Ryne Sandberg let his glove, bat and legs do the talking on the baseball diamond. And by the time his 16-year career was through, Sandberg's actions had announced him as one of the game's best second basemen.
Sandberg debuted with the Phillies – who had drafted him out of high school in the 20th round of the 1978 MLB Draft – in 1981 as a late-season call-up. Following the 1981 season, the Phillies and Cubs exchanged starting shortstops in a deal that sent Larry Bowa to the Cubs for Iván DeJesus. But to complete the trade, Cubs general manager Dallas Green – who had seen Sandberg while managing the Phillies – insisted on getting Sandberg as well.
It was a deal that changed the destiny of the Cubs.
In his rookie season, Sandberg – then playing third base – hit .271 with 33 doubles and 32 stolen bases, finishing sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. The following season, the Cubs moved Sandberg to his natural position at second base, where he won the first of his nine straight Gold Glove Awards.
In 1984, Sandberg led the Cubs to their first postseason appearance since the 1945 World Series, hitting .314 and leading the league in runs scored with 114 and triples with 19. He also began turning on the ball at the plate and chipped in 19 homers on his way to the NL Most Valuable Player Award while earning the first of 10 consecutive All-Star Game selections.
In 1989, Sandberg reached the 30-homer mark for the first time in his career. A year later, Sandberg led the NL in homers with 40, while also leading the league in runs (116) and total bases (344) while totaling 100 RBI and 25 steals. He was the first second baseman since Rogers Hornsby in 1925 to lead the NL in homers and the first second baseman ever to hit 30-or-more home runs in consecutive seasons.
When Sandberg retired following the 1997 season, he held the record for most Gold Glove Awards by a second baseman (nine), the most consecutive errorless games by a second baseman (123) and the most home runs by a second baseman (277 of his 282 home runs came as a second baseman).
He led all NL second basemen in assists seven times and fielding percentage four times.
Sandberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.