Recalling Ryno's September magic

Recalling Ryno's September magic

CHICAGO -- In his career, Ryne Sandberg hit 282 home runs off a variety of pitchers, from his first dinger on April 23, 1982, off Pittsburgh's Eddie Solomon to his last on Sept. 19, 1997, off Philadelphia's Darrin Winston.

On July 27, 1991, Sandberg hit two home runs in the Cubs' 7-5 win over the Atlanta Braves. Both came off pitcher John Smoltz, and the first, in the opening frame, was an inside-the-park home run.

Smoltz, who is still pitching for the Braves, remembered the day.

"It was a game here," Smoltz said, recalling the game at Wrigley Field. "One was an inside-the-park home run in which [left fielder] Lonnie Smith had trouble getting the ball out of the little trough down the left-field line."

Sandberg hit what appeared to be a double. However, Smith misplayed the ball, diving for it and missing, and then scampering after it under the outfield wall padding.

"I had double on my mind," Sandberg said after the game. "Then [third base coach Chuck Cottier] waved me around. That was his call."

Sandberg was easily safe at home for his second career inside-the-park homer -- his first was April 17, 1986, in Montreal. Sandberg's second homer of the game off Smoltz landed in the left-field basket in the third inning and opened a 5-0 lead.

"I remember if I could make my pitches, I could get [Sandberg] out in an area," Smoltz said. "But if I didn't, he made you pay every single time -- it wasn't like a couple times. He had a sweet spot that made him who he was. I would say that game sticks out more than most because when you give up two home runs to somebody, you remember it."

In his career, Sandberg was 13-for-46 off Smoltz with six home runs, 11 RBIs -- and also struck out eight times. Give the pitcher some credit.

"This is meant to be a compliment, but [Sandberg] is like Davis Love in golf," Smoltz said. "He doesn't look like he can hit it as far as he does, but it's nice and easy and the ball is 320 yards. That's the best way I can describe Sandberg."

As we continue to celebrate Sandberg's induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame, here are some September highlights in the Cubs' legendary second baseman's career.

Sept. 1, 1981: Sandberg was recalled by the Phillies from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Sept. 2, 1981: Sandberg made his Major League debut with the Phillies in Atlanta. Sandberg entered the game in the top of the ninth inning as a pinch-runner at first base for catcher Bob Boone. He advanced to third base on a single by Larry Bowa and scored on a single by Pete Rose to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Atlanta scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to spoil the debut, 3-2.

Sept. 11, 1981: After four appearances as a pinch-runner, Sandberg took the field for the first time, playing three innings at shortstop as a late-inning replacement for Bowa. He also had his first at-bat in the Majors, striking out against Kent Tekulve in Pittsburgh.

Sept. 27, 1981: Sandberg collected his first Major League hit, a single, off the Cubs' Mike Krukow in the nightcap of a doubleheader in Chicago.

Sept. 3, 1982: Hoping to take advantage of Sandberg's range, the Cubs moved the rookie from third base to second base. Playing in only his second Major League game at his new position (the other was against the Cubs on Oct. 3, 1981), Sandberg handled two chances cleanly. The Padres won the game, 3-0, but the Cubs had discovered their second baseman.

Sept. 17, 1983: Sandberg collected four hits and stole a base in a 7-6 win over the Mets.

Sept. 29, 1984: Sandberg went 4-for-5, scored three runs, drove in two and stole a base, as the Cubs beat the Cardinals, 9-5, at Wrigley Field.

September 1985: Sandberg batted .347 (34-for-98) with 24 runs scored and 20 RBIs in 27 games during the month.

Sept. 5, 1987: Sandberg went 4-for-4 with three doubles and a walk, scored two runs and drove in two in the Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Reds.

Sept. 6, 1987: Sandberg recorded 10 putouts in the Cubs' 3-1 win over the Reds.

September 1990: Hit eight home runs in 27 games during the month.

September 1991: Collected 20 RBIs in 26 games in the month.

Sept. 20, 1992: Named National League Player of the Week. Sandberg hit .500 (11-for-22) with four home runs, eight RBIs and scored 10 runs to capture the award for the seventh time in his career.

September 1992: Batted .364 (39-for-107) with 10 home runs, 27 runs scored and 22 RBIs in 28 games during the month.

Sept. 13, 1993: Sandberg's season ended early when he dislocated the fourth finger on his right hand sliding into home plate. Sandberg had hit safely in 23 of 24 games before the injury.

Sept. 20, 1997: It's "Ryne Sandberg Day" at Wrigley. The Cubs honored Sandberg on the next-to-last home game of the season. He was presented with a framed photo of Wrigley, a No. 23 plate from the scoreboard, seat 23 from the bleachers, a five-night stay for two in Vail, Colo., and a red 1998 Corvette.

Sept. 21, 1997: Playing in his last game at Wrigley Field, Sandberg went 2-for-3 in the Cubs' 11-3 win over the Phillies. The game also marked the final Wrigley broadcast for Harry Caray who passed away in February 1998.

Sept. 28, 1997: Sandberg played in his 2,164th and final Major League game, going 0-for-2 in the Cubs' 2-1 loss in St. Louis to close out the season.

Sept. 25, 1999: The Cubs honored their All-Century team in ceremonies prior to the Cubs-Pirates game. The members of the team -- 20 players and one manager -- were selected by fan balloting. All living members of the squad, except Phil Cavarretta, were on hand for the festivities. The attendees wore Cubs jerseys and caps from their era with the team and took the field at their positions for the national anthem. The group also sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

The All-Century team included: Frank Chance (MGR), Grover Alexander (P), Mordecai Brown (P), Fergie Jenkins (P), Lee Smith (P), Bruce Sutter (P), Gabby Hartnett (C), Phil Cavarretta (1B), Mark Grace (1B), Charlie Grimm (1B), Billy Herman (2B), Sandberg (2B), Ernie Banks (SS), Joe Tinker (SS), Stan Hack (3B), Ron Santo (3B), Andre Dawson (OF), Andy Pafko (OF), Sammy Sosa (OF), Billy Williams (OF) and Hack Wilson (OF). A total of 6,130 ballots were received (representing more than 120,000 votes).

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.