Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Review of "Second to Home: Ryne Sandberg Opens Up," by Ryne Sandberg

 Review of

Second to Home: Ryne Sandberg Opens Up, by Ryne Sandberg ISBN 1566250404

Five out of five stars

A legend speaks plainly

 On June 13, 1994, Ryne Sandberg stunned the baseball world when he suddenly announced his retirement in the early part of the season. He was not injured and was still at the top of his game at the age of 34. Although he came back to play in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, this book was published during his first retirement and those years are not part of this rendition of his career.

 Sandberg was truly a superstar, his fielding records at second base were incredible. While his fielding percentage was very high, so were his fielding chances, so he was not one of those that stuck to making the simple plays. He was a man that led by example, he was not a yeller, he simply did it right for others to see.

 While justified, it is a bit unfortunate that his career will forever be remembered by what is known as “the Sandberg game.” It took place on June 231984 at Wrigley field. Sandberg hit home runs in the ninth and tenth innings to tie the game both times against then bullpen ace Bruce Sutter. I watched that game live and was stunned at the achievement. For at the time, Sutter was practically unhittable.

 This is a great book written by a humble man, there is no embellishment in his achievements or bravado in his tone. Therefore, when Sandberg describes the actions of Larry Himes, general manager of the Cubs during the early 1990’s in rings true. Sandberg is blunt in talking about him as a man of gross incompetence and inability to truly run a baseball team. It is difficult to question this assertion, given that Himes allowed a veritable all-star team of players to leave the Cubs. Arguably the best pitcher in the major leagues in the 1990’s, Maddux wanted to stay a Cub but was really not wanted by Himes.

 There is much insight into the collapse of the Cubs in the early nineties when they could have been a contender. Ryne Sandberg is also honest about himself, his team, players in general and why the Cubs failed to succeed. One of the most interesting insights was about Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. He was known for performing repeated fake pickoff moves while on the mound. Watching it at home, it seemed absurd, for it never fooled anyone. As Sandberg states it, Sutcliffe was pitching in pain and on guts, so those fake moves were designed to give time for the ache in his arm to subside.

 This is a great sports book. Sandberg has told a story about why it is sometimes time to quit before the skills really begin to fade.

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