Sandberg becomes first 2B to reach 30-homer mark in consecutive seasons

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Janey Murray

A lot of what happened to Ryne Sandberg on Aug. 28, 1990, was unexpected.

The Chicago Cubs second baseman wasn’t even sure he’d appear in the game against the Houston Astros that day in Houston, as he was feeling under the weather.

“Sick,” Sandberg told the Chicago Tribune when asked how he felt after the game. “I threw up last night. It was questionable whether I was going to play.”

But he made the start anyway, batting second with fellow future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux on the mound for the Cubs against then-NL Central rival Houston.

Sandberg also did not expect to hit a home run that night playing in the Astrodome, well known as a pitcher’s park. But in the top of the fourth, he unloaded on an 0-2 pitch from Bill Gullickson for a solo homer to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

“It’s tough to hit home runs here,” Sandberg told the Associated Press. “I was very fortunate to get one tonight.”

The milestone Sandberg reached by hitting that solo shot also surprised him. The home run marked his 30th of the season. Having hit exactly 30 home runs the season before, Sandberg became the first second baseman ever to reach the 30-homer mark in consecutive seasons.

“I look at a guy like Joe Morgan, who was MVP a couple of times and a real good power hitter-second baseman,” Sandberg said. “I’m a little bit surprised he didn’t do it. So it’s a nice accomplishment.”

Sandberg went 2-for-4 on the day with two RBI, and Maddux’s outing complemented his offensive performance. The right-hander tossed a complete game, allowing two runs on eight hits as the Cubs beat the Astros 5-2.

The milestone came in the middle of a slower stretch for Sandberg, but the second baseman was still in the prime of his career in 1990. He finished the season with a .306 batting average, 100 RBI and a career-high 40 home runs.

“A couple of weeks ago, I thought I was swinging for the fences too much and I wasn’t getting the pitches to hit home runs with,” Sandberg said. “Now I can just go back and hit the way I normally hit, and if home runs happen, they happen.”

Sandberg’s 1990 season built on his successful 1989 season, in which he batted .290 and hit 30 home runs, which was a career high at the time.
“I think I surprised myself a little bit by hitting 30 last year,” Sandberg told the Chicago Tribune. “It just happened again this year.”

Sandberg would never eclipse his league-leading 40-homer total from 1990, but he did secure three more All-Star selections in his final six seasons with the Cubs before retiring. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

“How would you like to be a manager in the major leagues and have a guy who makes all the plays, hits .300 and gets 30 home runs?” Cubs manager Don Zimmer said. “He’s the best at his position in baseball.”

Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series