As you may have read here on this very website, the Cubs are actually… wait, let me check my advanced statistical modeling… “good” this year.
So yes, you should go to Wrigley Field and support the team. And to really show your fandom, you should wear a Cubs jersey. But there’s an issue here, and it’s a doozy: Which player should you honor on the back?
Because if you’re going to wear an official Cubs jersey, you need to have a player’s name on it. (You know not to wear your own name—or worse, do this, right? OK, good. Just checking.)
Picking the right player is a complicated decision, but never fear: Our handy guide will teach you which jersey will get you everything from knowing nods to joyful high-fives.
The most tempting option is to go with one of the Cubs’ better players and call it a day. But how simple is it to order “Bryant 17,” “Rizzo 44,” or “Dawson 8” and be just another one of the masses rooting for the North Siders?
That’s the thing—it’s too easy. It’s like coming to Chicago and only eating deep-dish pizza and shopping on Michigan Avenue. It’s like going to Paris and Instagramming a picture of yourself wearing a beret in front of the Eiffel Tower. It’s like… well, you get the idea. It’s not the worst sin in the world, but you can do better.
Thankfully, though, there is a way to show your affinity for the team AND one of the stars…
The One-Degree Twist
No offense, but getting a Rizzo jersey is kinda uninspired. (Unless you seriously love the guy, then knock yourself out.) But if you know his history, you’ll know that he was drafted by Theo and Jed for the Boston Red Sox, then traded to the San Diego Padres (who then sent him to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner). So what if you got a Padres Rizzo jersey? Hmmmmmmm? Some other options:
- Jake Arrieta, #34, 38, 57* (Baltimore Orioles)
- Jon Lester: #62 (Boston Red Sox), 31 (Red Sox and Oakland A’s)
- Dexter Fowler: #14, 24, 63 (Colorado Rockies), 21 (Houston Astros)
They’re not Cubs’ jerseys, and yet they are. Plus, they show off your baseball acumen. Win/win.
The One-Cool-Play Guy
They may not have been stars, but they made one awesome play that cemented them as Cubs immortals.
- Glenallen Hill, #6 (Cubs 1993–94, 2000): Maybe you remember him for his absurdly massive, Popeye-esque (and, it turns out, artificially augmented) forearms. Or maybe you remember that, early in his career, Hill went on the DL because he had a nightmare about spiders and went crashing through a glass table, suffering cuts and bruises. Forget all of that—holy crap, did you see this home run he hit in 2000? Jeeeeeezus. (Even more amazing: the astonishing nerdiness of Chip Caray on the call, but at least his Mars Blackmon reference was only 14 years old.)
- Mick Kelleher, #20 (Cubs 1976–80): The diminutive Kelleher played in the majors for 10 years and never hit a home run. Think Ryan Theriot with less pop. But on August 7, 1977, complete dick Dave Kingman (more on him in a moment) slid hard into the Lilliputian Kelleher at second to try to break up a double play. After the dust settled, the 6-foot-6 Kingman dusted himself off and headed to the dugout. But the wee Kelleher was having none of that. The pint-sized infielder jumped on Kingman’s back—he looked like a friggin’ backpack—and pulled him to the ground. According to one site, “Kelleher beat the snot out of Kingman.” For that, he deserves a jersey.
- Michael Barrett, #5, 8 (Cubs 2004–07): He did this to A.J. Pierzynski. Forget a jersey—he deserves a bust in Cooperstown.
- Dave Owen, #19 (Cubs 1983–85): If you ever think of Dave Owen (and you don’t), you probably remember him as 13-year major leaguer Spike Owen’s brother. But did you know he drove in the winning run in “The Ryne Sandberg Game“?Indeed, he did.
We’re Only Human
Pay homage to the human form as well as former Cubs by sporting one of these jerseys:
- Bill Hands, #49 (Cubs 1966–72) The guy had the nickname “Froggy” and came within an out of a no-hitter against the Expos in 1972. And his last name is “Hands.”
- Barry Foote, #8 (Cubs 1979–81) Foote hit 16 dingers for the Cubs in ’79—hey, that qualified as a good year for the Cubs back then. Word was he refused to toe the line and was a real heel, though. #Boomroasted
- Pete LaCock, #23–25 (Cubs 1972–76) (Sorry to work it blue, but come on—it was just sitting there.) Also, the dude played for the Cubs for five seasons and had three different numbers. Also, his dad—who was smart enough to change his name—was Peter Marshall, the host of The Hollywood Squares. Also, LaCock hit a grand slam off Bob Gibson!
Time to Troll
Baseball is supposed to be fun, so why not rile up your fellow fans with some legendarily hated Cubs?
- Sammy Sosa, #21 (Cubs 1992–2004): Cubs fans turned on Sosa faster than a Cardinals fan clicks on a Groupon for 2-for-1 Zubaz. For eight seasons, Sosa was a batter’s box-hopping, home run-bashing, deltoid muscle–bulging slugger. Then something happened (he played his music too loud? He got busted for a corked bat? He left a game early? Eh, maybe it was something else.) and everyone hated him. But we’re a compassionate lot—at some point, Cubs fans (and Tom Ricketts) will forgive him—many already have—and welcome Sosa back with open arms. There will be handshakes, a suitable amount of contrition, and a ceremony at home plate. So why not be ahead of the curve?
- Leon Durham, #10 (Cubs 1991–98): Durham had a perfectly respectable career with the Cubs—in the fabled season of 1984, he hit 23 homers and drove in 94 runs. But he’ll forever be known as the guy who let the grounder go through his legs in Game Five of the ’84 NLCS, dooming the Cubs to a 6-3 loss and breaking millions of hearts. The worst part: it all might have happened because of some spilled Gatorade. God has funny plans for the Cubs, doesn’t she?
- Todd Hundley, #9, 99 (Cubs 2001–02): The son of former Cub star Randy Hundley, Todd signed a massive contract to come to the North Side in 2000. The following season, he proceeded to hit .187 and strike out approximately 97.4 percent of his at-bats. He also flipped off the home crowd during a home-run trot. That’s why we didn’t like him.
- Dave Kingman, #10 (Cubs 1978–80): No one liked this guy—not only because he once sent a live rat in a box to a female sportswriter, but because he was simply a jerk. He was the first player in baseball history to hit 400 homers and not make the Hall of Fame—indeed, he fell off the ballot after only one appearance. But hey, he hit 94 homers in three seasons on the North Side and was an All-Star for two of them, so…¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Alex Gonzalez, #8 (Cubs 2002–04): Too soon?
- Milton Bradley, #21 (Cubs 2009): GM Jim Hendry brought Bradley here to…. no, forget it. We can’t even joke. Eff that guy, don’t waste money on that jersey.
Oh, So Close…
Hardcore Cubs fans can probably recite the entire 1984 lineup: Bob Dernier, Ryne Sandberg (together they comprised “the daily double”), Gary “Sarge” Matthews, and so on. But as Cubs teams are wont to do, this talented squad crushed our souls with a devastating five-game loss to the San Diego Padres in the NLCS.
But it was a helluva run, and there’s not a wrong number to be had. Here are some of the better choices, without going for the obvious choices of, say, Sandberg or Rick Sutcliffe:
- Dernier, #20: (Cubs 1984–87) In 1984, the fleet center fielder earned a Gold Glove, stole 45 bases, and led off Game One of the ’84 NLCS with a homer. Respect.
- Ron Cey, #11 (Cubs 1983–86): The oddly proportioned Cey had a great nickname (“The Penguin”) and put together a solid line in ’84 of 27 homers and 97 RBIs, and also made only 11 errors.
- Matthews, #36 (Cubs 1984–87): Another strangely built man, the barrel-chested, amply-posteriored left fielder served as the de facto leader of the team. One of the most beloved outfielders in recent Cubs history, “Sarge” led the league in walks with 103 (!!!) and placed fifth in NL MVP voting. Tell me again how in god’s name this team didn’t make the World Series…?
The Would-Be Phenoms
Before Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made the farm system actually, you know, respectable, Cubs fans were constantly teased with the names of minor leaguers who were going to be the next Mike Trout. Spoiler alert: They weren’t. But hey, why not honor them anyway? Everyone deserves their moment in the sun.
- Corey Patterson, #20, 27 (Cubs 2000–05): The maddening outfielder was a possible MVP candidate in ’03 before injuring his knee, hitting 13 homers and 55 RBIs and stealing 16 bases in 83 games. Oh, what could have been…
- Hee Seop Choi, #19 (Cubs 2002–03): Choi looked promising for about one half of the 2003 season. Then he collided with Kerry Wood chasing a pop fly, got a concussion, and never really recovered. Guh. But hey, he was the centerpiece in the deal that brought Derrek Lee to the Cubs, so that works.
- Hayden Simpson, N/A (Cubs never. SMH.): Just mentioning the name “Hayden Simpson” is enough to induce mournful groans and resigned headshakes among Cubs’ front office members. One of the most inexplicable draft picks in Cubs history, Simpson was pegged as a hard thrower who’d probably be taken in the fourth round. But GM Jim Hendry made him the baseball version of Brad Sellers and tabbed him with the 16th pick. Simpson developed mono, lost his fastball, was generally awful, and is now out of baseball. But hey, at least you can follow him on Twitter and pick up knowledge like “To good of a mood to go to sleep lol is that even a real thing?” and “Looks like these afternoon naps are gonna have to go, got me a messed up.”
Seventies Kitsch Factor
The Cubs defined mediocrity in the 1970s—they averaged 78.5 wins for the decade and finished as high as second exactly once (1972). And no one cared—Wrigley was typically about three-quarters empty, Harry Caray was into his third six-pack by the fourth inning, and the rooftops were populated by shirtless, mustachioed guys sitting on crappy beach chairs.
So why not pay homage to this woeful-yet-wonderful era by wearing some of the more memorable players?
- Joe “Tarzan” Wallis, #27 & 28 (Cubs 1975–78). He was a great slugger… (Editor’s note: Incorrect. He hit nine homers in three-plus seasons on the North Side.) Ok, he was a speedster who sto… (Editor’s note: False. He stole five bases for the Cubs.) Well, he was an amazing defensive pla…. (Editor’s note: Wrong.) Ok, screw it, the guy had a great nickname that he got because he used to go cliff-diving in the offseason. That’s worth a jersey right there.
- Paul Reuschel, #43 (Cubs 1975–78): One half of the portly pair of brothers who pitched for the Cubs in the 70s, Reuschel looked more like he’d be doing the taxes for a fertilizer company in Kankakee than taking the hill for a major-league baseball team.
- José Cardenal, #1 (Cubs 1972–77): The center fielder was a cult figure for his oversized ’fro and cheerful demeanor (I mean, look at this picture). But he actually put together some solid seasons, such as 1975, when he stole 34 bases, drove in 68 runs, and posted an OBP of .397. Oh, and he said he couldn’t play because his eyes had swollen shut during the night and loud crickets kept him awake. Classic.
So there you have it. Pick any of the aforementioned jerseys and you’ll be set. But hey, if you really want to go with the “Bryant 17” jersey, we’ll try not to judge.
*Apparently, many players have more than one number over their careers. Did you know that? Oh, uhhhh, yeah… we totally did, too.
Lead photo courtesy of Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports