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Cubs to Retire 31 Twice

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 20, 2009 4:30PM

2009_03_maddux_jenkins_31.jpgThe Cubs announced this week that on May 3, they will retire jersey #31. And while they will be increasing the number of numbers from four to five, the club of honorees will be increasing by 50%. This retirement ceremony will be unique, in that two players will be having the number retired in their honor. Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux -- perhaps the best two pitchers ever to wear Cubs pinstripes -- both wore the number during their days in Chicago and will see it hung at Wrigley in their honors.

Jenkins won 284 games during his 19 year major league career, of which he spent 10 seasons in Chicago.Traded to the Cubs by the Phillies in 1966, he rattled off six straight 20 win seasons from '67 to '72. He made three All-Star teams and won the 1971 Cy Young award. From 1974 until 1981, Jenkins pitched for Texas and Boston before returning to the Cubs for the final two seasons of his career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Greg Maddux came up with the Cubs in 1986 and pitched on the North Side until signing with Atlanta in 1993. During this stint with the Cubs, Mad Dog won his first 95 games and the 1992 Cy Young Award. After 11 seasons with the Braves in which he won three more Cy Youngs and a World Series ring, Maddux re-signed with the Cubs in 2004 and pitched another two and a half seasons for the club. He won his 300th game on August 7, 2004 during this second stint with the Cubs. The only pitcher to win 15 or more games in 17 consecutive seasons and a winner of 18 Gold Gloves, Maddux is a sure bet first ballot Hall of Famer once he's eligible.

While both pitchers had phenomenal careers, do both deserve to have their jersey retired? Few would dispute the fact that Jenkins deserves the honor. He spent the bulk of his heyday in Chicago, and put up incredible numbers despite some subpar teams. However, while Maddux did win 20 games once and a Cy Young with the Cubs his best years came during his time in Atlanta. On the other hand, he still did win 133 games for the team and is one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game. And if the number is going to be retired anyway... we just don't understand how the Cubs didn't get around to retiring Fergie's jersey before Maddux began wearing it in the first place, or after Maddux headed to Atlanta over 15 years ago. We're not one to jump the gun on retiring jerseys -- we're looking at you, Jerry Reinsdorf, for retiring Harold Baines number halfway through his career -- but Jenkins has been long overdue for this honor.