Sandberg's return to Wrigley all business
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Ryne Sandberg, Cubs Hall of Famer and now Phillies interim manager, returns to Wrigley Field on Friday for the first time in uniform since retiring as a player in 1997.
Ryne Sandberg understands now that it was a mistake to believe he would someday manage the Cubs.
More accurately, it was a mistake to let romantic notions cloud his judgment, leading him to stay in the organization longer than he probably should have, thinking it would be the ideal situation if he could wind up in the dugout at Wrigley Field.
Instead, Friday morning he will occupy the opposing dugout at Wrigley Field as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, his original organization and the one he calls home again.
"I'm not sure what it will be like," Sandberg said of his first day back. "I have other things on my mind now and a job to do, so I'd like to think I will be focused on that.
"I don't know how realistic that is. Things don't always go the way you think they're going to. In baseball, they rarely do."
Sandberg, who arrived in Chicago on Thursday night with a record of 8-6 as Phillies interim manager, doesn't expect to get caught up in the emotion of the day. That might change when he is greeted by a fan base that still worships the Hall of Famer and very much wanted him to be the manager when Mike Quade got the job in 2010.
"It's all in the past," Sandberg said this week. "Things have a way of working out in this game. I thought I would get to the big leagues as a player with the Phillies, and it turned out my career was with the Cubs.
"I thought I might get to the big leagues with the Cubs as a manager, and I'm here with the Phillies. It's an interim job. We'll see how it works out."
The symmetry hardly stops there.
Sandberg was a September call-up in 1981 with the Phillies, batted six times and got the first hit of his career against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It's the only hit of his career that didn't occur in a Cubs uniform.
"Soft liner to right off Mike Krukow," Sandberg said. "Had to borrow a bat from Larry Bowa. Still have the bat and ball."
His final game at Wrigley Field was Sept. 21, 1997, against — of course — the Phillies. He went 2-for-3 against Curt Schilling and was removed from the game after a basehit in the bottom of the fifth.
Sandberg still has that bat and ball as well.
"(Manager) Jim Riggleman told me to get a hit as I was leaving the dugout, so I figured he was up to something," Sandberg recalls. "I got the hit and he sent (Miguel Cairo) out to pinch run.
"Schilling tossed me the ball as I jogged past him and he tipped his cap. Class move on his part. I never forgot that."
Sandberg left to a standing ovation, one of five he received in his final home game as a major-league player. The last was after Harry Caray asked for a curtain call following the final seventh-inning stretch of Caray's life.
"I wasn't even in the dugout at the time," Sandberg said. "I was up (in the clubhouse) getting a drink and had called (wife) Margaret. She said, 'Wait, Harry just called for you!' I ran back out, almost wiped out in the tunnel. It was pretty funny."
Friday will mark the first time in uniform for Sandberg at Wrigley Field since that day in 1997, but much more is different this time than simply the color of his jersey.
He is in charge of a baseball team and focused on a single goal.
"I wanted to get back to the big leagues and I wanted to win a World Series,'' Sandberg said. "I didn't get there as a player and it's still something I think about a lot.
"I'm grateful to the Phillies for helping me reach one goal. Now I want to do all I can to help the Phillies get back to the World Series."
That is a goal for another year and a topic for another day. Whether he likes it or not, the focus Friday will be on the return to Wrigley Field of a Hall of Famer and one of the most popular players in the history of the North Side franchise.
"I really don't know what it will be like," Sandberg said of how he'll be treated Friday. "You never know."
The bet here is on a standing ovation when he brings out the lineup card.
In fact, as wagers go, this one seems an absolute lock.
Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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