Topic: Sports &
For those of you who have the misfortune not to
be baseball fans, Ryne Sandberg was a wonderful second baseman for the Chicago
Cubs from 1981 to 1997. He was recently admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown, New York, and the speech he delivered surprised many by being
about ethics: doing the right things for the right reasons, and most of all,
respect. His comments have been widely interpreted as implied criticism of those
active players who seem driven by greed, ego, and a hunger for fame rather than
their love of the game. Perhaps that is true; but Sandberg’s comments transcend
any specific targets or even baseball itself. He chose to take his personal
moment of honor and use it to extol ethical values, while expressing humility,
gratitude, and love. For that he deserves recognition this month as an Ethics
This is his speech, courtesy of the CubsNet.com,
an excellent Chicago Cubs fan site.
What a beautiful day this is! I stand here today
before you a humbled and grateful baseball player. I am truly honored, and
in awe, honored to be in the class with my fellow inductee Wade Boggs. And
as I look behind me here (Wow!) at the greatest players in the history of
the game, I am in awe. I know that if I had ever allowed myself to think this
was possible, if I had ever taken one day in pro ball for granted, I’m sure
I would not be here today. This will come as a shock, I know, but I am almost
The reason I am here, they tell me, is that I played the game a certain way
I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. I don’t know about
that, but I do know this: I had too much respect for the game to play it any
other way, and if there was there was a single reason I am here today, it
is because of one word: respect. I love to play baseball. I’m a baseball player.
I’ve always been a baseball player. I’m still a baseball player. That’s who
I was a baseball player when I was ten or 12 years old pretending to be Willie
Stargell or Johnny Bench or Luis Tiant, when my bat was an old fungo, my ball
was a plastic golf ball, when the field was the street and my older brother
Del and I would play all day. I was a baseball player at North Central High
School in Spokane, Washington even though I was All-City in basketball, even
when I signed a letter of intent to play quarterback with Washington State.
That’s why Del advised me to turn down the chance to play football and sign
with the Phillies out of high school. I had too much respect for the game
to leave it behind or to make it my second or third sport in college.
Everything I am today, everything I have today, everything I will ever be,
is because of the game of baseball
not the game you see on TV or in movies,
but baseball, the one we all know, the one we played with whiffle ball bats
pretending to be Yaz or Fisk or Rose, in dirt fields and in alleys. We all
know that game. The game fit me because it was right.
It was all about doing things right. If you played the game the right way,
played the game for the team, good things would happen. That’s what I loved
most about the game
how a groundout to second with a man on second and nobody
out was a great thing. Respect.
I was taught, coming up in the Phillies organization, to be seen and not heard
by people like Pete Rose, my hero growing up, and players like Mike Schmidt
and Steve Carlton and Manny Trillo. I understood that.
My parents, Derwent and Elizabeth, who are no longer with us, understood that.
My mom was at every single game I played as a kid, rain or shine. My dad always
said, “Keep your nose clean, your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open because
you might learn something.” My sister Meryl and my late brother Tulane knew
this too, so did my first professional manager, Larry Rojas, a guy who was
always in my corner as I climbed through the Phillies organization; guys like
Bill Harper, the scout that signed me; Ken Eilmes, my high school coach: PJ
Carey, a Phillies coach
they taught me to respect the game above all else.
The fourth major league game I ever saw in person, I was in uniform. Yes:
I was in awe. I was in awe every time I walked on to the field. That’s respect.
I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your team mates or
your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. Make a great
play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base
coach and get ready to run the bases,; hit a home run, put your head down,
drop the bat, run around the bases; because the name on the front [of the
uniform] is a lot more important than the name on the back. That’s respect.
My managers, like Don Zimmer and Jim Frey, always said I made things easy
on them by showing up on time, never getting into trouble, being ready to
play every day, leading by example, being unselfish. I made things easy on
them? These things they talk about, playing every day: that was my job! I
had too much respect for them and for the game to let them down. I was afraid
to let them down. I didn’t want to let them down or let the fans down or my
teammates or my family or myself. I had too much respect for them to let them
Dallas Green brought me to Chicago, and without him, who knows? I couldn’t
let him down. I owed him too much. I had too much respect for him to let him
down. People like Harry Caray and Don Zimmer used to compare me to Jackie
Robinson. Can you think of a better tribute than that? But Harry, who was
a huge supporter of mine, used to say how nice it is that a guy who can hit
40 homers or steal 50 bases drive in a hundred runs is the best bunter on
the team. Nice? That was my job! When did it become okay for someone to hit
home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game?
When we went home every winter, they warned us not lift heavy weights because
they didn’t want us to lose flexibility. They wanted us to be baseball players,
not only home run hitters. I played high school football at 185 pounds and
played big league baseball at 182. I’d get up to maybe 188 in the off season
because every summer I’d lose eight to ten pounds. In my day, if a guy came
to spring training 20 pounds heavier than what he left, he was considered
out of shape and was probably in trouble. He’d be under a microscope and the
first time he couldn’t beat out a base hit or missed a fly ball, he was probably
shipped out. These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest
of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget
how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them, to you, and
to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.
A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard
for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the
end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to
do: play it right and with respect.
If this validates anything, it’s that learning how to bunt and hit and run
and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red
light at the dugout camera. If this validates anything, it’s that guys who
taught me the game, coaches like Billy Williams, Chuck Cottier, John Vukovich,
Jose Martinez, Billy Connors and Ruben Amaro; teammates like Larry Bowa who
took me under his wing, Rick Sutcliffe who was like an older brother, Bob
Dernier, the half of the daily double, they did what they were supposed to
do and I did what I was supposed to do.
There was Gary Matthews, the “Sarge.” He wouldn’t let me down. He was always
in the on-deck circle when I was batting, and if there was a pitch that almost
hit me or knocked me down, Sarge would be halfway to the mound coming at the
pitcher. Get the ball over the plate or face the consequences! I saw a lot
of fast balls down the middle because of Sarge and I had too much respect
for how hard he played to give it any less than he did.
Sure I worked hard to get the most out of my God given ability, but that’s
what we all did back then. That’s what every one of these guys sitting here
did. There were a lot of players who worked just as hard as I did and if you
didn’t, you didn’t stay in the big leagues.
There were guys like Bill Buckner, an incredible big league hitter, the first
pure hitter I spent time with in the big leagues. I saw him come through town
with the Spokane Indians in Triple A with Tommy Lasorda and a whole team full
of guys who went to the World Series. They all worked hard.
There was Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace, and together we were a double play
combination for ten years. Shawon Dunston, who knew three weeks in advance
if we were facing Nolan Ryan and always had a hamstring pull playing the day
before. Mark Grace, who made sure Shawon knew he was supposed to get every
popup from foul line to foul line on the infield. We could read each other’s
minds on the field and off. They worked hard. How could I let them down? By
not being prepared for everything that might happen in the field, at the plate
or on the bases?
Andre Dawson, the Hawk. No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered
more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. Stand
up, Hawk! The Hawk. I watched him win MVP for a last place team in 1987 and
it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball. He did it the
right way, the natural way and he did it in the field and on the bases and
in every way, and I hope he will stand up here [as a member of the Hall of
Fame] someday. We didn’t get to a World Series together, but we almost got
there, Hawk. That’s my regret, that we didn’t get to a World Series for Cub
fans. I was in the post season twice and I’m thankful for that. Twice we came
It reminds me of the guy walking down the beach. He finds a bottle, pops the
cork and a genie comes out to grant him one wish. The guy says, “My wish is
for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Here’s a map of the Middle
East. The genie takes the map, studies it for hours and hours, finally gives
it back to the guy and says, “Is there anything else you want to wish for?
This is impossible!” The guy says, “Well, I always wanted to see the Cubs
in a World Series.” The genie looks at him, reaches out and says, “Let me
have another look at that map…!”
In baseball, there’s always the next day. I
always thought there would be another chance. It didn’t happen, but I feel
fortunate for the two chances we had and it’s just a shame we didn’t go to
a World Series for Cub fans. You can’t do it on your own.
And I want to say thank-you to every teammate, coach, manager, and just as
important, my opponents who made the game fun for me. I want to say thank
you to friends like Doug Dascenzo, Yosh Kawano, Arlene Gill, Jimmy Farrell;
John Fierro, my Cubs trainer for ten years, and Marty Hare, an old high school
teammate. To Jimmy Turner, Kathy Lintz and Peter Bensinger
and close friends
thank you. Also, Barry Rosner, great writer and good friend.
It’s fun talking baseball with you, Barry. Thank you.
To the Baseball Writers Association, I thank you for granting me this incredible
honor. I think a large part of this is due to the fact that I was a great
interview and gave you so many quotes you could wrap a story around. Seriously,
I know I wasn’t the best interview for many of those years, but I wasn’t trying
to be difficult. I had other things on my mind. Baseball wasn’t easy for me.
I struggled many times when maybe it didn’t look like I was struggling and
I had to work hard every day. I had to prepare mentally every day. I had to
prepare physically every day and I didn’t leave many scraps for the writers.
I hope you also understand why I would not campaign for this or help you sell
this. It’s the best award in all of sports and I think if I had expected anything,
if I was thinking about it too much or crunching the numbers, it would have
taken away from the prestige of this incredible honor.
To the great folks here at the Hall of Fame, Jane Forbes Clark, Dale Petrosky,
Jeff Idelson, Kim Bennett, Brad Horn, Ted Spencer and Evan Chase, thanks for
making this entire year a joy for me and my family, one we will certainly
I’ve been lucky enough to be welcomed into three new families since I arrived
in Chicago. As great a public speaker as I am, I don’t have the words to describe
Cub fans who welcomed me as a rookie, were patient through my 1-for-32 start,
and took me into their homes and into their hearts and treated me like a member
of their family. You picked me up when I was down. You lifted me to heights
that I didn’t know I could reach. You expected a certain level of play for
from me and you made me play at that level for a long time.
I know there are a lot of Cub fans here today. I feel like every Cub fan in
the world is here with me today. And by the way, for what it’s worth, Ron
Santo just gained one more vote from the Veteran’s Committee.
Thank you to these men here, these Hall of Famers, the greatest players in
the history of baseball who have welcomed me in and treated me as an equal.
It’s going to take some getting used to, but I thank you for your kindness
and respect. This is the second best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Lastly, I joined a new family when my wife Margaret, BR, Adriane and Steven
took me, Lindsey and Justin into their family and together we have made quite
a happy family. I love all of you.
You were probably wondering, when I said this honor is the second best thing
that’s ever happened to me, what was the first. My wife Margaret is the best
thing that’s ever happened to me. She is my best friend, she is the love of
my life. She is my salvation. She’s my past, my present, my future. She is
my sun, my moon, my stars. She is everything that’s good about life and I
thank her for entering my life at a time when I needed her most. I love you.
The feeling I’ve had since I got the call is a feeling I suspect will never
go away. I’m told it never does. It’s the highest high you can imagine. I
wish you all could feel what I feel standing here. This is my last big game.
This is my last big at-bat. This is my last time catching the final out. I
dreamed of this as a child but I had too much respect for baseball to think
this was ever possible. I believe it is because I had so much respect for
the game and respect for getting the most out of my ability that I stand here
today. I hope others in the future will know this feeling for the same reason:
Respect for the game of baseball. When we all played it, it was mandatory.
It’s something I hope we will one day see again.
Thank you, and “Go Cubs!”
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