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Bears say Mike Ditka’s 89 will be the last number they retire

Ditka Getty Images

Mike Ditka will be the 14th Chicago Bear to have his number retired. He will also be the last.

The Bears, who have retired the most numbers of any NFL team, have announced that they will no longer retire numbers after Ditka’s 89 is retired at a Soldier Field ceremony this season.

“If there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89,” Bears owner George McCaskey said in a statement.

That means great Bears like Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and Brian Urlacher won’t have their numbers retired, but Hampton told the Chicago Sun-Times that’s fine by him.

It’s simple math,” Hampton said. “This is a franchise with so many great players. If everybody’s number got retired, it would diminish the honor in a way. I understand. The trap of it all is that if you played for the Bears, you’re one of many. If you played in Tampa, what is there, a handful of guys?”

It’s still possible, of course, that the Bears will change their minds and decide to honor some great player of the future. But for now, the plan in Chicago is to retire retiring numbers.

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53 Responses to “Bears say Mike Ditka’s 89 will be the last number they retire”
  1. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: May 25, 2013 11:25 AM

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have retired one number: 70 for HOF’er Stautner.

  2. operwapitsai says: May 25, 2013 11:28 AM

    who cares bout the Steelers??

  3. pnut87 says: May 25, 2013 11:29 AM

    Unfortunate truth really. If they don’t stop, they’ll have to unretire numbers at some point, and that’s a whole different bucket of worms. Honestly, I see that ring of honor every team has as a sort of number retirement. After that, I see little issue in recycling a HOF player’s number, but that’s just me.

  4. jusford says: May 25, 2013 11:31 AM

    it’s their own fault for watering down the meaning of retiring the numbers. Packers, Steelers, Vikings are storied franchises that haven’t as this issue.

  5. nfloracle says: May 25, 2013 11:31 AM

    Nice dump on Tampa by Hampton.

  6. haterville says: May 25, 2013 11:33 AM

    #WHOCARESABOUTTHEBEARS

    #AMERICASTEAM
    #SOONTOADDSIXTHSUPERBOWL
    #ROMOISELITE

    13-3 FIRST ROUND BYE

    ROMO WILL BE MVP

  7. beauregard says: May 25, 2013 11:41 AM

    Jay Cuttler does not approve of this decision.

  8. lamass44 says: May 25, 2013 11:44 AM

    So many great players, so few championships…

  9. thestrategyexpert says: May 25, 2013 11:44 AM

    It would diminish the honor? But what if in the future there is a guy that becomes the hands down greatest footballer of all-time, he can’t get this honor? That seems silly to me. Why wouldn’t it be better to take the honor away from one of the lesser prestige players that is no longer living and extend the honor to that greatest QB of all-time, the one and only undisputed best?

    I thought this was just a “simple math” problem. I disagree with Hampton because I think it’s anything but a simple math problem, otherwise they would have announced what I suggest above.

  10. tropicpurple says: May 25, 2013 11:45 AM

    Much to do about nothing I say. Honor the person not the number. Put their name (and number) on some a ring of honor and avoid the quandary of exhausting numbers.

  11. Stiller43 says: May 25, 2013 11:55 AM

    Unless the guys like the best of all time, why retire it? Just have it unused.

    Youll never see a steeler wear 12, but its not retired.

    With 90 man rosters in training camp, unless you have like half the team to wear duplicate numbers, you kinda have to put your foot down somewhere.

  12. lgbarn says: May 25, 2013 11:56 AM

    I have much respect for the Bears franchise and it’s many great players.

    Lets put something in perspective though. Tampa has had more players worthy of retired numbers in the past 20 years than Chicago in that span. Lets not act like you are retiring a number every year. Ditka deserves the honor, no need to dump on a franchise that’s only been around since 1976.

  13. sportsmeccabi says: May 25, 2013 11:56 AM

    Just put the players name in the ring, like they do with the coaches. I get that it’s a huge honor, but it really isn’t practical considering the limitations on 1-99.

  14. watchfullhose says: May 25, 2013 12:10 PM

    I opened this in a web browser (instead of the app) just so I could give a thumbs up to comment number 2.

  15. kev86 says: May 25, 2013 12:13 PM

    I think of LT whenever I see 56.

  16. iced107 says: May 25, 2013 12:16 PM

    haterville says:
    May 25, 2013 11:33 AM
    #WHOCARESABOUTTHEBEARS

    #AMERICASTEAM
    #SOONTOADDSIXTHSUPERBOWL
    #ROMOISELITE

    13-3 FIRST ROUND BYE

    ROMO WILL BE MVP
    ———————————————————-

    Romo goes to the spike the ball — INTERCEPTION!

  17. poiuyt7 says: May 25, 2013 12:29 PM

    jusford says:
    May 25, 2013 11:31 AM
    it’s their own fault for watering down the meaning of retiring the numbers. Packers, Steelers, Vikings are storied franchises that haven’t as this issue.
    ===========================

    The Packers and the Steelers are storied franchises. The Vikings? Not so much. They need to win something first.

  18. hesshole says: May 25, 2013 12:30 PM

    Well for as great as the Bears supposedly are and crappy Tampa supposedly is they each have won 1 Super Bowl. Just sayin’

  19. tommytd says: May 25, 2013 12:33 PM

    How about “retiring” the McCaskeys and canning Ted Phillips so we can get back to the business of winning championships for Chicago! Now there’s a concept.

  20. dstark9 says: May 25, 2013 12:34 PM

    I would tend to think Urlacher should be considered to get his number retired. Well unless it hasn’t been taken yet….

  21. johnrulrich says: May 25, 2013 12:35 PM

    @ lamass44. The Chicago Bears have nine championships.

  22. EJ says: May 25, 2013 12:37 PM

    Instead of retiring numbers, why not put the players name and former # on a Wall of Fame?

  23. dontouchmyjunk says: May 25, 2013 12:57 PM

    Uniform numbers in professional sports aren’t just numbers anymore. There was a time in ancient history when names weren’t stitched on the back of jerseys. That hasn’t been the case since the 1960’s. #89 Ditka isn’t the same jersey as #89 Lyman.

    It is not disrespectful to former great players to have others wear the same number. For example, it wouldn’t bother me to see another Bears running back wear #34. It would take nothing away from Walter Payton’s storied career. And #34 Payton can still hang from the rafters.

    This retiring jersey numbers seems more precious than it deserves. A player’s legacy is more than his jersey number.

  24. nightofthehipple says: May 25, 2013 1:01 PM

    A TRAVESTY!

  25. larryboodry says: May 25, 2013 1:02 PM

    lgbarn says: May 25, 2013 11:56 AM

    I have much respect for the Bears franchise and it’s many great players.

    Lets put something in perspective though. Tampa has had more players worthy of retired numbers in the past 20 years than Chicago in that span.”

    Name them.

  26. dylanssongwriter says: May 25, 2013 1:07 PM

    All those great players and all those mediocre teams.

    Dan Hampton….WHO YA CRAPPIN?

  27. starman2112 says: May 25, 2013 1:13 PM

    Chicago does not want more great players!

  28. ped013 says: May 25, 2013 1:26 PM

    I think a team Ring of Honor or Hall of Fame is the best way to honor great team players. What I have often thought, however, is that teams should consider taking a great player’s number out of circulation for a specific time period…say 10 years. That way, when a great player retires (a good example would be Urlacher), you won’t see another player wearing that number immediately, or for some period of time. After 10 years, it really won’t matter if you see someone wearing his old number.

    A number worn by a player in the 1960’s whose number was retired would really have no relevance to players and fans of today’s era. It would be a great way to honor great players for a team without worrying about not being able to issue those numbers at some point in the future.

  29. chi01town says: May 25, 2013 1:40 PM

    Chicago shouldnt have done that, Ditka dont deserve his number retired, and somebody need to tell
    him to shut up cause he talks too much.

  30. brasho says: May 25, 2013 1:48 PM

    Considering Tampa has been in the league 36 years, 56 years less than the Bears, it makes sense that they’ve only retired two numbers (#63 Selmon and #99 Sapp). And considering since the existence of the Bucs franchise, the Bears and Bucs have the exact same number of Championships (one), Hampton has little room to complain. Some of the numbers retired by the Bears weren’t exactly players that would’ve been retired by other teams.

    George McAfee may have been a good all-around player when he played, but he only played 8 seasons. Considering he won one championship, when there was only 10 total teams in the league, even that is diminished.

    Willie Gallimore never lead the league in anything, went to one all-star game, played 8 total seasons, not a Hall-of-Famer. Sure, he may have been good, but did he deserve to have his number retired?

    Brian Piccolo? Good book, decent movie… decent player…. did he truly deserve to have his number retired? Perhaps the Bucs should posthumously retire Ricky Bell’s number… he was twice the player Piccolo was and died just as tragically… though not as big a cinematic performance with Mario Van Peebles playing Bell instead of James Caan playing Piccolo.

    Bill Hewitt made the Hall-of-Fame and certainly was a good player… there were only 8 teams when he played, which is exactly 4X less than there is now. A little harder to be dominant when there’s quadruple the number of teams… and probably 6X the players.

    There are several other questionable numbers retired by the Bears… some are overly deserving, but my point being that perhaps the standards for retiring numbers by the Bears aren’t as stringent as other teams… like the Bucs… surely James Wilder, Doug Williams, Ricky Bell, Jimmie Giles,and a few others from the early years of the Bucs areas deserving as some of the questionable Bears numbers retired… and surely greats such as Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Paul Gruber, Ronde Barber, Simeon Rice, Hardy Nickerson, and Mike Alstott would be as or more deserving than several Bears players as well.

  31. kingbuccaneer says: May 25, 2013 1:54 PM

    ok LARRY, I will.

    Sapp, Brooks, Ronde, Alstott, Lynch, Rice, Gruber

    Bears have had … Urlacher

  32. larryboodry says: May 25, 2013 1:57 PM

    @lameass44:

    The Bears have the second-most Championships in NFL history.

    1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9

    There, I counted them for you, and even corrected you on the correct spelling of your name.

  33. gbp4ever says: May 25, 2013 2:05 PM

    Bears retired numbers like handing out candy. Way to many guys who should not have got it retired. Packers have just as much history and right now have only 5 retired numbers with Favre being the only player that will still have his number retired.

    Also this has to be a slap in the face to Urlacher. I can see him wanting nothing to do with the Bears as a team for a long time.

  34. funkybeenug says: May 25, 2013 2:31 PM

    ok LARRY, I will.

    Sapp, Brooks, Ronde, Alstott, Lynch, Rice, Gruber

    Bears have had … Urlacher

    Seriously dude! How about current Briggs, Peppers, Hester. How about the fact that the Bears have more HOF players than any other team!!! Most of the players you mentioned we’re great players, but Alstott? I would take Forte or Bush over him any day of the week. I think Hampton was trying o point out that it is simple math that the a ears are one of the oldest teams. I don’t feel he was knocking TB, just pointing out that they were an expansion team. With that being said, they didn’t have anything to celebrate until the above players joined the team.

  35. rick1k6 says: May 25, 2013 2:36 PM

    Rex Grossman is crushed.

  36. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: May 25, 2013 2:37 PM

    When Donald Rumsfeld described “Old Europe” referring to natures who were once super powers that have been reduced to virtual irrelevancies — and yet they carry on as if they’re still essential world powers.

    Along those same lines, the Bears are “Old NFL.” Aside from the ’85 anomaly, their heroes were from a half-century ago or longer.

    Think about it.

  37. cfos00 says: May 25, 2013 3:02 PM

    I get the math part, but it is going to be very weird to see a MLB wearing 50 this year. That’s Singletary. Period. Maybe if they aren’t going to retire them, make numbers ‘extremely discouraged’ for players to take. Seeing another 50 or 54 running around out there just seems wrong.

    And yes, you tend to have a LOT more retired numbers when your team basically is the main reason the league exists in the first place. The league doesn’t exist–at all–if not for George Halas and Red Grange. The MLB was invented by the team, literally, and Bill George, and have had most of torchbearers for the position throughout the leagues history. The Bears have had two more of the top RBs ever in Payton and Sayers. They’ve had one of, if not the top FBs in history in Bronco Nagurski. Sid Luckman was the first modern T QB and won 4 championships in 12 years. When you can name players in your history and the historical contexts, like being in the top handful of people to ever play the position, inventing the position to start with, or changing the league, you get a lot of retired numbers. That’s what Hampton is referring to when he’s talking about when he’s talking about with the Bears versus Tampa Bay. The NFL existed a long time before the Super Bowl era or the last twenty years. It’s not an insult, it’s the truth.

  38. derrickbrooks4president says: May 25, 2013 3:13 PM

    Not only do Tampa and CHitcago have the same amount of Super Bowls, Monte Kiffin’s defense outclassed Buddy Ryan’s defense all day long. 10 years top ten defense plus multiple defensive Super Bowl records compared to Buddy Ryan’s 1 year 85 defense. No comparison. No way.

  39. larryboodry says: May 25, 2013 3:36 PM

    @kingbuccaneer:

    Okay…The Bucs you mentioned are all worthy (even if Sapp is a tool), but to say the Bears have had no great players other than Urlacher on their roster in the past 20 years is ridiculous.

    Since ’93, the Bears have also had:

    Mark Bortz
    Richard Dent
    Steve McMichael
    Neal Anderson (9 All-Pro Teams)
    Mike Brown
    Devin Hester (Best KR of all time)
    Julius Peppers
    Charles Tillman
    Brandon Marshall

    Matt Forte

  40. larryboodry says: May 25, 2013 3:40 PM

    And Olin Kreutz, too.

  41. thesteelers says: May 25, 2013 3:57 PM

    The Steelers are the most storied franchise in the world.

  42. jimbo75025 says: May 25, 2013 4:14 PM

    derrickbrooks4president says:May 25, 2013 3:13 PM
    Not only do Tampa and CHitcago have the same amount of Super Bowls, Monte Kiffin’s defense outclassed Buddy Ryan’s defense all day long. 10 years top ten defense plus multiple defensive Super Bowl records compared to Buddy Ryan’s 1 year 85 defense. No comparison. No way.
    ——–
    Big difference is every football fan knows about the 85 Bears-they are one of the teams of NFL legend. I am a huge football fan and it would take me a few minutes to tell you whih Bucs team won the Super Bowl.

  43. larryboodry says: May 25, 2013 4:21 PM

    Ditka the player deserves to have his # retired…Ditka the coach not so much. Sure, he coached the most dominant team in history to their only SB win, but that’s just it…As young and talented as that team was, they should have won it more than once, but Ditka’s ego got in the way…Instead of reining in the players’ endorsements and media gigs after ’85, he got upset that they were getting more attention than him.

  44. gnarlswoodson says: May 25, 2013 4:28 PM

    LOL on top of this they gave Singletary’s #50 away to James Anderson this season. What a joke.

  45. azbearsfan says: May 25, 2013 4:30 PM

    I don’t think it’s inconceivable that we could one day see three digit jersey numbers.

  46. buckaroo27 says: May 25, 2013 4:36 PM

    larry:

    Probably would not include Tillman, Marshall, Peppers and Brown on that list since ’93. Marshall & Peppers basically rolled their bones with other teams. Tillman and Brown are a bit above average DBs but not anything to get overly excited about. Could be the reason the Bears have not won a SB since ’85. Bears front office has been less than stellar over the years. Front office-wise if we are talking the NFC North, the Packers have probably been more successful since ’93.

  47. 8man says: May 25, 2013 5:11 PM

    The Yankees retired the number 8. Twice.

    “Don’t retire the number 8, Johnny. The Yankees retired the number 8 once. Once. Wait…”

  48. jetsjetsjetsnow says: May 25, 2013 5:38 PM

    Not that I’m a Steelers fan or anything, but how can Bradshaw’s # not be retired at this point?

    I don’t condone retiring #s like giving away candy or anything but what’s wrong with 100-199 or maybe go the other way and make it decimal 7.5, 6.2, 50.7, how cool would that be!

  49. rajbais says: May 25, 2013 6:35 PM

    So you hate Urlacher already???

    Your stupid franchise didn’t realize that the QB did matter until you traded for Jay Cutler.

  50. realskipbayless says: May 25, 2013 7:35 PM

    Major Wright should get his # retired for having such a rad name.

  51. captaincanoe says: May 26, 2013 5:27 PM

    Every team should have one game when they honor past players and have current players wear their numbers. I’m a GB fan so for example Rogers could wear Starr’s #15.

  52. Thomas says: May 26, 2013 6:31 PM

    IMO, Al Davis’ attitude about retired numbers was the right one. The Raiders have only a single number retired and that’s only because the league retired it (00-Jim Otto’s number). Davis’ attitude was the each player should get the chance to make their own name for a number. People love to think about Marcus Allen being #32 but forget that he stepped into the shoes of Jack Tatum before him. People remember Charles Woodson being #24 but often forget the HoFr Willie Brown having that same number. Everyone gets nostalgic about a number until a generation or more go by and people go “who?” when someone is “aghast” at another player taking a number. I always felt it helped a player to take a legend’s number, especially if the same position, and try to live up to the name.

    People talk about no Steeler taking Bradshaw’s number but I bet Bradshaw wouldn’t mind. People would compare that player to him and in doing so remember him.

  53. johnnylargo says: Dec 9, 2013 10:47 PM

    I do not think it was meant as a disrespect for Tampa. As he said “It is simple math”. Over the past hundred years the Bears have had many more great players than the Bucs have had over the past almost 40 years. I am a Bucs fan, and have been one through the good years and bad years. Sure we have some great players, but just think about the names from Chicago.. Butkus, Walter Payton, Coach Ditka, Gale Sayers, Luckam, Bulldog Turner, Red Grange… the entire ’85 Bears defense… The Bucs history crosses a couple generations, the Bears history predates the wheel… if course we only have a handful in comparison, and I think that is what Hampton (who IS an all-time great player) was saying.

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