Holiday jersey guide: The best, worst Chicago sports jerseys to buy
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With 12 days until Christmas and on the second night of Hanukkah, we have reached the peak time of year for last-minute gifts giving.
A perennial gift for sports fans is a jersey from the fan’s favorite team. What a great way for a fan to express his or her love for an athlete than to wear their jersey.
But for the gift giver, a great dilemma exists of which player’s jersey to give as a gift. You receive added amounts of appreciation if you can pull off a surprise gift, but there is a high degree of difficulty in choosing which jersey to buy. It’s great to wear the jersey of the team’s superstar, but you want to be careful to avoid a current player who might be traded in near future.
So here is the Sun-Times’ helpful guide to buying sports jerseys for non-sports fans:
The safest bet is a team all-time great. Legends never die and those jerseys never go out of style. If the number is retired or if there is a statue of the player outside the stadium, shop with confidence.
Another tip would be to go for the superstar, whose contract might outlast the life of the jersey. If the contract expires in 2018, your jersey could become obsolete quickly. But you could wear your 2016 Cubs’ Dexter Fowler when he returns to Wrigley Field as a Cardinal.
For the Cubs, start with the retired numbers Ernie Banks (jersey No. 14), Billy Williams (26), Ryne Sandberg (23), Ron Santo (10), Fergie Jenkins (31) and Greg Maddux (31). All are classics and widely seen.
As for the current roster, avoid the two major free agents this offseason: Jake Arrieta (49) and Wade Davis, (71) both of whom could be gone by the eighth night of Hanukkah. And if you did buy one, hopefully you still have your gift receipts.
The following main-stays are locked up for a few years for the Cubs and could, barring an unforeseen trade, be safe jersey bets. Anthony Rizzo (44; locked up through 2021), Kyle Schwarber (12; free agent: 2022), Kris Bryant (17; free agent: 2022), Javy Baez (9; free agent: 2022), Willson Contreras (40; free agent 2023), Kyle Hendricks (28; free agent 2021), Jason Hayward (22; free agent 2021), Jon Lester (34; free agent 2021) and Addison Russell (27; free agent: 2022).
The Sox have 12 numbers retired. Nellie Fox (2), Harold Baines (3), Luke Appling (4), Minnie Minoso (9), Luis Aparicio (11), Paul Konerko (14), Ted Lyons (16), Billy Pierce (19), Frank Thomas (35) and Mark Buehrle (56).
The team is undergoing a rebuilding process, which leaves them short of marquee names that are unclear on (a) how good they’ll be and (b) how long they’ll be around. First baseman Jose Abreu (free agent 2020) could be traded this offseason, and right fielder Avisail Garcia will be a free agent in 2020. So these two could be risky long-term investments.
The White Sox do have a great young roster in their system. Shortstop Tim Anderson (7), 24, was given a six-year extension last spring. Carlos Rodon (55) could be the ace of a talented young pitching staff for years to come. Second baseman Yoan Moncada (30) was the No. 1-ranked prospect in 2017 and got called up in July.
Look for the following players in the future. These top prospects could be great for the future, but don’t yet have a Sox jersey: Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Alec Hansen and Miker Adolfo. Also, first-round draft picks Zach Collins (2016) and Jake Burger (2017) would appear to have high ceilings.
All of the retired numbers are fine choices: Jerry Sloan (4), Bob Love (10), Michael Jordan (23), Scottie Pippen (33). You especially can’t go wrong with a No. 23 or No. 33.
As for current players, the best options seem to be: Lauri Markanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine.
As a first-round draft pick, rookie Markkanen (24) is locked up with a team option for a fourth season and can receive a qualifying offer from the Bulls after 2021-22 season. Guard Dunn (32; locked with a team option 2020, qualifying offer after 2021) and LaVine (8; eligible to receive a qualifying offer after this season) were both acquired in the offseason as a part of the Jimmy Butler deal. Those two could be good choices to hang around.
If you have a pair of pugilistic kids, it might be fun to buy one a Bobby Portis (5) jersey and the other Nikola Mirotic (44) jersey. But with the possibility of one being traded, the joke may be on whomever buys one of these jerseys.
The Bears have retired 14 jersey numbers — the most in the NFL. So we’ll split up the list between played primarily before 1950 (which aren’t as popular) and the later ones.
Played primarily before 1950: Bronko Nagurski (3), George McAfee (5), Sid Luckman (42), George Halas (7), Bill Hewitt (56), Harold “Red” Grange (77) and Clyde “Bulldog” Turner (66). Only a diehard would pick these jerseys.
Modern and classic choices: Dick Butkus (51), Walter Payton (34), Gale Sayers (40), Brian Piccolo (41) and Mike Ditka (89).
Modern but obscure: Willie Galimore (28) and Bill George (61) — again, only for diehards.
With only four wins, this team isn’t very talented, much less full of household names. Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10; under contract through 2020), running backs Jordan Howard (24; under contract through 2019) and Tarik Cohen (29 under contract through 2020) are safe and popular bets.
Kyle Long (75) is another fan favorite and under contract through 2021, but buyer beware, he has struggled to remain healthy the last two seasons, so he might be a question mark if his body will cooperate for the next four seasons. Linebacker Leonard Floyd (50; through 2019) could be a good choice.
Recently retired Bears Brian Urlacher (54) and Devin Hester (23) are good ideas, too. And stay away from those awful orange jerseys. Nobody wants those.
The Blackhawks have seven jerseys — or “sweaters” as the snobby purists might insist — retired: Glenn Hall (1), Pierre Pilote (3), Keith Magnuson (3), Bobby Hull (9), Denis Savard (18), Stan Mikita (21) and Tony Esposito (35). The four living Hawks ambassadors — Hull, Savard, Mikita, Esposito — make for classic choices.
You can never go wrong with the captain Jonathan Toews (19) or Patrick Kane (88). Both fan favorites are locked in through the 2022-23 seasons. Also, Duncan Keith (2; through 2022-23) and Brent Seabrook (7; through 2022-24) are under Blackhawks long-term control.
Other good options include: goalie Corey Crawford (through 2019-20), defenseman Connor Murphy (2021-22) and Artem Anisimov (2020-21).
Picking young guys is always dicey. Alex DeBrincat (12) looks like a star in the making and a part of the future core. Ryan Hartman (38) or Nick Schmaltz (8) should be around for years, but so many others can be traded during or even before their primes, buyer beware.
Contributing: Patrick Finley, Mark Lazerus, Daryl Van Schouwen.
Follow me on Twitter @juandeplata.