04 January 2005

Charging Ryno

It's a dreary day here in Chicago.  The sky is a deep gray, it's cold, and we are going to be hit soon by either an ice storm or a large amount of snow.

A perfect time to turn my thoughts to baseball.

Ryne Sandberg has made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame today, on his third try.  If you aren't from Chicago and don't follow baseball, you might be asking "Ryne who?"

After a brief stint with Philadelphia, Sandberg played for the Cubs from 1982 through 1997, with a season and a half retirement in the mid-90's.  Though he never won a World Series (mind you he was playing for the Cubs-sigh) he put up spectacular offensive and defensive statistics consistently during his career.  He holds several team records, and I believe he still holds the major league record for consecutive errorless games played.

The best thing about Sandberg is that he kept his mouth shut and let his talent speak for him.  He played everyday and always at his full effort.  He was a model teammate and never once was engaged in any off field controversy.  For some reason, it took three years of voting to get him into the HOF, despite having the best career numbers for a second baseman in the modern era.  He wasn't one for self-promotion, and in reality, that probably delayed his being voted in.  Not enough people out there knew who he was. 

Sandberg wore uniform number 23.  In Chicago, if you mention 23 you think of Michael Jordan (who had a few good years in this town himself).  MJ arrived in the fall of 1984, two years after Sandberg.  '84 was Ryne's greatest year.  He won the National League MVP award while leading the Cubs to the playoffs for the first time since 1945 (recalling that year for this piece is giving me goose bumps), and cemented himself as a Wrigley Field legend.  Everyone so often I will stumble across a game from that season on "ESPN Classic", Cubs vs. Cardinals, in which Sandberg homered twice in the late innings to tie a game that the Cubs eventually won in extra innings.

If you happen to see this game and you enjoy baseball, I implore you to stick around to the end.  It's what "The Natural" should have been.

I suppose it is fitting that Sandberg will officially be enshrined into the Hall of Fame 23 years after he began playing for the Cubs.  No offense to Michael Jordan, but he's not the first legend in this town to immortalize "23."

But don't get me started on Andre Dawson being snubbed...again.


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