8 years ago, yesterday, my favorite Cub of all time was given the “ultimate call” every major league baseball player could ever dream of. He was given the call that he was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. That wasn’t a surprise to me. The 1984 MVP, owner of 9 consecutive Gold Glove awards, who also led second basemen in many of the baseball stats was a quiet leader on the field, and in the clubhouse. He was never flashy. He never came across as having the big ego. I loved to watch him play. He brought everything he had to each game. He played hard. He played it right.
From January of 2005, when he got the call, to the actual induction ceremony, I couldn’t help but wonder what his speech would be like. He was such a quiet man and always of few words. He almost came across as somewhat shy. So, when Mr. Sandberg took the podium on that July day, I was more than surprised, but was incredibly moved, and proud, of what he had to say. Of all of the HOF speeches I had heard up until that point, and the ones I have heard since, it is Ryne Sandberg’s I will always remember the most. I was so proud of him that day. I was proud to have been a fan of his. I was proud that he had been a key member of the team that has held control of my heart since that 1984 season that he shined so brightly.
The man of few words in his playing days had seemed to say so much in his words that day. It was all about playing the game “right”. It was all about “respect” for the game. He seemed to take indirect shots to certain former teammates who didn’t understand that the name on the front was more important to the name on the back, which was okay with me, because it was so true.
I look at the age of many of the current players on the Cubs roster, and realize that most of them were too young to have the privilege of getting to watch Sandberg play, and more importantly, how he conducted himself off of the field. He was the quiet clubhouse leader, although, according to Rick Sutcliffe’s stories at the Cubs Convention, there was a practical joke side to Sandberg that would have been kind of fun to see!
With the rebuilding of the current Cubs team of many young players, I hope that Jed and Theo’s manual that they give the players to read about “The Cubs Way” includes a copy of Sandberg’s HOF speech. It has so few words, but like when he was playing, when he spoke them, they carried a lot of weight. If the current team plays the way Sandberg talks of in his speech, it surely won’t be long until we have a very good team that we can all be proud of.
It broke my heart when Sandberg left the Cubs organization last year, but I know he will always be a Cub at heart, and I will forever hold onto the hope that one day, he will return to the North Side in some capacity to continue his legacy he has left imprinted in our hearts.