Monday, January 03, 2005

There will be joy in Cubville

Around 1:00 CST this Tuesday we should know that the minor league player Dallas Green insisted be part of the Ivan DeJesus/Larry Bowa deal has made it. Ryne Dee Sandberg a kid who came to the Cubs in 1982 and started his Cub career 1-32 will have his plaque alongside Hornsby, Robinson, Doerr, Carew, Fox, LaJoie, Collins, Morgan and all of the other all time great second sackers. The quiet kid from Spokane, Washington will join baseball greats as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Despite what some people in the media want to tell you, Ryno deserves this. Sandeberg was not a "bonus baby". He worked his way through the Phillies system. Phillies scouts looked at Sandberg and saw a utility player. Dallas Green saw something else. He brought Sandberg to the Cubs and put him at 3B in 1982, while the great Bump Wills lead off and played 2B. There was talk of Ryno becoming the Cubs CF. The Cubs had some pretty talented minor league OF's at that time. Mel Hall and Joe Carter were gonna take two of the three spots. So, Lee Elia moved number 23 to 2B and the rest is history.

Sandberg was fortunate to join the Cubs in 1982. That was the same year Harry Caray moved from the Southside to Wrigley Field. With the growth of Cable TV, Cub fans across the nation were able to listen to Harry rave about Ryno's ability. At that time the Cubs had never drawn 1.7 Million fans. Following 1984 the Cubs have never fallen below that mark. With Harry at the microphone and Sandberg (the most complete player Cub fans had seen in years) playing the popularity of the Cubs exploded. Sandberg does not have the persona of the great Ernie Banks, but he was the player you identified with the Cub franchise in the 80's and 90's. The knock on Sandberg (or any Cub player except Brown, Tinker, Evers and Chance) is that he didn't win a World Series. Don't forget that `Sandberg did lead the Cubs to two division titles in '84 & '89. Keep in mind that in 84 the last time the Cubs had won anything was 1945.

Sandberg's resume is too long for this blog. When he retired following the 1997 season he was the All Time Homerun leader for 2B with 277. Sandberg won 9 Gold Gloves(he's the only second baseman to do this), he was a 10 time All-Star, led the NL in assists 7 times and in fielding percentage 4 times. Sandberg is the only N.L. second baseman to record 6 -- 500 assist seasons.

In 1984, Sandberg caught the national medias attention with one of the greatest games in Cub history. On Saturday, June 23, 1984 the Cubs played the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on NBC's Game of the Week. In front of a national audience Ryno went 5-for-6 with 7 RBi. Sandberg hit two game tying HR's off Bruce Sutter in both the 9th and 10th innings. The Cubs won the "Sandberg Game" 12-11 in 11 innings. The Cubs would go on to win the NL East and Ryno won the NL MVP. Ryno hit .314 with 114 runs scored and had 200 hits. The most amazing stat from that season may have been Ryno's 19 triples.

1990 may have been Ryno's best season. Sandberg again led the league in runs with 116. That season he became only the third second baseman ever to hit 40 HR's in a season. He knocked in 100 runs and stole 25 bases.

I look forward to seeing a ton of Cub fans in upstate New York July 29 - August 1 when Ryno joins Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins in Cooperstown. Thanks for all the fun memories #23.

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