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On This Date in Sports June 23, 1984: The Ryne Sandberg Game

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 

The Saturday Game of the Week on NBC turns into the Ryne Sandberg show, as the Chicago Cubs second basemen as a game for the ages in a 12-11 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in 11 innings at Wrigley Field. Sandberg collects five hits in six at-bats driving in seven runs, with two home runs. Each home run ties the game in the ninth and the tenth innings. 

Ryne Sandberg was born on September 18, 1959, in Spokane, Washington. His father named him after former relief pitcher Ryne Durham. A star quarterback, Sandberg signed a letter of intent to play at Washington State. Instead, he chose baseball after he was drafted in the 20th round of the 1978 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Sandberg made his debut with the Phillies in 1981. When Dallas Green left Philadelphia to be the Cubs General Manager, he took the Phillies prospect with him and Larry Bowa in a trade for Ivan DeJesus. 

After showing early promise and winning a Gold Glove in 1983, Ryne Sandberg was in the middle of a breakout season in 1984. The Cubs were also rising in the Eastern Division. Under Jim Frey, the Cubs who had not had a winning season since 1972 held a record of 36-31 and were a game and a half behind the first-place New York Mets as they took on the rival St. Louis Cardinals on NBC’s Saturday Game of the Week. The Cardinals led by Whitey Herzog came into the game scuffling at 34-36. 

Ralph Citarella made his first career start for St. Louis, while Steve Trout took the mound for the Cubs. The Cardinals scratched out a run in the first inning as Ozzie Smith scored on George Hendrick single. The Cubs answered in the bottom of the first as Ryne Sandberg singled in Bob Denier. In the second inning, things unraveled for the Cubs as the Cardinals scored six runs, as Trout got the hook after a bases-clearing triple by Willie McGee. Rich Bordi came in and stabilized things for the Cubs as the score remained 7-1 into the fifth inning. 

The Cubs began showing signs of life in the fifth inning, as they scored a pair of runs off Citarella. The first came on an RBI ground out by Sandberg, his second RBI of the game. The second game on an RBI double by Gary Matthews. The Cardinals quickly got the runs back as Willie McGee hit a two-run home off Dickie Noles. Down 9-3, the Cubs continued their comeback in the bottom of the sixth, as Ralph Citarella was relieved with one out after Keith Moreland walked and Ron Cey was hit by a pitch. Neil Allen walked Larry Bowa to load the bases. Richie Hebner followed with a single to cut the deficit to 9-4. The Cubs would make it a one-run game on a double by Denier and a single by Sandberg, each scoring two runs. The Cardinals maintained their 9-8 lead until the ninth inning, Bruce Sutter who came on in the seventh inning was looking to close the game when Ryne Sandberg led off with a game-tying home run. The Cubs would not get another run as stranding two runners as the game went into extra innings. 

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Lee Smith came on to pitch for the Cubs in the tenth inning and found trouble right away Ozzie Smith. Willie McGee followed with double to give the Cardinals a 10-9 lead. The double enabled McGee to complete the cycle. McGee was nearly as strong as Sandberg, going with four hits in six at-bats with six RBI. MeGee late scored on a ground out to stretch the Redbirds lead to 11-9.

Bruce Sutter remained on the mound for the Cardinals, holding a two-run lead. After retiring the first two batters before Bob Denier got on base with a two-out walk. This allowed Ryne Sandberg to play hero again, as he had his second game-tying home run to even the score 11-11. Lee Smith pitched around a walk in the 11th, as Dave Rucker came on to pitch for the Cardinals. Rucker walked Leon Durham to start the inning. Jeff Lahti came into pitch, as Durham stole second and advanced to third on a poor throw by Darrell Porter. The next two batters were intentionally walked to load the bases. Dave Owen pinch-hitting for Lee Smith came up with a walk-off single to give the Cubs a 12-11 win.

The “Ryne Sandberg Game” was viewed as the moment the 1984 Cubs showed they were for real. The Cubs would go on to win the National League East, as Sandberg was named National League MVP, batting .314 with 19 home runs and 84 RBI.