Profile: Ryne Sandberg

May 7, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

Ryne Dee Sandberg was born on September 18, 1959 in Spokane, Washington.  The son of an undertaker was an all-around great athlete in high school (at the same time that fellow Spokane athletes Mark Rypien and John Stockton were leading their own Spokane schools).  Many expected Sandberg to attend Washington State University to play quarterback, where he had signed a letter of intent.

The Philadelphia Phillies drafted him in the 20th round of the 1978 draft in hopes that he would change his mind.  Sandberg did indeed decide to play baseball.  He came up through the Phillies minor league system as a third baseman.  This presented a bit of a challenge for Ryno.  To say that his path to the majors was blocked was an understatement.  Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt manned the hot corner for the Phillies.

Prior to the 1982 season, the Phillies ran into problems negotiating a contract extension with shortstop Larry Bowa.  The talks eventually got contentious enough that they decided to trade Bowa.  They found a willing partner in the Chicago Cubs, who were willing to give up their own shortstop, Ivan DeJesus.  The Cubs wanted a young prospect in the deal, as well.  Phillies GM Paul Owens was hesitant to trade Sandberg, but the Cubs insisted on having him, and the Phillies’ own scouts were not particularly optimistic about Sandberg’s chance of success.  This trade became the counterweight to the Lou Brock – Ernie Broglio trade in Cubs lore.

Sandberg was the starting third baseman for the Cubs in 1982 and finished 6th in the Rookie of the Year balloting.  The Cubs acquired third baseman Ron Cey that offseason and decided to try Sandberg at second base instead.  Sandberg excelled at his new position, winning a Gold Glove (the first of nine consecutive) in his first year at the position.

In 1984, Sandberg came of age. In the defining game of the year for Ryno, he hit dramatic home runs in the 9th and 10th innings of a nationally televised game that Cubs would eventually win in the 11th inning against their hated rivals, the Cardinals. Impressively, he hit both home runs off Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter.  

After hitting a total of 15 homers in his first two seasons, Sandberg smacked 19 (a pretty decent number for the time) in 1984, while also accumulating 19 triples.  He hit .314 and stole 32 bases in 39 attempts (his third consecutive season with 30+ steals).  He led to Cubs to a division title and to the very brink of the World Series.  Sandberg was honored with the National League Most Valuable Player award.

Sandberg quietly worked on putting together a Hall of Fame caliber career.  He was the dominant second baseman of the 1980s.  In addition to stellar defense (at one point, playing a record 123 consecutive errorless games) he also set a record (later broken) with 277 homers as a second baseman (he had 282 career homers, but 5 were hit as a third baseman).  He also brought speed to the table, stealing 20+ bases in 9 different seasons, topping out at 54 steals in 1985.  Sandberg also hit 20+ homers in 6 different seasons.  In 1990, he set a career high with 40 homers while driving in 100 runs and batting .306. 

Sandberg’s power numbers dropped in 1993 (9 homers) and his hitting deserted him nearly completely in 1994.  Sandberg had lost the desire to play, and retired from the game.  Although Sandberg has stated that he was not having any marital problems at the time, there are some very prevalent and unsavory rumors regarding Sandberg’s first wife.  If these rumors are based on fact, a lack of focus would be completely understandable.

In 1996, a newly remarried and rejuvenated Sandberg re-joined the Cubs.  He hit a lackluster .244, but hit 26 homers.  After one more season in 1997, Sandberg called it quits for good.  The missing seasons of 1994 (he retired after playing just 57 games) and 1995 cast some doubt about Sandberg’s Hall of Fame chances.  However, Sandberg was elected in his third year of eligibility, squeaking in with 76% of the vote (75% is needed).

Sandberg was always a big hit with the fans, being named to 10 All Star teams. Ryno was a quiet star, never seeked out the media attention. Off the field, he has been a big supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes foundation.

Sandberg has aspirations of some day becoming a Major League manager.  In 2007 and 2008, he served as manager of the Cubs’ low-A team in Peoria, Illinois.  Peoria drew record crowds at home and on the road, as fans all over the midwest clamored at the chance to get an autograph.  A friend of mine was able to procure an autograph for my collection.  In 2009, Sandberg is serving as manager of the Cubs AA team in Tennessee.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amy
    May 07, 2009 @ 09:19:45

    Hi “Kosmo”

    Good article. Thanks for sending the link to Terry. Reminded me of the great times I had with my Dad and Uncle Bob at Wrigley in the 80’s. And I have a couple really good pics from the chielfs game! I have added this to my favs–and will probably enjoy Tuesdays posts the most. Take Care. “Terry’s Wife”
    p.s. we have a 12 month old, and “agreed” to yesterdays post.


  2. kosmo
    May 07, 2009 @ 13:20:55

    Thanks, Amy. Hopefully you’ll like The Casual Observer and recommend us to your friends. Johnny Goodman writes the regular sports column, but I’ll certainly chime in with some sports articles of my own.

    Sandberg was far and away my favorite athlete when I was growing up. There was a time when I could probably rattle off all of his statistics from every season … but now, with the onset of mid-thirties-itis, I cheat and go to 🙂


Leave a Reply