Sandberg enjoying summer of acclaim

Sandberg enjoying summer of acclaim

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The emotions will be running high for Ryne Sandberg on Sunday at the Clark Sports Center. But it won't end there.

Barely a month after he's inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Wade Boggs, the sleek-fielding Sandberg will have his No. 23 retired in a ceremony before the Cubs play the Marlins in front of a full house at Wrigley Field.

On Sunday, he'll be the 17th second baseman inducted into the hallowed Hall and the first elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America since Rod Carew in 1991. On Aug. 28, in Chicago, Sandberg will be the fourth Cub to have his number retired, following Ron Santo's No. 10, Ernie Banks' No. 14 and Billy Williams' No. 26.

"It's been an unbelievable summer," Sandberg said after a news conference on Saturday in the auditorium of Cooperstown High School that featured both new inductees. "And it's not nearly over."

Banks and Williams are also members of the Hall of Fame and will be there to support Sandberg when he gives his acceptance speech to the throngs gathered on the lawn and rolling hills on Sunday. Sandberg figures he needs all the support he can get.

Like Boggs, who said he will probably burst into tears after uttering his first words, Sandberg likely will be straining to maintain his composure.

"We're pretty much on the same page, as far as that goes," said Sandberg, a 10-time National League All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner in his 15-year career, which ended in 1997. "The members of the Hall of Fame give you little jabs every now and then. You're walking in the hall and they ask you how your speech is going. 'Have you started it?' Of course, I've started my speech. It's tomorrow."

Banks and Williams will be on the stage among the 50 living Hall of Famers scheduled to attend the event. In the seats below will be Sandberg's wife, Margaret, their four children and an All-Star squad of former Cubs teammates.

Larry Bowa, Rick Sutcliffe, Bob Dernier and Andre Dawson are just a few who have promised to be there. Plus, former Cubs manager Jim Frey and former Chicago general manager Dallas Green, who acquired the Minor Leaguer Sandberg, along with Bowa, from the Phillies for second baseman Ivan DeJesus on Jan. 27, 1982.

Green, who had just stepped down as the Phillies manager and moved to Chicago, wanted the veteran Bowa's presence at shortstop. Sandberg, a 20th-round 1978 Phillies draft pick who played 13 games for Philadelphia near the end of the 1981 season, was considered a throw-in.

Although, as Bowa said years later after their playing days were through, "I was the throw-in in the deal for Ryne Sandberg."

As a rookie inductee, Sandberg has been going through some hazing from a few of the living Hall of Famers here for the annual weekend.

As tradition has it, the inductees must sing a song of their own choosing during a private party on Friday night.

While Boggs was singing his rendition of the country ditty "Friends in Low Places," Margaret Sandberg was asked what number her husband had picked out. She didn't know, Margaret told friends, "Because I've never heard him sing before."

Apropos to this summer of his greatest acclaim, Sandberg picked the Blues Brothers' version of "Sweet Home Chicago." It was a hit.

"The feedback I got on the song was a lot better than it felt when I was up there," Sandberg said. "From what I was hearing in my ears, I thought it was horrible. But it turned out all right."

All kidding and butterflies aside, Sandberg is hoping for the same reaction when he finishes his speech on Sunday.

"There's anticipation there and an unknown," Sandberg said. "You don't know what it's going to feel like or look like until it happens. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We'll see. I can't wait to talk about it after the fact because right now I don't how it's going to be."

Asked if he'd get a few words out on Sunday before the tears flow, Sandberg answered simply to a chorus of laughter: "I hope so."

It'll be a similar experience for him next month in the friendly confines of Wrigley.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.