Monday, June 23, 2014
Thirty years ago: The Sandberg Game
By David Schoenfield
Cubs fans of a certain age know the game I'm talking about: June 23, 1984. The day Ryne Sandberg turned into a Hall of Famer.
Other fans may remember the game as well. It was the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week, back when that was a big deal, with Bob Costas and Tony Kubek calling the action. Actually, I wonder if it was the backup game, because Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola were NBC's A team that year. Or maybe they had the week off. I remember watching it and it turned into a breakout performance in the national spotlight for the Cubs' third-year second baseman and the most memorable game of the year for the Cubs as they went on to win the NL East title.
The Cubs rallied from 7-1 and 9-3 deficits as Sandberg went 5-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBIs -- with both home runs coming off Cardinals closer and future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter. But what I just learned as I looked up the box score on Baseball-Reference with Eric Karabell: Sandberg's second home run didn't the win the game.
Here's what happened. Wrigley Field was packed as the surprising Cubs entered with a 36-31 record, in third place but just 1.5 games behind the Mets. Bottom of the ninth, Cardinals up 9-8, Sandberg hit a leadoff homer off Sutter to tie it. The Cardinals scored twice in the top of the 10th to take a 11-9 lead. Sutter returned for his third inning of work. With two outs, Bob Dernier drew a walk. Sandberg homered again to tie it.
"That's the real Roy Hobbs because this can't be happening!" an excited Costas proclaimed. "We're sitting here, and it doesn't make any difference if it's 1984 or '54 -- just freeze this and don't change a thing!" Cubs announcer Harry Caray: "There's a drive, way back! Might be outta here! It is! It is! He did it again! He did it again! The game is tied! The game is tied! Holy cow! Listen to this crowd, everybody's gone bananas! What would the odds be if I told you that twice Sandberg would hit home runs off Bruce Sutter?"
I'm guessing even most Cubs fans think Sandberg's second homer won the game. Instead, the Cubs won in the 11th on a pinch-hit single from backup infielder Dave Owen, one of 10 RBIs he had that season.
Still, there's a reason they call it The Sandberg Game and not the Dave Owen Game.