For all Ryne Sandberg accomplished during his Hall of Fame baseball career, June 23, 1984 stands out as the day he became a household name.
In a nationally televised game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs second baseman had a performance for the ages. He went 5-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBIs in a 12-11 victory in 11 innings. Sandberg hit a solo homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and added a game-tying, two-run shot in the 10th. Both homers came off relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, who was the dominant closer of that era.
That game brought a lot of national attention not only to Sandberg but also to the Cubs, who emerged as contenders and advanced to the postseason for the first time in 39 years. Sandberg went on to win his only National League MVP award. He also began an amazing streak of 10 straight All-star game appearances and nine straight Gold Gloves. Not bad for a guy who played his first full season at second base in 1984.
"It was a one-game thing that elevated my thought of what I was as a player, more of an impact-type of a guy, a game-winning type of a player,'' said Sandberg, manager of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, who beat the host Buffalo Bisons, 6-3, Tuesday in the first game of a four-game series.
"It was my third year in the Major Leagues at the time,'' he said. "I was only 24 years old. It really catapulted me to an MVP season and it also got the Cubs as a national draw. It was a great year. But June 23, which also happens to be my number, it also got me jumped ahead of [L.A. Dodger] Steve Sax as far as me going to the first of my 10 straight All-Star games. I was second place in the voting before that game and within four or five days after that, the game being the Saturday game of the week, I got a lot more votes and started my first All-star game in San Francisco.''