COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The anticipation mounts for Ryne Sandberg. So does the abuse.
Induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame for the Spokane native and Chicago Cubs great is today at 10:30 a.m. (PDT), which will bring considerable relief – that his speech in front of an expected crowd of 15,000 will be over and that he’ll no longer have to endure the rookie “hazing” from his HOF brethren.
“Every time you walk through the hallway or walk around, they have something to say about Sunday,” Sandberg acknowledged. “They give you little jabs. ‘How’s your speech going? Have you started it?’ Well, of course I’ve started my speech – it’s tomorrow. They just kind of get in your head and make you think about it.
“I think Paul Molitor’s the worst because he was sitting up here a year ago today. Every time I see him, he’s got something to say because he’s so relaxed this year.”
So there are “rookie” jokes and the like at the expense of Sandberg and Wade Boggs, the other member of the hall’s Class of 2005. In the hotel lounge on Friday night, both were commanded to sing.
“Ryno did a great job,” said Boggs, who croaked out “Friends in Low Places” to assorted howls. “I was not as good.”
Maybe it’s because Sandberg used to have to endure piano recitals as a kid.
“Well, the feedback I got on the song was a lot better than what I felt when I was up there,” he said. “From what I was hearing with my ears, it was horrible. I guess it turned out all right. And it was ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ – the Blues Brothers. Very appropriate.”
For all the stress current Hall members insist is weighing on this year’s inductees, Sandberg seems to be enjoying the moment as much as possible.
On Saturday morning, he played in the annual golf tournament at Leatherstocking Golf Course next to the grand Otesaga Hotel in a fivesome with his son Justin and three sons-in-law.
“So I had my hands full, to say the least,” he said. “They were all over each other and we were firing balls all over the golf course, but it was a great time.”
And every time he happens across one of the 50 Hall of Famers in attendance here, it’s a new goosebump.
“For me, a lot of these mornings when I first get up and first make it down to the lobby, it seems like Yogi Berra is always there,” Sandberg said. “He seems to be the welcoming committee guy at the front door and as we leave the building, and he’s just, you know, a treat in himself. For me, he’s a pretty special guy.
“But I also said yesterday that when I got the call and got the media guide that comes from the Hall of Fame, that you see the list of players in there and you can throw any one of those names in a hat and whichever name I came out with, that would be special for me. It’s just an elite group and just incredible history there, incredible players. And now with this weekend, I know them as incredible people.”