- Paul Lukas
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How many indignities can one Hall of Famer endure?
That question comes to mind after seeing Ryne Sandberg -- currently the manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate -- wearing a Santa Claus-ish uniform for the team's "Christmas in July" game Wednesday night. (Sandberg's players didn't look so great in these uniforms either, as you can see in these photos.)
Goofy uniform promotions come with the territory in the minors, of course, but there's something particularly sad about seeing Sandberg doing the ho-ho-ho routine. He spent several years skippering in the Cubs' minor league system, never making any secret of the fact that he had his eye on the manager's office at Wrigley Field. When that didn't work out with the Cubbies, he jumped over to the Phillies' system, where he's marking time, waiting for Charlie Manuel to retire or for some other team to come calling.
Until that happens, he's just another minor league manager, which means he has to dress up like Santa Claus, or Darth Vader, or whatever character the IronPigs are saluting on their uniforms on a given night. The team's 2012 promotions include a fan-designed jersey, a camouflage jersey and an alternate-nickname jersey for the Lehigh Valley Woodchucks.
As he puts on these jerseys, Sandberg must be thinking to himself, "Man, this is a long way from Cooperstown."