15 Days to Opening Day and the number 15 does not have a long history with a single player, but a short season with two players Chicago Cubs fans adored – Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez.
While Santo is synonymous with No. 10 and Ramirez with No. 16 they both wore No. 15 for one season, Santo in 1960 and Ramirez in 2003.
Ramirez came to the Cubs in 2003 from the Pittsburgh Pirates along with outfielder Kenny Lofton. He drove in at least 90 runs in six consecutive seasons – five-plus from 2003 to 2008 – and put up home run totals of 27, 36, 31, 38, 26 and 27 in those seasons. With those numbers strikeouts normally pile up, but they never did as he never struck out more than 68 times from 2003 to 2007.
For every true star of your franchise, there is a moment when they just kind of have their moment of recognition. The way Andre Dawson did in 1987 when he hit a late-April grand slam in St. Louis to beat the Cardinals and we all knew, it was on. That moment came for Ramirez in Miami in October of 2003.
In Game 4 of the 2003 NLCS, Ramirez shined with a grand slam that rung off the left field foul pole to put the Cubs up 4-0 on the then Florida Marlins. Matt Clement was able to hold off the Marlins and Ramirez’s grand slam marked the first of many clutch hits during his Cub tenure.
Late June 2007, the Cubs were about a month removed from one of their worst stretches in recent memory and the season was starting to get away. The surging Milwaukee Brewers were flying high in the NL Central, when the Cubs started to figure things out midway through the month. Milwaukee came to Wrigley Field with the division lead, but it was apparent the title was up for grabs. That’s when Ramirez reached out and grabbed it for the Cubs.
Len Kasper’s call was almost a matter-of-fact, “They won it!” that day and they won it on a walk-off home run off the bat of their most clutch hitter, Ramirez. It’s safe to say Ramirez was the cornerstone for three division titles in Chicago.
Ramirez wore No. 16 nearly his entire Cub career. But, like Santo, he wore No. 15 for one year – his first year.
There is a possibility we are presently in the midst for that same search at the position – except in the early years looking for the next Aramis Ramirez.