“Dunston-Sandberg-Grace. Double play!” – Harry Caray
I loved Caray’s home run call, but the double play call of Shawon Dunston to Ryne Sandberg to Mark Grace is right there too. During the opening ceremony of Cubs Convention on Friday, chairman Tom Ricketts announced that Dunston and Grace would comprise the team’s 2023 Hall of Fame class. A ceremony to honor both players will be held at Wrigley Field during the upcoming season.
2023 #Cubs Hall of Fame inductees:
See you this summer at Wrigley Field! pic.twitter.com/BrbUrdC2hD
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 14, 2023
“That’s not for me,” Dunston said. “It’s for Billy Williams and Ernie Banks. Ryno. Andre. It’s Maddux. All are Hall of Famers. Now they’re putting me in there? When they told me I was going in with Grace, I felt a little more comfortable. And I really felt very thankful.”
Dunston joined the organization in 1982 as a first-round draft pick out of Thomas Jefferson High in Brooklyn. Grace was a 24th-round pick out of San Diego State in 1985. Both finished their careers with other clubs and Grace won a World Series winner with the Diamondbacks in 2001, but the pair anchored Chicago’s defense with Sandberg for over a decade.
Dunston had a rocket for an arm, Grace earned four Gold Glove awards, and Sandberg was a steadying influence who almost never hurt the team defensively. The two newest members of the Cubs HOF were key contributors to the 1989 NL East championship team, though the Giants clinched the pennant in five games.
“There’s never been a gift hanging out of a right sleeve like that,” Grace said about Dunston’s arm, adding that he told Dunston early on that he needed to miss low with his throws to give Grace a chance at picking them out of the dirt.
“And I’m telling you,” Grace said, “For as long as Shawon was still with the Cubs, every throw was right on the money.”
Dunston said he “got numb” when he learned he got the call from the Cubs.
“They were calling me the next Ernie [at the start of my career], which I wasn’t,” Dunston said. “I was trying to be, but I wasn’t.”
Grace was known more for his hitting ability, however. In his 13 years with the Cubs, the chain-smoking first baseman hit .308 with 2,201 hits, which ranks fifth in team history. He had 456 doubles, trailing only Cap Anson (529). In fact, Grace led all MLB hitters in hits (1,754) and doubles (364) in the 1990s. Those marks are even more exceptional when you consider how Wrigley Field hurts left-handed batters. Grace acknowledged that in an interview on The Compound, a podcast hosted by Ian Happ.
“Wrigley Field will humble left-handed batters,” Grace told Happ. “If you’re batting from the left side in April and May with the wind blowing in, good luck with that.”
The first baseman defied what would be considered a baseball-friendly diet, too. Grace made up for his dietary choices by having an excellent eye. In his 13-year Cubs career, he walked 1,075 times with just 678 strikeouts. That’s unheard of in today’s game. In fact, he never played a full season in which he struck out more than he walked.
“Back in the 1980s, we were bumming cigarettes in the dugout between innings,” Grace added. “Today’s players share carrot sticks and kale shakes.”
In his final season with the Cubs, he had 95 walks to only 28 strikeouts in 621 plate appearances.
“Honestly, calling it an honor doesn’t do it justice,” Grace said of being inducted by the team. “But to go in with [Dunston]? To go in with him, it just couldn’t get any better.”