Having said that, I never knew that much about the individuals that donned the Cubs' uniform. I've followed Ron Santo's frustration with not being admitted into the Hall of Fame. And I was aware of Ernie Banks' sunny disposition and Fergie Jenkins' incredible work ethic (30 complete games in one year! You can look it up.) But beyond that, they were just athletes performing in the Friendly Confines. I thought Ryne Sandberg was particularly colorless; a great player, to be sure, but that was about all I knew of him.
But in Brooks' column today he includes a piece of Sandberg's speech on the day he was inducted into the Hall. Granted, it's taken somewhat out of context, but I found it incredibly refreshing. I didn't know there were professional athletes who actually thought this way:
“I was in awe every time I walked onto the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. You make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases.”
Sandberg motioned to those inducted before him, “These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them, to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.
“Respect. A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to do, play it right and with respect ... . If this validates anything, it’s that guys who taught me the game ... did what they were supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do.”