affectionately called. Grace hit 1,854 hits from 1990 to 1999 to lead the majors and earn three All-Star bids in 1993, ’95, and ’97. In 13 seasons with Chicago he hit over .300 nine times and the lowest being .273.
Gracie endeared himself to Cub fans all over the country watching on WGN with his attitude, love for the game and a bat that made you wonder, “How does he do that?!” It did not hurt him that he was a blond-haired, blue-eyed guy with a fantastic air about him. Chicks dig dudes like Gracie.
Once Grace had moved on to the Diamondbacks in 2001, there were suddenly Arizona fans popping up all over Cub Nation. He had an amazing career with the Cubs, but winning the World Series with the D-Backs in 2001 (while getting the Game Seven, ninth inning lead-off hit off Mariano Rivera) will always be his greatest baseball moment.
His best baseball moment took place in the World Series, so by proxy we know it did not take place with the Cubs. That’s OK with us – we were just happy to see him get to play in one, and then win one.