It's 23 days until Cubs pitchers and catchers report to spring training, and thus, today's countdown honors Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.
I suppose I'll always wonder what it would have been like to have Sandberg manage the Cubs. He did everything asked of him in managing Cubs minor leaguers, and won a Manager of the Year award while at Triple-A Iowa. The timing simply wasn't right for him. In a way, I feel sorry for him having been named manager of the Phillies at a time when their playoff core of 2007-11 was in decline. Their general manager's abilities have been widely mocked and he doesn't seem like the guy who will help rebuild their team. The likely endgame for Ryno as Phillies manager is to be fired in a couple of years.
None of that takes anything away from his stellar Cubs career, which, I believe, could have been even better had he not been hit by a pitch by the Giants' Mike Jackson in spring training 1993. The broken hand he suffered caused him to miss the first month of the season and robbed him of most of his power (though he did hit 25 home runs in 1996 on his return from his first retirement).
You all know most of the details of Sandberg's career and there are more here in his Top 100 Cubs profile. I did want to add one more story that's particularly timely now.
When Sandberg came to the major leagues and reported for his first Cubs spring training, he thought he'd request the uniform number he'd worn throughout his high school career both as a baseball player and quarterback (he had, in fact, been recruited to play QB for Washington State), as well as in the minor leagues for the Phillies.
That number? 14.
Clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano had to explain to Ryno that the number was going to be retired and who it was for. Yosh told Sandberg that he had a number he thought suited him: 23.
Seems perfect now, doesn't it? Along with Ernie Banks' flag, Ryno's flag flies proudly above Wrigley Field, with his No. 23 retired forever.