‘Players like us’: Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston thankful to join Cubs Hall of Fame
Mark Grace recalls the story vividly.
The Cubs were playing a game against the Mariners at the old Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz., where the Cubs used to have their Spring Training facilities. The Mariners boasted a potent roster with the likes of future Hall of Famers Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and other stars like Jay Buhner.
Martinez came up and notched a hit. Then Griffey Jr. did the same. A few innings later, the pair came up to bat again with Seattle up big and did the same.
Grace had seen enough.
“I yell over to Shawon,” Grace recalled Friday night at Cubs Convention. “’Shawon they got any players like us?’”
The pair broke out laughing as Grace nailed the punchline as smoothly as Martinez and Griffey Jr. connected against the Cubs pitching that day.
The pair were reminiscing on their time together as teammates after they had been announced as the newest members of the Cubs Hall of Fame. Chairman Tom Ricketts made the announcement at the beginning of Cubs Convention at the Sheraton where the crowd cheered loudly for two longtime fan favorites.
It’s fitting that the pair, who are still friends to this day, were announced together.
“It means everything to get to go in with Mark,” Dunston said.
“Honestly, calling it an honor doesn’t do it justice. But to go in with him,” Grace said before stopping himself to fight back tears, “to go in with him, it couldn’t get any better.”
When Dunston found out he was getting in, he had to stop and think about it. The phone call he had gotten was from an 847-area code.
“I haven’t been in Chicago in so long. I knew the 312-area code,” Dunston said. “I don’t know 847 and I thought somebody was playing with me.”
He quickly realized it was no joke.
“I got numb,” Dunston said. “Really, it’s not for me, it’s for Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Ryno [Ryne Sandberg], it’s Andre [Dawson], it’s [Greg] Maddux, they’re all Hall of Famers. Now they’re putting me in there. But then when they told me I was going in with Grace, I felt a little more comfortable and I really felt thankful.”
The pair quickly made a connection when they first started playing together ahead of the 1988 season.
Dunston remembers the first ball he threw to Grace, a ball that skipped in the dirt in front of Grace, who made the slick pick.
“I told Grace, ‘I think we got something here,’” Dunston recalled.
In the dugout during games, Dunston would pick Grace’s brain about hitting, asking how to attack certain pitchers or what to look for against certain guys. Grace realized Dunston did so because he connected him and wanted him to have success.
“You hear the term ‘good teammate’, that’s what a good teammate is,” Grace said. “It’s somebody that cares about you and wants nothing but good things for you.”
It’s why the pair formed a good bond and why they were so appreciative to go into the Cubs Hall of Fame together. The pair act as one — even their media availability after the announcement was done together, even though it had been planned as separate interviews.
“It’s kinda nice, a couple of players like us got in,’” Grace said with a smile.