Making his first appearance at Wrigley Field since being named the interim manager of the Philadelphia Phillies two weeks ago, Ryne Sandberg received a warm welcome from the fans in attendance on a hot summer day in Chicago.
Sandberg is one of the most popular players in team history, so it's no surprise fans welcomed him home with open arms, even when the franchise itself did not. Twice since 2010, the Cubs have passed on the chance to hire Sandberg as the team's manager.
After the 2010 season, then-GM Jim Hendry could have replaced Lou Piniella with Sandberg, but Hendry hired Mike Quade instead, not believing that the former second baseman was ready for the job, despite Sandberg's statements to the contrary.
More recently, team president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer had the opportunity to make an incredibly popular PR move by hiring Sandberg to replace Quade after the 2011 season, when the duo took control of the team. Instead, current Cubs skipper Dale Sveum got the nod.
Always classy, the Hall of Famer never came out and trashed his former team, and he only had good things to say before Friday's game, per Bill Evans of the South Jersey Times:
This is a place I was very comfortable as a player. It’s where I solved any slumps as a hitter. With the day baseball, I saw the ball well here. Two postseason appearances were the highlight for me.
Watching the transformation with the fans and people on the rooftops and popularity of the club, it’s a great place to be. I just had to think about the right entrance to come in.
There's certainly a bit of irony in that Sandberg, who really got his chance to show what he could do as a player only after the Phillies traded him to the Cubs after the 1981 season, had to return to Philadelphia to get his chance to show what he could do as a major league manager.
Perhaps in a bit of poetic justice for the 10-time All-Star and 1984 NL MVP, the Phillies have gone 8-6 since Sandberg took over for Charlie Manuel on August 16; Chicago, on the other hand, has gone 4-9 since the Phillies made the change.
With no guarantee of Sandberg remaining the manager in Philadelphia after the season, would the Cubs pass up a third chance to bring their favorite son back home?
That, folks, could be one of the great storylines of the offseason.