What a beautiful day this is. I stand here
today before you humbled and a 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 speechless.
The reason I am here, they tell me, is that I played the
game a certain way, that 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 am.
CROWD: We love you, Ryno.
RYNE SANDBERG: I love you too. 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, 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 allies. 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
ground out 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 Maryl and my late brother Lane 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
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 is a lot more important than the
name on the back. That's respect.
My managers like Don Zimmer and Jim Frey, they 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 down.
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, they 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. Respect.
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
dug out 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
Sutcliff 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 who 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
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 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 close.
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. 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,
advisors, confidants and close friends, thank you. Also, Barry
Rosner, great writer and good friends. 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 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
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 never forget.
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 are probably wondering what was the first when I said
this honor is the second best thing that's ever happened to me.
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
Thank you, and go Cubs.