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Cubs may retire No. 31, but no to Sosa
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/19/2009 12:16 AM

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The Cubs may break with tradition this year and retire uniform No. 31, in honor of pitchers Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux, both of whom wore 31.

As far as No. 21 and Sammy Sosa are concerned, forget about it for now.

The subject came up Sunday at the Cubs convention, during a session when fans could ask questions of the team's business-management team. One fan told the group that the Cubs had "marketed the heck" out of Sosa in the 1990s and that his No. 21 should be retired.

The Cubs traded Sosa in February 2005, months after he left the ballpark early without permission on the last day of the 2004 season. No. 21 wasn't issued again until the Cubs gave it to pitcher Jason Marquis in 2007. The Cubs traded Marquis this winter, but newly signed right fielder Milton Bradley will wear 21 beginning this season.

The Cubs' long-standing policy has been to wait until a player was elected to the Hall of Fame before retiring his number. Jenkins starred for the Cubs in the late 1960s and early '70s, but he also pitched for other teams.

Maddux began his career with the Cubs in 1986 before signing with the Braves after the 1992 season. He returned to the Cubs in 2004 before being traded away in 2006. Maddux announced his retirement last month.

Mark McGwire, the Cubs' executive vice president for business operations, addressed the Sosa situation before breaking the news about Jenkins and Maddux.

"No. 21 was being worn," McGuire pointed out to the fan. "We've gotten into a situation where we've been really tough about retiring numbers. We actually have an in-house standard of people getting in the Hall of Fame before the organization would even consider retiring his number. There's some discussion this year because of No. 31 and the unique status of Mr. Maddux and Fergie Jenkins that we may go ahead and do something this summer.

"With Sammy, time has a way of healing a lot of things, and we'll just see how it works itself out. I don't think we'll be escalating our program in that regard."

Where's Aramis? Cubs management expressed disappointment that third baseman Aramis Ramirez again was a no-show at the convention. Ramirez is from the Dominican Republic, but so is Alfonso Soriano, who attended the convention. Carlos Zambrano made the trip from Venezuela.

"Our business strategy is to plead with him every year to come and every year find out that he has no interest in coming," Mark McGuire said. "I think there is an effort on the baseball side to try and get players as part of their contracts to rotate in and agree to come here. In fairness to some of these guys that are working out warm-weather climates and particularly as they experience the travel that happened this year with the bad weather, it is tough for them."