So it finally happened. Ryne Sandberg is the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. I wonder how much teeth grinding is going on in the offices of the Cubs right about now. Probably not nearly as much as most Chicago fans would expect.
Back in 2010 then Cubs manager Lou Piniella decided he'd had enough and quit. Just like that. But it was okay because right there waiting in the wings was the perfect answer to all of the north siders' woes. The only man for the job was the guy who was the Cubs' franchise player for a decade and a half. One of the most popular players in the city's history. A Hall of Famer who happened to be the manager of the AAA Iowa Cubs. Oh, and the reigning Pacific Coast League manager of the year. ( Sigh ).
But let's back up. Ryno, as he would come to be affectionately called, was born on September 18, 1959 ( that's two years and one day before the writer of this blog post. I know, I know, you don't care) in Spokane, Washington where he became an All- American quarterback in high school but was also a star baseball player.
After high school Sandberg was taken by the Phillies in in the 12th round of the 1981 draft. He played a mere 13 games at the end of the '81 season and was promptly traded along with Larry Bowa to the Cubs. And that is when the fun began.
In 1983 Ryne won the first of his 9 consecutive Gold Glove awards. In 1984 he was voted onto the first of his 10 consecutive All- Star games and was the National League's most valuable player. On March 2nd, 1992 he became the highest paid player in baseball, signing a four-year contract extension for 28.4 million dollars.
In 1994, after struggling early in the season, Sandberg decided to hang up the spikes. That retirement, it turned out, was rather short-lived. He came back to the Cubs to finish his career for good in the '96 and '97 seasons,ending his playing days with 282 home runs, a .285 lifetime batting average, and over 1000 runs batted in, amazing stats for a second baseman who batted second in the line-up for almost his entire career. And his lifetime .989 fielding percentage is a record for second sackers.
Now let's get back to his coaching pedigree. I'm still shaking my head at the Cubs over this. On December 6th, 2006 Ryno was named manager of the class A Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. He managed there for the 2007 and 2008 seasons before being promoted to the double A Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League. In 2010 he was promoted once again to the Cubs' highest minor league affiliate, the AAA Iowa Cubs.Where he was promptly named manager of the year.
This is where it gets inexplicable. After Piniella quit the Cubs named Mike Quade as their interim manager. Then after the season, instead of hiring the perfect man for the job, they hired Quade as their full time manager. Apparently this was too much for Sandberg. He left the Cubs organization and was subsequently hired as the manager of the Phillies AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. So of course in 2011 he was named by Baseball America magazine as the minor league baseball manager of the year. Last year the Phillies gave him their 3rd base coaching job and that led to this latest and best promotion of his short but storied managerial career.
One more thing. The Cubs thought enough of Ryne Sandberg to retire his number on August 28th, 2005 in a moving ceremony at Wrigley Field. One of only six to ever be retired by the club. That means no one will ever wear the number 23 in a Cubs uniform again. Well, one guy still could. ( SIGH).
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