It was a hot sunny day, on June 23, 1984. That was the day that Chicago Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg hit two late home runs off the supposedly unhittable St. Louis Cards’ reliever Bruce Sutter, sporting a 1.19 ERA prior to his appearance.
Sandberg hit a blast in the ninth to tie the game, and hit a two-run homer in the 10th to tie the game once again, and stunned Sutter and likely a national audience on NBC.
After each Sandberg blast, Cubs announcer Harry Caray exclaimed,”Listen to this crowd!” The Cubs won the game 12-11 in the 11th inning on a hit by Dave Owen. But Sandberg served notice that he was indeed, a special player and the Cubs were to be taken seriously.
The Cubbies made the playoffs in 1984 and lost in heartbreaking fashion after taking a 2-0 series lead against the San Diego Padres. Sandberg would win the MVP of the National League that year and go on to have a spectacular Hall of Fame Career.
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In the winter of 2016, The Chicago Cubs named him “ambassador” to the team. “Ryno” is back in the fold. Last fall, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 3 of the playoffs vs. the Cardinals.
Sandberg’s number, 23, has been retired and his jersey was hoisted to the flag mast in Aug. 2005.
Sandberg was named to the National League All-Star team 10 times. He won nine Golden Glove awards at second base. His fielding percentage of .989 is a record at second base. In 1990, he hit 40 homers and led the league.
Overall, he hit .285, had 282 home runs, and batted in 1061 runs in a stellar career with the Cubs.
He always had that urge to manage and when his career ended with the Cubs, he managed in the farm system and in 2010 earned Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year, going 82-62 with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
He did not get the call to come to Chicago and quickly left the Cubs’ organization to manage in the Phillies farm system. Eventually, he did manage in the big leagues in Philadelphia but his teams struggled. He did an un-Sandberg like move and resigned mid-season.
Sandberg managed the Philadelphia Phillies and resigned after a tough summer in 2015. His record with the Phillies was 119-159.
Now, he is back in the Cubs’ family, where he belongs, where Cubs fans love him –those who saw him play and those who heard the stories from their friends or relatives.
Quite a player.