1983 Fleer Ryne Sandberg
The 1983 Fleer set started my collection out 30 years ago. While the 1983 sets have 3 big rookies (Boggs, Sandberg, Gwynn) the Fleer Sandberg and Topps Gwynn always stood head and shoulders above the other cards in that group. Mainly because of uniforms. We'll get into the Gwynn later in the countdown, but for now the Sandberg. I never saw the Cubs wear the powder blue pinstripes in person, but I have a good number of cards with them in these unis. Very distinct and one of my favorite 70s/80s road blue uniforms. This card is the best Sandberg rookie card. The 1983 Donruss Sandberg also features him in this uniform, but it's a still picture and not an action shot.
Cubs fans have had many different quality players to collect over the years. I know some of my Cardinals readers will disagree with that statement, but over the thirty years that I have collected baseball cards there was always someone worth collecting on the Cubs. That statement is not true for all teams at all times over that time frame. The one constant for Cubs fans throughout the entire time period has been the presence of Sandberg cards. Sandberg retired in the late 90s after a good 15 year run with the Cubs, but the end of his career seemed to blend rather well with the advent of the Legends and Fan-Favorites types of sets. The trend resulted in a basic continuous thirty year stream of Sandberg cards.
While Sandberg's rookie cards might only hover around $5 many of his other good inserts, low print runs, and autographs are popular and good sellers on the secondary market. The most common Sandberg autographs often sell for a minimum of $30 and short printed, or premium set cards will often sell for considerably more than that, often landing anywhere between $50 and well into the hundreds. Sandberg was in many of the early large print run autograph sets, like Donruss Signature, but that has not weighed down the value of his autographs too much.
While Sandberg still signs plenty of autographs, they are often spread out throughout the card calendar and appear in several different products. The resulting effecting produces a large quantity of Sandberg cards, but low print numbers of each card. For example, Sandberg has recently signed for both the Topps Tribute and Topps Five Star sets. Both are high end and both feature multiple Sandberg autographs. In Tribute, the highest print run of any Sandberg autograph starts at 31 and goes south from there. In Five Star, Sandberg has one autograph with a print run of 55 and another with 106 copies. Low totals, high prices.
As a Cardinals fan, I appreciated the player Sandberg was for the rival Cubs and do own an autograph of the Hall of Fame second baseman. I kept mine simple though and just found a copy of his Donruss Signature Millennium Marks Autograph. Easy card to find with a reasonable price tag.
1997 Donruss Signature Ryne Sandberg Autograph
On The Field-
The JAWS rating system has Sandberg as the 9th best second baseman in baseball history. Sandberg has already been elected to the Hall of Fame and deservedly so. In fact, all of the players rated higher than Sandberg, minus Bobby Grich, have all been inducted to the Hall. One of the biggest surpises in check the JAWS list for second baseman was finding Sandberg only behind Joe Morgan in terms of rankings for modern players at the position. Meaning the Cubs Hall of Famer rated higher than Roberto Alomar, Biggio, Robinson Cano, and Jeff Kent.
While Sandberg's OPS+ for his career is only 114 and his OPS is below .800, there are several factors which boosted Ryno's Hall of Fame credentials. First, Sandberg was a great second baseman at his peak, but the end of career came quickly and was rather sharp. Rather than hanging on and compiling numbers, Sandberg just walked away and retired. At the peak of his career Sandberg's OPS+ was regularly in the 130-140 range. His last three years in the league his totals were 83, 97, and 83. Remember with OPS+ the number 100 represents an average player.
Also factor in that Sandberg WAR was also hurt by the end of his career. At the peak of his career in the early 90s/late 80s he was often among the league leaders in the stat which is remarkable for a middle infielder, let alone one during the small ball era. In 1989 Sandberg's WAR was 4th in the NL, in 1990 he finished first, and also in 1991.
Sandberg was also a force on defense landing eight Gold Gloves and finishing in the Top 10 for defensive WAR five times during his career. Rhino also ranks in the Top 10 all-time for second baseman in assists and fielding percentage.
If you have twenty minutes you can watch the above video and check out the epic battle between Sandberg and Willie McGee. Epic. and I hate that word. Willie McGee hit two home runs, he ended up missing the cycle because he did not get a single, and went 4 for 6 with 6 RBIs. Sandberg did better going 5 for 6 with 7 RBIs with two home runs. One of the home runs was a game tying home run off of Hall of Fame Reliever Bruce Sutter and the other was a game tying home run after the Cardinals scored two in the top of the 10th. Not too shabby.
Sandberg was the Rhino. Do you know another card with a picture of Sandberg and a rhino?
1998 Skybox Metal Universe Ryne Sandberg