Sandberg, Boggs cherish entrance in Hall

Newest members discuss `right way' to play game

August 01, 2005|By Joe Gergen | Joe Gergen,NEWSDAY

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Standing in front of 49 fellow members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and before a sea of Chicago Cubs fans that made it seem "like a home game," the normally reserved Ryne Sandberg was emboldened to criticize current players for their emphasis on individual exploits over team play, their pursuit of home runs at the expense of offensive strategy and their reliance on something other than physical gifts to perform at the major league level.

He called it a matter of respect for the sport that honored him and Wade Boggs, the Class of 2005, in yesterday's induction ceremony.

Also honored were longtime San Diego Padres announcer Jerry Coleman, winner of the Ford C. Frick Award presented annually for major contributions to baseball broadcasting; and veteran sportswriter and broadcaster Peter Gammons, recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented annually for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

Introduced as a man who dignified baseball with quiet leadership, Sandberg broke that silence with stunning impact as he ranged far beyond second base and his own life story to chastise those who failed to do more than swing for the fences.

"When did it become OK for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game?" he told an estimated crowd of 28,000 outside the Clark Sports Center in the historic village.

Although Sandberg set a career record (since surpassed) for home runs at his position, he was anything but a one-dimensional player. The man won nine Gold Gloves and established the all-time fielding percentage as well as the standard for consecutive errorless games. He also stole 344 bases and took pride in his ability to bunt and hit behind the runner.

"If you played the game the right way, played the game for the team, good things would happen," he said. "That's what I loved most about the game, how a ground out to second base with man on second and nobody out was a great thing."

"There were many stops along the way," said Boggs, who began playing minor league baseball in Elmira, N.Y., in 1976. "But today that train has pulled into Cooperstown, and I've found this family here at the Hall of Fame. My wife and I believe this is the beginning of another baseball journey."

Boggs, who batted left-handed, was an undersized hitter who didn't attract much attention even though he finished his senior year at Plant High in Tampa, Fla., on a 26-for-33 tear. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Boston Red Sox and then spent five-plus seasons in the minors before finally forcing Boston to promote him in 1981 after he led the International League in batting.

"Life is about obstacles," said Boggs, who also played for the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens. Baseball is just a game. You should always play the game with passion, play the game with heart, and play the game you love, and possibly one day your dreams can come true just like mine did."

Coleman's playing career was interrupted twice because of military service as a Marine pilot during World War II and Korea. He flew 120 missions, received two Distinguished Flying Crosses, 13 Air Medals and three Navy citations, and earned the rank of lieutenant colonel.

For that, he received a standing ovation.

"This is the highest honor of my life," said Coleman, a star second baseman for the Yankees and 1950 World Series Most Valuable Player. "I'm here because my peers put me here. The journey has been incredible. I feel finally, finally I've come home."

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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