CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs plan to honor Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg with a statue outside Wrigley Field and put him in an exclusive club that includes Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins and Harry Caray.
When it comes to Sammy Sosa, however, nothing has changed. They're not ready for a reunion.
Chairman Tom Ricketts surprised Sandberg with the announcement Saturday that the statue “is in progress" during a question-and-answer session with fans, drawing a standing ovation in a crowded ballroom.
They weren't as happy when he told them there has been no progress toward welcoming back Sosa. Ricketts said he remains hopeful a reunion will happen and insisted: “I don't think the final chapter has been written on this."
The Cubs are scripting another chapter with Sandberg by giving him a statue that President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said will be unveiled in 2024. The slugging and slick-fielding second baseman could not be happier.
“I'm 63 years old and things are still happening,” Sandberg said. “Something like this is a pretty cool thing, like the Hall of Fame. To be part of a structure, to be part of Wrigley Field, that means so much to me because Wrigley Field was always my friend and so friendly to me. I loved the atmosphere and the fans, WGN-TV, 162 games broadcast and the whole thing about it. And the day games, I liked everything about that.”
Sandberg was an obvious choice for a statue.
He played in 13 games for Philadelphia in 1981, then got traded to Chicago and set out on a path to Cooperstown.
Sandberg was the National League MVP in 1984, made 10 All-Star teams and won nine Gold Gloves. He hit .285 with 282 homers and drove in 1,061 runs over 16 years.
Sandberg was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 and had his No. 23 retired by the Cubs that year. Now, he is set to join Banks, Williams, Santo and Jenkins with statues in Gallagher Way, a gathering spot outside the famed ballpark and near the main entrance. The sculpture of Caray is just beyond the stadium, by the entrance to the bleachers at the corner of Waveland and Sheffield avenues.
“Everybody comes across the country to watch Cubs games just because of Wrigley Field," Sandberg said. "To have that outside of there and have the fans be able to see that and enjoy it along with my family, that's pretty cool.”
The Cubs shared the news with Sandberg's family on Friday. But they kept it from him until he was called to the podium near the end of the panel with Ricketts and his sister Laura, a member of the team's board.
Sandberg said the design process is just starting. He said a small committee will help decide the sculpture's pose and added that could be difficult because he was known for both his bat and his glove.
“What’s pretty neat about it is I know all the statues that are there — from Harry Caray to Ernie Banks to Billy Williams, Fergie and Santo,” Sandberg said. “I was able to be around all those guys a lot and to join them, kind of join a team of statues, is pretty awesome.”
Sosa, the franchise's all-time record-holder with 545 home runs, remains on the outs.
Slammin' Sammy was banished by the Cubs and traded to Baltimore after he showed up late for the 2004 finale at Wrigley and left early. In January 2022, he along with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire were rejected for the Hall of Fame on their 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot because of allegations they used performance-enhancing drugs.
“I just want to be thoughtful about it and do it in a way that’s respectful of both the people that loved Sammy as a player — as I did — and people that respect the game, too, and I think there’s a balance for that somewhere and maybe we’ll find it at some point," Ricketts, whose family bought the team from the Tribune Company in 2009, said in response to a fan's question.
Sandberg said he would like to see Sosa honored at Wrigley. But he also understands the issues at play, when it comes to a reunion with the Cubs as well as induction into the Hall of Fame.
“You got to respect the game and play the game the right way,” said Sandberg, one of 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee. “There was a little problem there with the way that Sammy played the game. If that's a roadblock, then that's a roadblock.”
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Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press