Wednesday marks the anniversary of what I think is the greatest Chicago Cubs game ever. It was June 23,1984. I was fortunate enough to watch it live. I say this because back in the day, pre-cable, when, since I lived in Arizona, the only chance I had to see the Cubs play was if they were on the ‘Game of the Week’.
By some fortunate alignment of the stars, on this particular Saturday, the powers at NBC decreed that the game between the Cardinals and Cubs in Chicago would be that game. The upstart Cubs, under the direction of General Manager Dallas Green and field boss, Jim Frey, were a half-game out of first place, which made for a good reason to feature this game.
It’s worth looking at the complex history which made it so compelling.
Chicago Cubs: A trade that wasn’t what it seemed
Dallas Green became the General Manager of the Cubs in 1982. He was fresh off managing the the Philadelphia Phillies where he had spent most of his playing career as a pitcher. As manager of the Phils he led the team to a World Series championship in 1980
One of the actions he took upon becoming GM of the Cubs was to trade their young shortstop, Ivan DeJesus to the Phillies for aging infielder, Larry Bowa and a rookie, with the unlikely name of Ryne Sandberg.
I remember being outraged at the trade at the time wondering what in the hell Green was thinking? My younger brother, who was much more into the game at the time, assured me that it was a good trade and to keep my eye on the rookie.
In 1982 the 22-year-old Sandberg, playing mostly at third, performed well enough to finish sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting. And then fate (and Frey) stepped in. At spring training in 1983 Frey moved Sandberg full-time to second base. He responded by winning a Gold Glove. There was much more to come.