For those of you in the Chicago area or elsewhere in the midwest, the so-called "dead of winter" is upon you, with temperatures in some cases below zero.
I'm here to tell you that despite the cold, baseball isn't too far away. Today, I'm starting a countdown series to the day pitchers and catchers report to Mesa, Arizona for Cubs spring training. That countdown stands at 31 days. Each day, I'll post a Cubs player whose uniform number matches the number of days remaining.
For today, that's Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins. As you know, another Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux, shares that number, which has been retired by the Cubs.
But it wasn't always treated with such respect. After Fergie left the Cubs the first time, No. 31 was put back in circulation and worn by Tom Dettore, Joe Coleman, Jim Todd and Davey Johnson (yes, the future manager). Fergie reclaimed it in his second Cubs stint from 1982-83, but after his departure Ray Fontenot took it in 1985 and 1986. After that it belonged to Maddux in his first Cubs go-around, but after Greg's departure via free agency, it was handed out to Kevin Foster, Bobby Ayala, Brad Woodall, Mike Fyhrie, Donovan Osborne and Mark Guthrie before Maddux returned in 2004.
The only really good player of that list to wear it was Johnson, and he was pretty much done by the time he got to the Cubs, where he played his final 24 games, hitting .306/.393/.490, good numbers, but in a small-sample-size 49 at-bats.
Spring training! Just 31 days away.