Cubs to honor Ryne Sandberg, who sees 'roadblock' for Sammy Sosa

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg will be immortalized outside of Wrigley Field in the summer of 2024 when the team unveils a statue of his likeness, the organization announced on Saturday at its annual fan convention.

Sandberg's statue will join those of Hall of Fame players Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and announcer Harry Caray just outside the gates of the ballpark.

Sandberg found out about the honor when it was announced to the crowd -- which he was a part of -- during a seminar with ownership on Saturday morning.

"It caught me a little off guard," Sandberg said through a smile.

Sandberg, 63, played for the Cubs for 15 years, making the All-Star team 10 times while winning the NL MVP in 1984. He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2005. On Saturday, he was asked what kind of pose he'd prefer for his statue.

"That might be hard," he answered. "I was all about equal, both offense and defense. That was my goal, to be the best at both. I don't know if I'll be able to pick a pose."

A renovated Wrigley Field will feature the statues outside of the stadium and a new Cubs Hall of Fame inside. On Friday, the team announced former standouts Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston will be inducted into that Hall of Fame this summer.

One former player who won't be getting any of the above honors in the very near future is Sammy Sosa. The team's all-time home run leader remains in bad standing with the organization and hasn't been invited back to Chicago for any of its fan conventions in several years.

Sosa's potential association with the steroid era remains an issue for the team. During the owner's seminar, Tom Ricketts was asked why Sosa, who failed to make the Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame when he was eligible, isn't welcomed back despite the demand from fans.

"I think there are two sides here," Ricketts said. "The Hall of Fame voters believe there are two sides to the story. I know a lot of fans that believe there are two sides to the story. I'd like to get this behind us as well but I want to be thoughtful about it and do it in a way that's respectful to both the people that love Sammy and people that respect the game too."

There is one pathway back for Sosa that would not involve the team directly. Inductees to the new team Hall of Fame are voted in by a committee of current Hall of Fame players along with a group of local sportswriters. Sosa would be eligible for that in 2024, in which case the organization would not stand in the way of his enshrinement nor the ceremony for it, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Sosa hit 60 or more home runs three times between 1998 and 2001 and is the only Cubs player to accomplish the feat three times. He ranks ninth all-time with 609 home runs while hitting 545 as a member of the Cubs from 1992 to 2004.

Sandberg, who was part of the Contemporary Era committee which recently failed to elect Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens to the Hall of Fame, stands with Cubs ownership.

"For me, playing the game the right way, with respect, was always what I was taught in the minor leagues," Sandberg said. "That was my Hall of Fame speech. I think I said it 28 times. And there was a little problem with the way that Sammy played the game. If that's a roadblock, that's a roadblock."