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Bears To Retire Ditka's Uniform

By Benjy Lipsman in News on May 24, 2013 3:40PM

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The Chicago Bears announced on Friday that they're going to retire Mike Ditka's number 89 jersey this upcoming season. The ceremony will take place during the December 9 "Monday Night Football" game against the Cowboys at Soldier Field. There's no word on whether Ditka's immortal sweater will also be hung in Soldier Field along-side his jersey.

Ditka played tight end for the Bears from the time they drafted him in 1961 until 1967, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. During his time with the Bears, he was a star of the 1963 NFL Championship team. After two seasons in Philly, he played the final four years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. As a player, he redefined the tight end position with his with his receiving ability, was the NFL Rookie of the Year and a perennial Pro Bowler and, in 1988, was the first tight end ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is one of two people to win an NFL championship as a player , an assistant coach and a head coach.

While Ditka personified Bears football on the field, he became a larger than life Bears legend as the team's head coach. Following his playing career, he joined the Cowboys coaching staff as an assistant to Tom Landry. In 1981, George Halas offered the Bears head coaching job to Ditka and a legend was born when the fiery coach led them to their lone Super Bowl victory in 1986 and he became known far and wide as simply Da Coach. Ditka coached the Bears until 1992, compiling a 106-62 record and winning at least 10 games in seven of his 11 season as head coach. We're still trying to figure out how his teams only managed the lone Super Bowl, however.

Ditka's number will join thirteen other jerseys retired by the team, which is the most of any NFL franchise: 3 - Bronko Nagurski, 5 - George McAfee, 7 - George Halas, 28 - Willie Galimore, 34 - Walter Payton, 40 - Gale Sayers, 41 - Brian Piccolo, 42 - Sid Luckman, 51 - Dick Butkus, 56 - Bill Hewitt, 61 - Bill George, 66 - Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, 77 - Harold "Red" Grange. The last two added to the list were Sayers and Butkus, in 1994.

The fact that Ditka is just now having his number hung in the stadium should dampen the calls for Brian Urlacher's to be retired. It may well join the others one day, but there are still Bears greats like Richard Dent and Mike Singletary who stopped playing decades ago and are still waiting.