Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace will enter the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame on Sunday during a pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field, joining former teammates Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson, among others.
Dunston was honored Friday at Wrigley with a video tribute, while Grace had his tribute during Saturday’s game.
Dunston said he was humbled by the honor, though he didn’t consider himself in the same group as Sandberg, Dawson, Grace, Fergie Jenkins and others. Dunston spent 12 years on the North Side and became a fan favorite for the way he played the game.
“I put it out there every day and tried my hardest,” Dunston said. “I wasn’t always the best, but I always put the team first, before myself, just like I put my family before myself. I think they appreciate the way I played.”
The next big question is whether Sammy Sosa will make the Class of 2024, which will be voted upon after this season. The inductees will be announced at the Cubs Convention in January.
Sosa has not returned to Wrigley Field since leaving the Cubs clubhouse during the final game of the 2004 season and has been persona non grata since the Ricketts family bought the team from Tribune Co. in 2010.
Overtures from the team to bring Sosa back have failed over the years, mostly due to the Cubs’ insistence that Sosa apologize for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
“Players of that era owe us a little bit of honesty too,” Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said at the 2018 convention. “I feel like the only way to turn this page is just to put everything on the table. That’s the way I feel.”
Sosa denied ever using PEDs, though widespread allegations have kept him from getting elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, just as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds have been denied.
Sosa should be on the upcoming ballot for the Cubs Hall of Fame, though his nomination could be delayed until after the 2024 season, depending on what ballot the Cubs marketing department presents to Hall voters. Eligibility of players for the Class of 2023 was limited to those whose careers ended before the end of 2000.
The 13-member voting committee consists of eight media members and five former players in the Cubs Hall of Fame. Sosa would need 10 votes to get inducted.
Sosa’s numbers are not in question. His reputation would be the only thing keeping him out.
“That’s a tough one,” said former Cub Steve Trachsel, who returned to Wrigley to celebrate the inductions of Grace and Dunston. “A lot of the really big stuff I heard about happened after I left. But if (Sosa and the Rickettses) can have their Kumbaya moment, why not?”
The San Francisco Giants welcomed Bonds into their family in spite of his storied PED past.
“Well, San Francisco supposedly is a little more tolerant than other cities are supposed to be,” Trachsel said. “But maybe time helps everything.”
The Cleveland Guardians recently inducted noted PED user Manny Ramirez into its Hall of Fame, and Mark McGwire is in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. Admitted steroid user Alex Rodriguez has been a fixture in national broadcast booths, with the backing of Major League Baseball.
David Ortiz was inducted in 2022 in his first year of eligibility despite a 2009 New York Times report citing Ortiz as one of more than 100 players who had registered a positive test during spring training in 2003.
Former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, Sosa’s teammate in the early 2000s, still keeps in touch with the retired outfielder who lives in Miami.
“He should come back, and I know the fans would appreciate that,” Zambrano said. “Do whatever it takes to get back. Hey, we all make mistakes. I made mistakes. It’d be good for Sammy to come and say ‘I apologize’ for whatever he did.
“Sammy should be here, and he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but it’s up to him. I’d like to be the one to bring him back.”
Debate over Sosa’s separation from the Cubs has been an annual part of the Cubs Convention, and Chairman Tom Ricketts has been asked about it for years. The Cubs reportedly closed the door on a reunion in 2017 after Sosa compared himself to being persecuted like Jesus Christ in a 2017 interview.
Whether Sosa would return is anyone’s guess. In 2013, Sosa said the Cubs should retire his number 21.
“That is something I want to happen,” he said. “I’m surprised it didn’t happen before, but time will determine everything. When that happens, I would be more comfortable and (happier). I will be there with all my family. This is a good number that I carried for (13) years in Chicago, and I represented that number, so that number should have been retired a long time ago.”
Several Cubs players have worn No. 21 since, including Milton Bradley, Luis Valbuena, Joe Mather, Scott Hairston, Junior Lake and Tyler Chatwood.