Ryne Sandberg's career of accomplishments have earned him a place in the hall of fame and the status of being one of the best second basemen in the history of the game. He won nine Gold Gloves, smacked an NL-tops 40 homers in 1990 (just the third second baseman to ever hit 40+ in a season), and led the league in runs three times (including in his MVP 1984 season, when he helped get the Cubs to their first post-season appearance in four decades). The only real problem with Sandberg's career is that he did all these things for the wrong team--the Chicago Cubs, for which he would become the face of the franchise. He very easily could have done many if not all of these things for the team that drafted him--the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he made his professional debut on September 2nd, 1981.
Sandberg's debut came in the top of the ninth inning of a game in Atlanta, where he was used as a pinch-runner for catcher Bob Boone. With the score knotted at 1-1, Sandberg came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by first baseman Pete Rose. The advantage was unfortunately nullified in the bottom of the inning, with Phils reliever Warren Brusstar giving up two runs on a single by Eddie Miller and a sac fly by Jerry Royster, giving the Braves a 3-2 victory. The pinch-running appearance was representative of the 13 games Sandberg played in a Phillies uniform in 1981--with second base, third base and shortstop plugged by Manny Trillo, Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa, manager Dallas Green had little use for the scrappy middle infielder in his starting lineup. Sandberg would not start a game for the Phils after a call-up, and only got one hit wearing the P--in the midst of a 14-0 blowout at the hands of the Cubs.
Green may not have played Sandberg much, but he clearly recognized the talent, since after he became the GM of the Cubs for the next season, he engineered a trade of slick-fielding shortstop Ivan DeJesus for the Phils' aging Bowa--with the young Sandberg as a throw-in. With the Cubs, Sandberg shifted to the keystone position, and became a Windy City legend. DeJesus's career .637 OPS for the Phils added insult to injury, ensuring that the trade would go down as not only one of the worst the Phillies ever made, but one of the worst in the history of all the majors.