For better or for worse, the city of Chicago has always been blessed with star athletes. Whether it be the infectious personalities of Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, or the fierce competitiveness of Michael Jordan and Mike Ditka – this city has always been an illustration of the players that in turn represent it.
And for their services, their legacies will forever be cemented into this city’s history.
There are a total of forty jerseys retired and hanging in the proverbial “rafters” of Chicago’s four major sporting venues — 6 at Wrigley Field, 9 at U.S. Cellular Field, 11 in the United Center, and 14 hanging at Soldier Field.
The 14 numbers honored by the Bears are the most of any NFL team. And what’s even more impressive for the Windy City, the 40 combined retired jerseys puts Chicago third amongst all cities in the United States (behind only New York and Boston).
It’s a true honor to join the names I have already listed above. But who in the world of Chicago sports is on the cusp of immortality?
The Next Retired Jerseys In Chicago Sports
Paul Konerko #14, Chicago White Sox
It was actually during research for this piece that it was announced the White Sox will be honoring “Pauly” by retiring his jersey prior to a May tilt with the Minnesota Twins. I don’t know if any player in recent Chicago sports history more deserving than Konerko himself.
No. 14 embodied the meaning of a true professional, while being the driving force to the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1917. Konerko probably won’t crack the barrier into the MLB Hall of Fame, but he’s easily one of the most respected and beloved South Siders of all time.
Maybe not as much of an absolute as Konerko, but Mark Buehrle’s tenure with the White Sox was one that deserves historic recognition. Buehrle, like Konerko, was a prime example of just going out and doing your job when your number was called on.
His White Sox career consisted of 161 wins, four All Star game appearances, four Gold Glove awards, a World Series ring, a no hitter and a perfect game (the latter being one of the most incredible pitching performances in Chicago baseball history).
Buehrle’s accolades far exceed his true talent. However, it’s those accolades that can ultimately get his number flying from the foul pole.
The Chicago Bulls have more championships than they do retired jerseys.
That’s saying something. And for that, consider Rose possibly the longest shot of any current player to ultimately achieve immortality.
Rose is Chicago’s son. He’s the youngest player ever to win an MVP award at 22 years and six months of age. However, the past three years have been treacherous ones for Rose and the Bulls, and that has in many ways tarnished his reputation with the fans who once adored him.
But I still hold hope, as I say there must always be fire to create glass. If Rose can win a championship with the Bulls and continue to inch closer to the player he once was, you’ll see that No. 1 hanging in the rafters of the United Center some day.
After all, his presence has meant too much to this franchise for it not to.
At only 26 years old a piece, and four Stanley Cup championships between them, these two are on a trajectory so astronomically high that they are virtual locks to have their numbers retired by this point in their careers.
If you disagree with me, then I’m assuming someone took a steamy piss in your Cheerios this morning.
I mean, is it even fathomable that either of these two plays a single minute with another franchise any time within the next ten years? Hockey is the one sport where you see longevity within franchises, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane seem to fit that bill well.
Duncan Keith #2, Chicago Blackhawks
As for Duncan Keith, he actually boasts the more impressive resume to date. Attribute that to age as Keith is 31-years-old, but his credentials include being an eight-time all star, two-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defender, and a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
If he can win at least one more Cup he’s an absolute lock to join the ranks of Tony Esposito and Keith Magnuson.
Brian Urlacher #54, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears remain adamant that they are done retiring players numbers.
When you play a sport like football, where nearly every number from one to 100 is used, you have to be careful about how many you designate as untouchable.
With 14 retired so far in their storied history, they’re already running thin.
However, an exception needs to be made for No. 54 while we’re at it. And I think anyone would agree with me.
Urlacher’s track record speaks for itself with an extensive list of honors that spans from NFL Defensive Player of the Year to a four-time First Team NFL All-Pro.
But here is the curse of the Chicago Bears: where do you draw the line?
I mean, if you do the math, a 53-man roster plus 17 retired numbers (add Singletary, Hampton, and Dent while you’re at it) gives you 70 occupied numbers. That still does give you 29 numbers as wiggle room. I think if you’re the McCaskey’s, you just have to accept this “issue” not as an indictment to your process, but as an honor that you’ve been blessed with so many transcendental players.
Sammy Sosa #21, Chicago Cubs
Nobody on this list is more embattled, but I don’t care how you feel about Sammy Sosa (or the Chicago Cubs). Take a step back and try to fully understand what Sosa meant to the city of Chicago in the late-1990’s and early 2000’s.
Aside from Michael Jordan, no one was more recognizable and no one filled the stands more than Slammin’ Sammy. He’s the only player in MLB history to hit 60-plus home runs three different times in his career, and he boasts the 1998 NL MVP Award.
Keep Sammy out of the Hall of Fame, fine. But in the lexicon of Chicago sports, Sosa absolutely deserves to be honored amongst Wrigley’s greatest names.
Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen as long as his relationship with the franchise remains in limbo. Should that change, he has the best resume of anyone listed here.