Results tagged ‘ Ryne Sandberg ’
Despite typical April temperatures in Chicago and a 7-2 loss to the visiting Phillies, the Cubs still managed the kick off the Party of the Century in style. Friday’s home opener began a yearlong celebration of Wrigley Field, which turns 100 years old on April 23. The gametime temperature hovered in the high 30s—and a strong wind made it feel colder than that—but that didn’t stop 38,283 fans from packing the Friendly Confines. Cubs Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg and Billy Williams were on hand to throw out the first pitch, and Ernie, Fergie and Billy sang the stretch (Sandberg was otherwise occupied with his job as Phillies manager).
Vine Line talked to Cubs players and personnel about Opening Day at Wrigley Field and celebrating the venerable stadium the Cubs have called home for 98 years. There’s no better place to be than Wrigley Field—in April or September.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The last time Ryne Sandberg was in the Wrigley Field dugout as a visitor was in 1981 when he was a rookie with the Philadelphia Phillies. On Friday afternoon, he’ll return as the Phillies’ manager, when the Cubs open a three-game set with Philadelphia on Friday. Sandberg spent 15 years in Cubbie blue during his Hall of Fame career. He went to 10 All-Star games, won nine Gold Gloves and was the 1984 NL MVP.
On this date in 2005, after receiving 76.2 percent of votes, Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg was voted into the Hall of Fame. It was Ryno’s third year of eligibility. Joining him in the 2005 class was former Red Sox and Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs, who got in on his first attempt.
Sandberg, the 1984 NL MVP, was a 10-time All-Star, a nine-time Gold Glove winner and a seven-time recipient of the Silver Slugger award. Of his 282 career home runs, 277 came while playing second, a then-record at the position.
The Cubs acquired the Hall of Famer in a deal now seen as one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. With an already crowded infield in Philadelphia, the Phillies traded middle infielder Larry Bowa and Sandberg—a player many in the Phillies organization viewed as a utility man at best—for Ivan DeJesus.
In Ryno’s MVP season of 1984, he hit .314/.367/.520 (AVG/OBP/SLG), had 200 hits, stole 32 bases, slugged 19 home runs and had 36 doubles. He also had a league best 114 runs scored and 19 triples. That season also included the famous “Sandberg Game.” On June 23, with the Cubs hosting the rival Cardinals in a nationally televised game, Sandberg had what many view as his breakout game.
With the Cubs trailing 9-8 in the ninth inning and facing shutdown closer Bruce Sutter, Sandberg ripped a solo home run to left to force extra innings. In the top of the 10th, St. Louis managed to score a pair. But with a man on in the bottom of the inning, Sandberg hit another home run to tie the game. The Cubs would go on to win in the 11th inning.
Defensively, he owned a career .989 fielding percentage, the highest of any second baseman in history. Sandberg also set a positional record for a single season (1989) when he went 90 straight games without committing an error. He extended that streak to set another record with 123 errorless games over two seasons (1989-90).
In Sandberg’s 16-year career, he had a .285 average, 1,061 RBI, 2,386 hits and a 64.9 wins above replacement total.
After the 1997 season, Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg stepped away from the game for the second and final time. That season, the 10-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glover and 1984 MVP hit .264 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI in 480 plate appearances.
The following is an excerpt from the November issue of Vine Line, on sale now at Chicago-area retailers.
Good as Gold
When Darwin Barney came to Spring Training in 2011, he was expected to be a utility player. By the end of 2012, he was a Gold Glove-winning second baseman and a cornerstone of the Cubs’ future.
April 18, 2012, was a rough day for the Cubs.
It was the second game of a three-game road trip to the Marlins’ ultra-modern, “only-in-Miami” new ballpark. Starter Matt Garza struggled through five innings, while his mound opponent and former Chicago compatriot Mark Buehrle cruised through eight, surrendering one run. The Cubs managed just six hits in a 9-1 loss … and starting second baseman Darwin Barney didn’t make an error.
It was an altogether forgettable evening of baseball, except for one thing. This game touched off one of the best defensive runs in baseball history.
It would be more than five months—141 games—before Barney made another miscue in the field. During that nearly season-long stretch, the diminutive second baseman made all the plays (including a surprising number of spectacular ones), piled up records, and bypassed former coach and Cubs legend—and perhaps the best second baseman of all time—Ryne Sandberg.
“I’ve been around a long time, and he’s been as good as I’ve ever seen,” said manager Dale Sveum. “[Barney] has put together arguably one of the best defensive second base years in the history of the game. I mean, he’s passed a lot of people. And when you’re basically passing one of the best—if not the best (Ryne Sandberg)—it’s one heck of an accomplishment you can hang your hat on for the rest of your life.”
There are more obvious kinds of excellence. Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown practically begs for plaudits and superlatives—it necessitates hits, home runs, fireworks and its own SportsCenter playlist. Barney’s is a low-key, under-the-radar, grind-it-out kind of excellence.
An errorless game is nothing to get excited about. Major league ballplayers aren’t supposed to make errors. But given the physical and mental grind of 162 games, they all know how difficult it is to put together an extended errorless streak.
“If I had a 20-game streak, I was pleased with myself,” said former Cubs third base and infield coach Pat Listach, who played six seasons in the majors and was integral to Barney’s defensive improvement over the last two years. “This guy has got over 100. Just knowing how hard it is to do every day, day in and day out, made it more impressive every day.”
To a man, every player and coach immediately mentions Barney’s tireless work ethic and consuming drive to get better. He consistently receives the highest compliment a player can give to any other major leaguer: “He’s a baseball player.” And over the course of the 2012 season, Barney fashioned himself into perhaps the preeminent defensive second sacker in the game.
“His work ethic is off the charts,” Listach said. “He knows this is a game you can only play for a certain number of years, and he wants to be the best at it while he’s got that window open. He’s like the old-school baseball players. When us coaches leave after we’re done dissecting the game, he’s still there. He’s in the weight room, or he’s in the video room. He’s trying to make himself better every day.”
Given the way Barney handles the keystone, it would be easy to believe he’s spent his entire life mastering the position. But in reality, 2012 was only Barney’s second year at second base. He’d grown up and played his entire career as a shortstop, including at Oregon State University, where he said he really started to focus on his defensive play.
“We had a coach, Marty Lees, who’s now at Oklahoma State,” Barney said. “Every ground ball I took my freshman year, I felt like he had something to say. And I was so frustrated because [it was] every single ground ball. And we took a lot of ground balls.”
When Barney made his debut as the Cubs’ starting second baseman on Opening Day 2011, it was just the 24th game he had played the position as a professional. Although he thought the transition would be easy, he said he was often uncomfortable in the field, especially turning the double play. He ultimately finished the 2011 season with 12 errors and a .981 fielding percentage—a decent defensive season for a guy adjusting to a new position—but Barney was far from satisfied.
“I just took a lot of pride in the work that I did,” Barney said. “I was always conscious about my habits and my practice efforts and getting to work every single day. A lot of times when you’re tired, you take your defense off and take less ground balls. For me, I take less swings. I make sure I get my work in on defense and stay solid out there.”
By almost any measure—advanced metrics, errors, fielding percentage or just the eye test—Barney’s 2012 was one of the best defensive seasons for a second baseman in the history of the game. In 156 games, Barney made only three errors—one of which came at shortstop—and amassed a .997 fielding percentage at second base. Baseball-Reference had Barney tied with Brendan Ryan of the Mariners for the best defensive wins above replacement (3.6) mark in the major leagues in 2012.
“This is my 11th full year doing big league games, and this is the best defensive year by an individual player I’ve witnessed,” said Cubs television broadcaster Len Kasper. “I think we’ve come a long way with defensive statistics and how to look at defense. The bottom line is: Forget about the errors and fielding percentage. It’s about balls hit in your area and turning them into outs. It’s been borne out in the statistics that every ball hit in his area turns into an out.”
But Barney is not spending the offseason resting on his defensive laurels. Despite his superlative campaign, he still wants to get better around the bag turning double plays. He plans to work on his speed and flexibility to improve his range. And he wants to continue to refine his routine so he’s ready to play every day. And for people who know Barney, none of this comes as a surprise.
“A lot of times, players have a tendency to work on the things they do well,” said Dave McKay, the Cubs’ first base and outfield coach. “Darwin works on everything. He works on his backhand, he works on his feeds, ground balls hit up the middle, ground balls hit to his left. He works on them all because he wants to be that guy—he wants to be the Gold Glove second baseman. I think once he gets it, he’s going to get it forever.”
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Every once in a Cubbie blue moon, we are witness to seeing a dream come true at Wrigley Field. It might happen to a neighbor or friend of the Cubs, or even a business partner. Artist Steve Musgrave has been all three over the years.
You might have seen his work as you come through the Red Line “el” stop at Addison, just east of Wrigley Field. His murals include Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ryne Sandberg tagging a sliding Ozzie Smith.
Last Monday, Steve got to fulfill a lifelong dream. He threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the 7:05 contest against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wearing a handmade Cubs beret, in front of his lovely wife Jane and a handful of friends and family–not to mention the more than 32,000 people in the stands–Steve conjured up visions of Fergie Jenkins (or Matt Clement, his favorite Cub in 2003) and threw a looping strike to rookie right-hander and Park Ridge, Ill., native Brian Schlitter.
Not only did he fulfill a lifelong dream, but he also was representing the Chicago Public Library’s “Reading is Artrageous” program, a summer reading initiative centered around art for city kids up to age 14.
The program is a partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago. Steve has visited several libraries as a guest speaker and participant. To learn more about the program, click here.
A caring and genuine soul, Steve has done much work for Cubs publications in the past and has always been great to work with and an even better friend. In fact, while the longtime Lakeview resident has been a good neighbor of the Cubs, he was an even nicer neighbor to me, as he selflessly volunteered to walk our dog Bella every day along with his dog Molly.
His work has adorned the covers of our official programs, scorecards, and he even served as Vine Line‘s caricature illustrator for a time. More importantly, he has done a lot of work for not-for-profits around the area.
So I felt compelled to bring him something that could fittingly commemorate his big Wrigley Field debut: An ice bag.
OK, so he might have not worked up a sweat out on the mound, but the guy has worked hard for his community. That’s good enough.
MESA, Ariz.–It was still dark this morning when staff photographer Steve Green and I made our way to Fitch Park. Though it was 5:30 a.m., to me it was more like 7:30 in Chicago. I felt pretty good. After a short stop at Starbucks, we arrived at the Cubs’ minor-league facility.
Things were still soggy after it rained virtually all day on Sunday. I never have seen so much rain in Arizona, but by the afternoon, most of it had dried up.
Photo Day is when teams take care of photos for MLB security IDs, standard headshots that other teams use on their jumbotrons.
Also on hand to shoot the players were Topps trading cards, Getty photo services and the Associated Press.
Three stations crammed into a room that usually serves as the coaches’ meeting room. We move all of the tables and chairs to make room.
Xavier Nady, a newcomer to the Cubs, asked “Are these the headshots used on the jumbotron?”
He was worried about how his face looked on a big screen after inspecting one headshot on the photographer’s digital camera.
But when he was reminded that Wrigley Field does not have a jumbotron, he retorted, “Hey, that’s right. Well, in that case, I guess that’s OK.”
In his first big-league camp, rookie Starlin Castro was quiet, but did everything Steve asked.
We were doing a special shoot for our April issue of Vine Line, which will feature our 2010 season preview. He’s a good-looking athlete and certainly has merited all the hype he’s attracted.
Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg takes over our Triple-A affiliate in Iowa. Always accommodating, “Ryno” is a veteran of these photo days, and knew exactly what to do.
No Geovany Soto, he was sent home with a 102-degree fever. Ouch.
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Yesterday brought the 2009 season to a close, and despite the Cubs being out of it, the 162nd game reminded me why we stick it through to the end.
This time it was to see Sam Fuld pick up his first major-league RBI. And of course, he did it with some style, hitting a home run to deep rightfield to get it done all by himself. Fuld made a name for himself — and rewarded many of the organization’s scouts and minor-league coaches who have praised him for his baseball IQ and plate discipline — this season with a number of full-extension catches as well as a .299 batting average and .409 on-base percentage.
Being that it was Fuld’s first home run, it was worth paying close attention to the dugout’s reaction. Sure enough, the team gave Fuld the silent treatment while the outfielder beckoned them on a little bit. They held still until Fuld walked by Derrek Lee, who reached back to give him a big pat on the back.
“I kind of sniffed out what they were doing when I got back in there,” Fuld told reporters. “But it meant a lot to me.”
Once again, Cubs fans, you showed why you are the best in baseball. After Derrek Lee’s eighth-inning flyout, the near-sellout crowd gave him a standing ovation for his outstanding season.
“I wasn’t expecting it; I didn’t know how to react,” Lee told reporters after the game. “I appreciate it. It was really cool.”
Thanks to all of our fans who supported us at the ballpark or across the nation by subscribing to Vine Line this season.
Seen around the ballpark this last weekend:
? Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster continuing to go on runs together, even after Lilly had thrown his last pitch in 2009.
? Top Cubs prospects Brett Jackson, Casey Coleman and Kyler Burke wearing eager smiles as they were taken through the Cubs clubhouse to meet the big-leaguers and on the field for a ceremony with Double-A manager Ryne Sandberg (right).
? Sandberg and Lou Piniella talking Cubs baseball in the home dugout, minutes before the national anthem on Saturday.
– Sean Ahmed
When actress Denise Richards came by on May 1 to sing conduct the seventh-inning stretch and sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” she looked intent on getting it right. Before the stretch, she tuned up with Lowry organist Gary Pressy and then reviewed her sheet music, humming quietly to herself. Richards is from Downers Grove, which is about an hour west of Chicago.
The star of such films as “Goldeneye” Starship Troopers” and “Wild Things”, Denise Richards was in town filming season two of her reality show, “It’s Complicated.”
While her rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has been criticized, it’s probably not because of the singing, but rather that she read off her sheet music. But to her credit, he admitted it was tough.
Vine Line: So how was your experience conducting the seventh-inning stretch?
Denise Richards: Horrifying. A singer I am not. [laughs] But I guess I can sing at a baseball game for fun.
DR: Hey, it’s up there! But really, it’s an honor to be up there.
VL: Is it more nervewracking to sing than be in front of the camera?
DR: Oh yeah, definitely. It really is. It’s something I don’t do on a normal basis, especially in front of all those people.
VL:: Now, have you been a Cubs fan all your life, being from the Chicago area?
DR: My mom was. She was a huge Ryne Sandberg fan. That’s why I’m wearing her number.
VL: I know you’re in town to film, but to also promote kidney cancer awareness, too?
DR: Yeah, we lost my mom (Joanie) to kidney cancer a little over a year ago and the Kidney Cancer Foundation is based in Chicago. I got in touch with them and wanted to do something in honor of my mom to help create awareness of kidney cancer. There’s no cure for it.
VL: How does filming for a reality show differ than a motion picture?
DR: It’s hard to do a reality show. I mean you still have to have it make sense. You’re not given lines or anything of course, but you still have to make it entertaining. But it’s actually very conducive to my lifestyle with the kids, being a single mom, and I get to hang out with my friends while filming it, so it’s a lot of fun.