"This is a great day in Peoria Chiefs history and a great day for baseball fans in Central Illinois," said Chiefs longtime President Rocky Vonachen. "We are thrilled to welcome a Hall of Famer and a Cubs legend into the Chiefs family and we look forward to April and the reception Ryne will get from the great Chiefs and Cubs fans in the Peoria area."
A 47-year old Washington native, Sandberg played for the Cubs from 1982-1994 and again from 1996-1997 after beginning his career with 13 games played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981. After playing third base for the Phillies, Sandberg was acquired by the Cubs on January 27, 1982 in exchange for Ivan Dejesus.
In 1984, Sandberg won the NL MVP Award with a .314 average, 19 HR, 36 doubles, 19 triples and 84 RBI while leading the Cubs to within one game of their first World Series in 39 years. For his career, Sandberg played in 2164 games batting .285 with 282 HR, 1061 RBI and 403 doubles. He also won nine straight Gold Gloves from 1983-1991 and made the All-Star team each season from 1984-1993.
During his career, Sandberg not only set MLB records for most consecutive chances and games at second base without an error, but also retired with more homers than any other second baseman in league history. He originally retired during the 1994 season but later came out of retirement and appeared in 150 games in 1996 and 135 more in 1997. His #23 jersey was retired by the Cubs at Wrigley Field in 2005.
Sandberg has never managed in professional baseball but was interviewed by Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry for the vacant Cubs position this offseason before the hiring of Lou Pinella. Sandberg has made three appearances in Peoria over the last two years since the Chiefs rejoined the Cubs organization.
In January 2005, Sandberg helped sell out the Cubs Caravan at Expo Gardens and he returned for the sold out Caravan at the Riverplex in January 2006. Six weeks before his enshrinement at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, Sandberg was the featured guest on IPMR night at O'Brien Field for the Chiefs game June 18, 2005. As part of that event, Sandberg signed autographs for over an hour and his presence helped bring in a sellout crowd if 7503.
This marks the second straight season the Chiefs had had a former Cubs star as the Manager. Last season, first-year Manager Jody Davis led the Chiefs to a 75-64 record and a First Half Western Division Championship. Davis and Sandberg were teammates in Chicago from 1982-1988.