When it Comes to Ryne Sandberg, I Will Always Be a Meatball and Someone is Always Gonna Spell it ‘Ryan’



While I’m not at the press-credentialed, inside-the-clubhouse level as (yet), some combination of my late-blooming maturity and continued writing about the Cubs has eroded much of the star-struck dimension of my fandom. At least, I think it has. It’s easy to act like a pro while you’re staring at a computer screen, but I suppose it’s still entirely possible that I’d turn into a stuttering mess at the prospect of getting facetime with one of the players I write about here.

One man for whom that is most assuredly possible is Ryne Sandberg, though I guess that sort of goes with the territory when you name your son after the guy. When it comes to Ryno, I generally throw all impartiality out the window and just revert back into full-on fan mode. He was the star of the team that haunts my earliest Cubs memories and remained through both retirements. And in a happy twist of fate, he was inducted into the HOF the day after my wedding. I’ve always felt a strong affection for the man.

When Lou Piniella stepped aside back in 2010, I really wanted Sandberg to get the job. My desire at the time had absolutely nothing to do with his aptitude for the job and everything to do with wanting my hero back in a Cubs uniform and in the dugout. It was a total meatball, though, thankfully, that phase of thinking didn’t last very long. I quickly realized that bringing the Hall of Famer back as the team’s skipper would likely have fallen somewhere between meh and disaster.

I guess it’s possible that he could’ve been the leader they weren’t able to find in Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, or Rick Renteria, but I’m not going to argue that the Cubs could’ve done better than Joe Maddon. It’s unfair to Sandberg to equate his results in Philly with what he would have accomplished in Chicago, but you can’t deny that his results in the City of Brotherly Love were less than spectacular. Then again, Ruben Amaro Jr. didn’t exactly give his charge much to work with. “Hey Ryno,” the former GM may as well have said, “Here’s some chicken[blank], go make some chicken salad.”

Truth be told, I was kind of happy to see him leave Philly. Not that I’d ever wish ill on the man in any way, just that I wanted him to be a Cub again. And sure enough, there he was throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley for a playoff game while wearing a Cubs jersey once more. But not his own jersey. Instead, Ryno rocked Ernie Banks’s number 14 to honor the late star.

And the Cubs are bringing their iconic second baseman back in an official capacity, albeit one with a bit of a loose definition. This is like when you see an athlete’s major listed as general studies, sort of a catch-all title that could mean anything. Or nothing.

An official announcement is set to come later today during the Cubs Convention’s opening ceremonies, though I doubt we’ll know much more about the details of the role. As Mark Gonzales wrote¹ Thursday, however, “[Sandberg’s] new duties as an ambassador allow him plenty of freedom in future years, according to a source.” So what exactly does that mean? Is it freedom to take other roles within the Cubs organization or to pursue other managerial opportunities should they arise?

I don’t really know and, to be honest, I don’t really care. I’m just happy to have Ryne Sandberg back where he belongs so that I can once again revel in unrepentant meatballishness for a while.


¹You may be wondering why I didn’t fulfill the latter portion of the headline, but perhaps a bit more examination is in order. If you’re viewing on a desktop, take a close look at the URL for that last link. Do better, Trib. Do better.

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