Monday is the day we find out whether Andre Dawson joins fellow Cub great Ryne Sandberg in the Baseball Hall of Fame. While I believe this IS the year of the Hawk, many consider him to be on the fence in terms of qualifications. I generally use Prose and Ivy for strictly observation and evaluation. Tonight, however, in honor of The Hawk and what Monday could mean for him, I’ll use the space for celebration. Celebration of my favorite Cub of all-time, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.
Though he made his Major League debut with the Phillies in ’81, Sandberg was traded to the Cubs for his rookie year the following season. After spending ’82 at third base, he shifted to second, where he stayed for the remainder of his career.
Sandberg first gained national attention on June 23, 1984, when he went 5 for 6 with game tying home runs off the Cards’ Bruce Sutter in the ninth AND tenth innings on national television. Talk about great timing. The Cubs won it in the 11th and the contest thereafter became known as “The Sandberg Game”. Good times.
Sandberg won the ’84 NL MVP Award hitting .314 with 200 hits, 36 doubles, 19 triples, 19 home runs, 84 RBI’s and 32 stolen bases to lead the Cubs to their first postseason appearance since 1945. Ah, ’84. Good year.
Sandberg was masterful in the field winning nine straight Gold Gloves at second base (’83-’91) and retiring with an all-time best .989 fielding percentage at the position. He also set a then ML record with a 123 game errorless streak from 1989-90. In my opinion, the best second baseman of all-time.
Sandberg led Chicago back to the playoffs in 1989, when the Cubs fell to the Giants in the NLCS. During his two trips to the playoffs, he batted .385 with a .457 OBP and a .641 slugging percentage in 10 games. If only there were wild card series back then.
Sandberg’s best power year came in 1990 when he slugged 40 home runs, the first time a second baseman had led the league in that category since Hornsby in ’25. He also plated 100 runs, a feat repeated in 1991 by Ryne. Check out those old Expos uni’s. Remember those Hawk?
Known to fans as “Ryno” or “Kid Natural”, Sandberg was also adept on the basepaths. He stole 30 or more bases every year from 1982 to 1986, led the NL in runs scored three times and placed in the top five and additional five times. Whether he was defending the basepaths or running on them, Ryne was a huge threat. Speed. Another tool Hawk had at his disposal throughout his career. Hall of famer? We’ll see.
After a slow start to the 1994 season (which was shortened by the strike), Sandberg abruptly announced his retirement on June 13 at age 34, citing “loss of desire”. Sixteen months later he announced he was coming back and “Ryno” returned with two productive years in ’96 and ’97. The more Ryno the better as far as I was concerned…still am.
Ryno was selected to 10 straight All-Star games from 1984 to 1993 and started nine of those contests. He also took home seven Silver Slugger awards for his prowess at the plate. Best of his time. Best of all time.
Sandberg retired for good after the 1997 season and had his number 23 retired by the Cubs in 2005. His 277 home runs as a second baseman were the most all-time until Jeff Kent broke the mark in 2004. Overall, Ryno finished with a .285 BA, 403 doubles, 76 triples, 282 homers, 1,061 RBI, and 344 stolen bases in a 16 year career. Wow.
That same year, Sandberg was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (where all these pictures and information is from, by the way) alongside Wade Boggs on Jan 4, 2005. In his third year on the ballot, he received 76.2 percent of the votes cast to gain entry. Enshrined for all to honor and appreciate for years and years to come.
Later that year, he was inducted into the Hall on July 31, 2005. Ryne is quoted in his acceptance speech as having said: “I dreamed of this as a child, but I had too much respect for baseball to think this was ever possible. I believe it is because I had so much respect for the game and respect for getting the most out of my ability that I stand here today.” Class all the way.
Will Monday prove 2009 to be the class that Dawson belongs to? Only a couple days left before we find out. I can’t wait. Go Hawk Go!