This is a day I remember well. My Dad and I would take a trip to Chicago every year on a charter bus that left Cedar Rapids the day of the game. It was the second straight year we had done this. $33 for each of us. We didn't have to worry about parking or traffic. The bus would drop us off outside the outfield wall of Wrigley Field and pick us up after the game.
The year before it was the Braves at Wrigley Field and Steve Trout was the starting pitcher for each game. The Cardinals started someone we had never heard of, Ralph Citarella. It was the STL pitcher that looked like the everyday name early in the game as the Cardinals reached out to an early lead. My Dad, the eternal pessimist and Cubs fan (I think it goes hand in hand), became frustrated and took a walk around the old ballpark around the third inning.
The Cubs mounted a comeback, but it was hard to imagine they could come back to win this. The day before he and I watched on tv the Cubs win on a Leon Durham late inning home run, 5-4. And as fun and magical as the 1984 season had been, we were still Cubs fans and a win like this was improbable.
But the Cubbies made a comeback while Willie McGee was hitting for the cycle from the visiting dugout. McGee was just one of the notable names that were on the World Series winning team just two years earlier. McGee, Herr, Smith (both Ozzie and Lonnie), and Sutter to name a few. It was a good team in Chicago, but the Cubs had some names as well. Moreland, Bowa, Davis and Durham were some of the more notable, but it was Sandberg that became a name that day.
In the midst of all-star voting only those who knew of Ryne Sandberg were either from Chicago or Philadelphia, the system that developed the young second baseman. Fans of Chicago's team knew they had a pretty good player at second, but two hits in this game made this day forever known as "Ryne Sandberg Day" by Cubs fans.
In the 9th and again in the 10th, Sandberg hit home runs off former Cubs closer, Bruce Sutter. Wrigley went nuts and my Dad looked at me with the biggest of grins. Neither of us could smile well, but it wasn't tough to show excitement and enthusiasm to what we were witnessing.
Then it was the 11th inning, the bases were loaded with no outs and a unknown infielder who had spent some time playing at triple A Iowa, who we followed at the time, Dave Owens singled in the game winner.
Wrigley is an older ballpark, and in 1984 it didn't offer many modern amenities so getting out of the upper deck took a while as no one left until the final out. As like a herd of cattle, we slowly made our way down the ramps, and as we did, I could barely hear Sandberg being interviewed over the old loudspeakers. I think it was NBC's Tony Kubek, but I could've been wrong. The roar hadn't subsided and the interview was barely audible.
The Cubs went on to a magical season which found them in post-season play for the first time since 1945. This game may not have been what propelled them to the post-season, but it was definitely one game we knew people would talk about for quite some time. Being able to enjoy it with my Dad made it a memory I will never forget.