Chicago Cubs: Why haven’t they honored players from older eras?
The Chicago Cubs have honored six players by retiring their numbers. All of them came after WWII. There are also older players worth considering.
In general, I’m not a big fan of retiring numbers. Particularly for teams like the New York Yankees, who have retired so many of them, it seems like teams should be concerned about someday running out of numbers for players to wear. Still, it’s the way that teams have decided to honor past players who have a significant place in team history.
The Chicago Cubs have retired five numbers: Ernie Banks (#14), Billy Williams (#26), Ron Santo (#10), Ryne Sandberg (#23) and Fergie Jenkins/Greg Maddux (#31). (All teams have also retired #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.) These six former Cubs all have one thing in common: They all played after World War II. So, with the rich history of the Cubs, much of it taking place in MLB’s early days, why hasn’t the team honored its early players in this way?
Here are a few of the players from early in Cubs history that are worth considering. (I know that players didn’t use to wear numbers back in the early days, but the team could still honor past players as the Detroit Tigers have with Ty Cobb.)
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Cap Anson (no number): The team’s all-time leader in WAR, by a wide margin. He played for the Cubs for 22 years (1876-1897) and collected 3,012 hits and 1,880 RBIs, also both team records. He’s also the winningest manager in team history.
Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance(no number): All are in the Hall of Fame, despite numbers that by today’s standards don’t warrant it, yet they were the heart of perhaps the best Cubs dynasty of all-time. All managed the Cubs at some point; Chance is the only other manager besides Joe Maddon to win the World Series with the team.
Gabby Hartnett (#2, #7, & #9): Nineteen years with the Cubs (1922-1940). Six-time All-Star and MVP in 1935. Elected to the Hall of Fame. Which number would they retire?
Mordecai Brown (no number): Pitched for the Cubs from 1904 to 1912 and again in 1916. Second in team history in wins (188) and ERA (1.80). Between 1906 and 1910, he won 127 games with a 1.42 ERA. Also a key member of the dynasty of the 1900s.
Charlie Root (#12, #14, #17, & #19): Pitched for the Cubs from 1926 to 1941. He’s the team’s all-time leader in wins with 201. Again, which number would the team retire?
I’m not necessarily endorsing that we retire all these numbers, but these are some of the top ones worth considering. I also know that a ceremony honoring these players probably wouldn’t generate much interest among fans. And of course, they’ve all passed on and wouldn’t be here to enjoy it. Still, if the Cubs are going to honor their history from Banks on, they should do it from before. It seems strange that they haven’t.