Monday, August 01, 2005

RYNE SANDBERG, HALL OF FAMER

Ryne Sandberg, Mr. Cub for my generation, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. The Chicago Tribune excerpted his speech below. Please keep in mind that this is the Tribune's work, and I take no credit for it:

What a beautiful day this is.

I stand here before you today humbled, and a grateful baseball player. I am truly honored and in awe, honored to be in a class with my fellow inductee, WADE BOGGS.

And as I look behind me here--wow--at the greatest players in the history of the game, I am in awe. I know that if I ever allowed myself to think this was possible, if I had ever taken one day of pro ball for granted, I am sure I would not be here today.

This will come as a shock, I know. But I am almost speechless.

The reason I am here, they tell me, is that I played the game a certain way. That I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. I don't know about that. But I do know this. I had too much respect for the game to play it any other way.

And if there is a single reason I am here today it is because of one word: respect. I love to play baseball. I'm a baseball player. I've always been a baseball player. I'm still a baseball player. That's who I am.

The game fit me because it was all about doing things right. If you played the game the right way, played the game for the team, good things would happen.

That's what I love most about the game. How a groundout to second with a man on second and nobody out was a great thing.

Respect. I was taught coming up in the Phillies organization to be seen and not heard by people like Pete Rose--my hero growing up--and players like Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton and Manny Trillo. I understood that.

My parents, Durant and Elizabeth, who are no longer with us, understood that. My mom was at every single game I played as a kid, rain or shine. My dad always said, "Keep your nose clean, your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open because you might learn something."

I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform.

Make a great play? Act like you've done it before.

Get a big hit? Look for the third-base coach and get ready to run the bases.

Hit a home run? Put your head down, drop the bat and run around the bases.

My managers, like Don Zimmer and Jim Frey, they always said I made things easy on them by showing up on time, never getting into trouble, being ready to play every day, leading by example, being unselfish.

I made things easy on them? These things they talk about [like] playing every day? That was my job. I had too much respect for them and for the game to let them down. I was afraid to let them down.

People like Harry Caray and Don Zimmer used to compare me to Jackie Robinson. Can you think of a better tribute than that?

But Harry, who was a huge supporter of mine, used to say how nice it is that a guy who can hit 40 homers or steal 50 bases or drive in 100 runs is the best bunter on the team.

Nice? That was my job. When did it become OK for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game?

When we went home every winter, they warned us not to lift heavy weights because they didn't want us to lose flexibility. They wanted us to be baseball players, not only home run hitters.

These guys sitting up here (other Hall of Famers) did not pave the way for the rest of us so the players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third.

It's disrespectful to them and to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.

Respect.

A lot of people say this honor validates my career. But I didn't work hard for validation. I didn't play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that's what you're supposed to do--play it right and with respect.

If this validates anything, it's that learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light on the dugout camera.

Teammates like Larry Bowa, who took me under his wing; Rick Sutcliffe, who was like an older brother; Bob Dernier, half of the daily double.

They did what they were supposed to do and I did what I was supposed to do.

There was Gary Matthews, the Sarge, he wouldn't let me down. He was always in the on-deck circle when I was batting. And if there was a pitch that almost hit me or knocked me down, Sarge would be halfway to the mound screaming at the pitcher, "Get the ball over the plate." Or face the consequences.

There were guys like Bill Buckner, an incredible big-league hitter, the first pure hitter I spent time with in the big leagues.

There was Shawon Dunston and MARK GRACE. And together we were a double-play combination for 10 years. Shawon Dunston, who knew three weeks in advance that we were facing Nolan Ryan and always had a hamstring pull planned for the day before.

Mark Grace, who made sure Shawon knew he was supposed to get every popup from foul line to foul line on the infield.

We could read each others' minds on the field and off. They worked hard. How could I let them down by not being prepared for everything that might happen in the field, at the plate or on the bases?

Respect.

ANDRE DAWSON. The Hawk. No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He's the best I've ever seen. And I hope he will stand up here some day.

We didn't get to a World Series together. We almost got there, Hawk. That's my regret, that we didn't get to a World Series for Cub fans. I was in the postseason twice and I'm thankful for that. Twice we came close.

Baseball wasn't easy for me. I struggled many times when maybe it didn't look like I was struggling. And I had to work hard every day. I had to prepare mentally every day and I had to prepare physically every day.

As great a public speaker as I am, I don't have the words to describe Cub fans, who welcomed me as a rookie, who were patient during my 1-for-32 start and took me into their homes and into their hearts. You treated me like a member of your family.

I know there are a lot of Cub fans here today and I feel like every Cub fan in the world is here with me today.

And by the way, for what it's worth, Ron Santo just gained one more vote from the Veterans Committee.

Thank you to these men here, these Hall of Famers, who have welcomed me in and treated me as an equal. It's going to take some getting used to, but I thank you for your kindness and respect.

This is the second-best thing that's ever happened to me.

My wife, Margaret, is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She is my best friend, she is the love of my life, she is my salvation. She's my past, my present, my future. She is my sun, my moon, my stars. She is everything that is good in life and I thank her for entering my life at a time when I needed her most.

I love you.

I wish you all could feel what I feel standing here. This is my last big game, this my last big at-bat, this is my last time catching the final out.

I dreamed of this as a child, but I had too much respect for baseball to think this was ever possible. I believe it is because I had so much respect for the game and getting the most out of my abilities that I stand here today.

I hope others in the future will know this feeling for the same reasons--respect for the game of baseball. When we all played it, it was mandatory. It is something I hope we will one day see again.

Thank you, and go Cubs!"


Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

OK, this is me again. I **love** the fact that Ryno, the quiet guy who just worked hard, took shots at the half-assed baseball that is being played now. The shots at Mr. I-Know-I-Can-Reach-the-Low-and-Outside-Slider-From-Back-of-the-Batter's-Box-But-Can't Sosa were particularly beautiful. I could not be any happier than I am, particularly since he was THE Cub for people like me in their mid to late 30s.

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