Mike Ditka and 10 Chicago Sports Icons
Mike Ditka and 10 Iconic Chicago Sports Stars
In case you missed it, December 9th has been declared Mike Ditka day in the state of Illinois. December 9th is of course the day that the legendary Chicago Bears player and coach will have his No. 89 jersey retired at Solider Field. Ditka's jersey will be the 14th and final Bears' jersey ever retired.
Chicago is definitely one of the best sports towns in America. There's a professional team in every major sport for fans to follow and each one of them has some legendary figures that are etched in history.
As for why Ditka is seemingly the most popular of all, it could be for a variety of reasons. Ditka thinks it's because he was a part of the last two Bears' championships - one as a player in 1963 and one as a coach in 1985. The hall-of-famer also believes that Chicago is a town that wants sports heroes, so it made him one because he won for them. As of December 9th, his status as legend in Chicago is set in stone, as if it wasn't already.
When you look beyond Ditka to the rest of Chicago sports history, there's plenty of 'good' to go around. In total, the five major teams have won a combined 27 world championships. The Sporting News has also named Chicago the 'Best Sports City' three times (1993, 2006 and 2010).
So in honor of Mike Ditka's No. 89 jersey being retired, here are 10 more Chicago sports icons. You can argue that some of these guys are more iconic than Ditka, but there's no doubt the legendary player and coach will always be in the discussion:
Pippen is largely known as a side-kick, but there's no denying he's one of the best small forwards in NBA history and a Chicago sports icon. Pippen was a six-time champion, eight-time all-defensive first team member, he's sixth on the all time steals list and was named as one of the 50 greatest players of all time in 1996.
Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub. He played all 19 of his MLB seasons in Chicago. During his tenure, he was a 14-time All Star and a two-time MVP.
The Big Hurt is considered by some to be the greatest White Sox player ever. In his 19-year MLB career, Thomas hit .301 with 521 home runs (18th) and 1,704 RBI (22nd). He also took home the MVP award in 1993 and 1994.
Sayers played for the Bears from 1965-1971. His career was cut short because of knee injuries, but he made a tremendous impact in his seven years in Chicago. During his tenure, he made the Pro Bowl four times and led the league in rushing twice. In 1977, he became the youngest player ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"Holy Cow." Harry Caray was legendary announcer that worked for the Sox and Cubs starting in 1971 and all the way up to his death in 1998. He's famous for his classic calls and catch phrases and for leading the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field, which is still done in honor of him by a guest conductor to this day.
Harrelson is still working as the White Sox play-by-play guy and he's loved for that, but his one season as GM was a disaster. He fired Tony La Russa (future hall-of-fame manager) and traded Bobby Bonilla (who would go on to become a six time All Star). But you can't beat his catch phrases: "he gone!"
Mikita is a hockey and Blackhawks legend, as evidenced by his statue in front of the United Center. Mikita played 22 seasons in the Windy City and won the Hart Memorial Trophy on two occasions (1967,1968).
Santo was a hall of fame third baseman who played for the Cubs from 1960 until 1973. He also played his final season for the White Sox in 1974. During his career he made the ASG nine times and won five gold glove awards.
'Sweetness' is widely considered the best running back in NFL history. He called Chicago home for all 13 years of his career. During his tenure, he racked up 16,726 rushing yards, which is good for second all time. He was also the heart and soul of the 1985 Bears' offense.
If anyone in Chicago is bigger than Ditka, it's Jordan. At one time, Jordan was possibly the most recognizable person on the planet. His impact on the game of basketball may never be duplicated. During his 13 seasons in Chicago, Jordan brought home six championships, including two three-peats.