Cubs fans can’t get over what Ryne San dberg did – even 36 years later.
Over the years, there have been countless performances turned in by Cubs players that left us all in awe. Most recently, Kris Bryant slugged three home runs and a pair of doubles in the midst of his 2016 National League MVP season. But there’s one that has – and likely always will – reign supreme.
On June 23, 1984 – the Cubs battled the rival Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Second baseman Ryne Sandberg proved to be the definition of clutch that afternoon, leading off the ninth with a game-tying home run off future Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter, sending the Bleacher Bums into a crazed frenzy,
"“Backs against the wall, I remember thinking it’s a no-lose situation. He’s supposed to get me out here, he’s supposed to save this game, anything else is gravy,” he said. “I did get advice from the dugout to elevate the baseball … On that swing in the ninth, it was one of the rare times where I aimed beneath the baseball. So that ball was diving in, and I stayed underneath the baseball on that swing, resulting in the home run.”"
His next time up? Sandberg took Sutter deep again. Now, we’re talking about one of the game’s best groundball pitchers – and the Cubs infielder went head-to-head with him not once, but twice – and prevailed both times. You just don’t see stuff like that anymore – and it’s probably why it’s such an amazing game to go back and watch even today.
"“Same angle, same spot, it’s gone. It’s in the air, the wind’s blowing out, and here we go again. Now I was amazed, I was amazed at this. I was thinking of the whole day I had as I’m running the bases. I said, ‘this whole day, I’m good for two weeks here for stats, this is great stuff!’”"
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Chicago came out on top 12-11 in 11 innings that day – and Sandberg etched his name into Cubs lore. Of course, Ryno’s legacy on the North Side went far, far beyond that one historic game. He went on to win NL MVP honors that year and by the time he hung his spikes up, he won nine Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers and played in the Midsummer Classic on 10 occasions.
That was one of the high marks in a season any Cubs fans who were around at the time are unlikely to ever forget. The 1984 club remains, to this day, one of the most beloved of all-time, a talented club in the midst of a pretty miserable stretch for the franchise.
For Sandberg, the energy at Wrigley is what stands out to him when he looks back on his legendary performance. And make no mistake, it was a day for the books – he went 5-for-6 with the aforementioned game-saving blasts and a whopping 7 RBI.
"“I think it was the first time I really saw the reaction of a crowd like that at Wrigley Field, that type of jubilation all the way around the diamond in the stands, hooting and hollering and jumping and screaming, stuff flying in the air. I think that was the first game where I really saw it like that.”"
Today’s Cubs fans are accustomed to seeing 40,000-plus rocking and rolling as the Cubs cruise to another win at the Confines. But it just wasn’t the case back then. This was new – think of the 2015 club if you’re looking for a somewhat close modern comparison. Sandberg helped but the team on the map – and we’re still in awe of what he did all these years later.