I occasionally stumble onto a fun story that we can connect to our beloved Ironpigs….
It was June 23, 1984. NBC had chosen to nationally televise a game between long time rivals the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley field. The Cubs were playing well this season, and as a team that had been pretty bad over the years, the league hadn’t really taken them seriously yet. That would change with this game. The Cardinals were ahead by one run enterering the bottom of the ninth inning and pitching was their ace closer, Bruce Sutter. To bat was a young Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg tied the game with a home run over the left field ivy to tie the game at 9. The Cardinals responded with two runs of their own in the top of the 10th inning. Sutter remained in the game with a 2 run lead and again faced Sandberg, this time with a runner on base. Sandberg again took Sutter deep to tie the game. The Cubs went on to win the game in the 11th inning.
Although St. Louis’ Willie McGee had already been named the NBC Player of the Game, it was Sandberg’s feat that played the ultimate role.
The Cubs would win the Division that year with a record of 96 wins – 65 losses. They went on to lose to the Padres in the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals would finish in third place, 12.5 games back.
In 1984 Sandberg would earn his 1st All Star game selection, his 2nd Gold Glove, his 1st Silver Slugger Award and was named the National League MVP. He was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2005. He is currently the manager of our Lehigh Valley Ironpigs.
Bruce Sutter was named the National League’s Rolaid’s Relief Man of the Year in 1984. Sutter’s 45 saves in 1984 led the league and he boasted a 1.53 ERA. He also made his last All Star game selection that year. Sutter retired in 1988 and was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2006. He is currently a consultant to the Phillies minor league system.
When I heard about this game, my first thought was of these two baseball legends finding themselves together here in the Lehigh Valley. Is there any animosity between the aged warriors of the diamond? Could the young, up and coming Sandberg have played a role in the decline of a star more senior to him at the time? I doubt it. I could imagine there might be a little nudging and friendly banter but nothing that could host bad feelings.
Either way, the 2011 Ironpigs lineup, whoever might end up there, will have an advantage over teams in the past. They, we, have two baseball legends here to help. Here’s looking to being above .500!