The Chicago Bears are making preparations to honor legendary coach and player Mike Ditka by retiring his number 89 at a halftime ceremony during their Monday Night Football game with the Dallas Cowboys on December 9th. As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune report, two sources have confirmed plans for the Bears to retire a jersey since they retired the jerseys of Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers on a rainy Halloween MNF game back in 1994.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to have seen Ditka the player, so for me it would seem more fitting to retire the iconic Bears sweater or a big mustache. Ditka the player was a groundbreaker at the tight end position. For you youngsters out there, he was Ron Gronkowski but with more partying and less cameras.
As Biggs reminds us, there was quite a rift between Ditka and the Bears organization. I guess that’s what happens when Michael McCaskey fired Ditka back in 1992. You don’t cross Da Coach.
The decision to honor Ditka, a star on the 1963 NFL championship team, is a significant move for the organization and perhaps a sign of a new way of business under Chairman George McCaskey, who took over the role two years ago this month. Ditka has feuded with the McCaskeys in the past, and it was previous CEO Michael McCaskey who fired him as coach after the 1992 season.
The Chicago Bears lead the NFL with 13 retired numbers so far and Ditka’s retired #89 will put the Bears behind only the New York Yankees who lead all of sports with 15 retired numbers.
The retired numbers issues has already come up this offseason when new Bears linebacker James Anderson asked (and received permission) to wear Mike Singletary’s #50. The Bears are quickly running out of numbers. With Ditka’s #89 out of the rotation and Urlacher’s #54 unlikely to be worn by anyone any time soon, the Bears are quickly running out of numbers. As it is, it’s strange to see guys like Shea McClellin wearing Hall of Famer Dan Hampton’s #99. A dozen players wore Ditka’s #89 since he left the team in 1967, with the most recent being tight end Matt Spaeth.
Kudos to George McCaskey for mending fences and congrats to Da Coach.