Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Mark Grace is a nice change of pace from the last few, having actually played in the last few decades. From 1988 to 2000, Grace compiled 41.1 bWAR and 46 fWAR while leading all players in hits for the 1990s.
That’s a decent enough resume, and he’s recent enough that fans will still have fond memories of him. He doesn’t have overwhelming odds in his favor, but I would imagine there’s still a decent chance he gets his No. 17 retired. If nothing else, being a more modern player, he should have time on his side.
After that is a run of similar, older (and to be honest, rather not notable) players, including Billy Herman, Bill Nicholson, Ned Williamson, and Jimmy Ryan. None of them has played with the Chicago Cubs more recently than 1947, and none of them stands out from the others enough to distinguish themselves.
Their age, combined with the lack of a standout, makes it very doubtful any of them will be honored. However, there are still players to cover; Wikipedia actually has a list of players who have had petitions for a retired number sent in on their behalf. I’ve already covered Cap Anson, Mark Grace, and Sammy Sosa, so let’s move on to the others.
Like Cap Anson, Hack Wilson played before the Cubs used uniform numbers. He’s also rather famous still, thanks to being a Hall of Famer and for holding the single-season RBI record with 191. It’s worth noting, though, that he only played for 12 seasons, and only six of them were with Chicago (1926-1931, worth 30.2 bWAR and 37 fWAR). Few teams have one retired non-number player, let alone two, and if the Cubs only chose one to retire, I imagine proto-Ty Cobb Cap Anson would rank much higher on their list than Wilson.
Phil Cavarretta, listed next on the Wikipedia page, stands a much better chance. Cavarretta stands behind only Cap Anson in seasons with the Cubs, playing there from 1934 to 1953. In that time, he accrued 31.2 bWAR, 38 fWAR, and and MVP award. That’s a fairly nice list of accomplishments, actually.
My biggest hesitation is, again, the fact that he’s been retired since 1955. Cavarretta himself wouldn’t even be alive to attend the ceremony were it to be held, which would make a ceremony seem a little odd. If fan support demands it, though, it could happen.
Andre Dawson is listed as well. Dawson again brings Hall of Fame star power with him. The biggest knock on his case is that he was unquestionably an Expo first (11 seasons, to only six in Chicago).
He did have his share of good memories at Wrigley though, with an MVP award, 17.3 bWAR, and 18 fWAR while there. Add in that his technical primary team no longer exists, plus his relatively recent election to the Hall, and Dawson actually represents a realistic candidate. We’ll just need to wait and see where his case goes from here. It’ll definitely need a push of fan-support to get it over the top.
Derrek Lee is also among those listed. His credentials for a retired number were not as strong as I first thought, though. He only played for the Cubs for seven seasons (2004-2010) during which time he was worth 21.2 bWAR and 25 fWAR.
His time as a Cub wasn’t bad, but I can’t see any reason why they would retire his number before, say, Mark Grace. Both were first basemen, but Grace had the benefit of coming up with the Cubs and playing there longer. Barring more fan support for Lee, I can’t see Lee getting his number retired while Grace’s isn’t.