All-Stars headed to Cooperstown
By Bill Francis
Prior to Sunday afternoon’s All-Star Futures Game of minor league talent, Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, a coach for the World Team, was looking forward to his trip to Central New York in two weeks to welcome an old teammate to the game’s most exclusive fraternity.
Currently the Triple-A manager of the Iowa Cubs, Sandberg talked in the visiting team clubhouse of Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., prior to the U.S. Team’s 9-1 win over the World Team.
“I’m looking forward to coming to Cooperstown. Andre Dawson’s election was well overdue,” said Sandberg of his Cubs teammate from 1987-92. “I’m looking forward to seeing him take his spot there.”
The last time Sandberg saw Dawson was during this past spring training.
“I was just touching base, seeing how busy he had been. He’d been very busy doing things,” Sandberg said. “That’s always part of that first year. But he’s loving every minute of it, so I think that’s the key thing.
“And he’s looking forward to that day. So I’ll be there pulling for him. And I’ll be right there sitting behind him.”
Sandberg used part of his induction speech in 2005 to plead Dawson’s case for enshrinement.
“So that makes it somewhat gratifying to see a fellow teammate go in,” Sandberg said. “A guy that is very deserving, worked hard, maybe a little bit overshadowed through the steroid era, and now he’s right where he should be.”
Sandberg then talked about the kind of teammate that Dawson was.
“Just his work ethic. He was team-first, he played the game hard all the time, gave it his best, and at times he really overdid what he had to do to be able to play,” he said. “He was the first one at the ballpark working on his body and working on his knees to be able to play a game. And he was the last one to leave.
“And with that being said, he was in the lineup every single day, never complained about anything, played hard, never took anything for granted, and really played the game the right way, even with two sore knees. I was very impressed with that and just the Hall of Fame quality of play that he’d bring year to year. Very impressive.”
Sandberg was also eyewitness to Dawson’s historic 1987 season with the Cubs, leading the National League with 49 home runs and 137 RBI en route to capturing the senior circuit’s MVP Award while playing outfield for a last-place team.
“That was one of the most impressive seasons I watched first-hand like that,” Sandberg said.
As for Sandberg, he has attended every Induction Ceremony since his induction and has no plans to end the streak any time soon.
“I haven’t missed one yet. I’ll try not to miss one as long as I can help it,” he said. “It’s a big thrill every time and it’s great to see the new guys go in and reflect back what that felt like. It was just like yesterday. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling of the year going in 2005.”
And so far, the team’s he has been managing have been more than accommodating when the last Sunday of July rolls around.
“The organizations have been all for that. They’re very understanding about that. Not only that, they tell me to go. Sometimes it’s hard to leave the team, but it’s a good getaway and it’s for the right reasons and I’m looking forward to it once again this year.”
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.