Wednesday, March 31, 2010
#23 - Ryne Sandberg
Sandberg was the last Cub player to wear #23. The team officially retired it on August 28, 2005. I'm sure it was unofficially retired after Ryno's last season, 1997, since no one wore it after that.
As I wrote yesterday, before Sandberg, the number had been passed along to a host of scrubs. When he came to the Cubs for the 1982 season, I'd suspect that the team wasn't really sure what they had. He came to spring training as a player looking for a position. He was seen as either a center fielder or third baseman. It was third base he ended up at.
I vividly remember the very slow start he got off to at the beginning of his rookie season. It took him seven games and 21 at bats before he finally got his first hit of the season. When April ended, he was hitting .203. But the team didn't give up on him, and by the end of the season he raised his average to a respectable .271. The Cubs also wanted to see him at second base and that is where he spent the last month of the season....and the rest of his career.
From there, his career took off...
...9 Gold Gloves
...10 All Star Appearances
...league leading 40 home runs in 1990
...most career home runs of all second basemen (at the time he retired)
And he was a classy player. He played the game it was supposed to be played. I've always liked him and I was lucky enough to be in the upper deck on the first base side for his final game at Wrigley Field on September 21, 1997. In the bottom of the fifth, he got a single off of Curt Schilling. He was replaced by a pinch runner and as he made his way to the dugout, everyone in the park got on their feet and gave him a long, loud standing ovation. It was a goose bump moment and something I will always remember.
I've got 206 Ryne Sandberg cards. The ones here give you a good look at #23
Fleer 1983, shown at spring training 1982, the last time the Cubs wore their pajama uniforms. When the season started in April, they had their blue softball uniforms instead.
Upper Deck 1998
This is the card given out at Wrigley Field the day his #23 was retired.