DENVER—Ryne Sandberg was one of baseball’s elite players.
His enshrinement into the Hall of Fame in 2005 underscored that. Now comes the big challenge.
With the dismissal of Charlie Manuel by the Phillies on Aug. 17, Sandberg was announced as an interim replacement, signaling that the final 42 games of this season could mean more about his big league managerial future than the six years he spent managing in the minors. There are no guarantees for Sandberg. After four years of managing in the Cubs system, he resigned when he was passed over for the big league managerial job in favor of Mike Quade. Sandberg returned to the Phillies, the organization that originally signed him as a 20th-round draft pick in 1978.
Sandberg managed Triple-A Lehigh Valley the previous two seasons, and joined Manuel’s staff as the third-base coach this year. He won manager of the year honors in the Pacific Coast League in 2010 and the International League in 2011.
Now, however, he’s at the big league level.
And the Hall of Fame resume as a player does not come with managerial guarantees.
Sandberg is the 60th player who was elected to the Hall of Fame to get a chance to manage, the 32nd of whom was voted into Cooperstown by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The others were veterans committee selections.
Of the previous 59, there were 14 who managed less than a full season, including Tony Perez, who was fired after just 44 games into his managerial debut with the Reds in 1993, and managed 114 games with the Marlins after John Boles was let go in 2001. Cy Young managed just six games (3-3) in 1907, Deacon White 20 games (9-11) over two seasons, Ed Walsh just three gmaes (1-2) in 1924, and Honus Wagner five games (1-4) in 1917.
Just 22 of the Hall of Famers had a winning managerial record, and two of those were interim managers: Bill Dickey (57-48 with the 1946 Yankees) and Tommy McCarthy (15-11 in two stints with the 1890 St. Louis Browns). Forty-six of the 59 Hall of Famers were player/managers, although Frank Robinson (1975-76 Cleveland), the first black man to manage in the big leagues, was the only Hall of Fame player to handle both roles since World War II.
Nineteen of the players managed pennant-winning teams, including Cap Anson, who managed teams to a first-place finish five times. Just 12 of the managers won World Series championships. Frank Chance managed two champions, and the other 11 managed one each. Bob Lemon (Yankees, 1978) and Red Schoendienst (Cardinals, 1967) are the only Hall of Fame players to manage World Series champions since 1948, and were the only ones who did not initially become player/managers.
Other Hall of Famers to manage World Series winners were Lou Boudreau, Fred Clarke, Mickey Cochrane, Jimmy Collins, Frankie Frisch, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker and Bill Terry.
Chance, who gained fame for his part in the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double-play combination with the Cubs, had the highest winning percentage (.593) of the Hall of Fame players who managed, compiling a 946-648 record over 11 managerial seasons between 1905-1923.
And of the 10 Hall of Famers to manage since the advent of divisional play in 1969, Sandberg and Bob Lemon, who managed three years at the Triple-A level before being hired to manage the Royals in 1970, paid their dues at the minor league level before their first big league managerial stint.
At 6-foot-4, D.J. LeMahieu has joined George “High Pockets” Kelly of the 1925 New York Giants as the tallest everyday second basemen in major league history. Dick Hall, who was 6-foot-6, is believed to be the tallest player to play second base, but that was for just seven games with the Pirates in 1953.
Kelly played first base for the Giants, and led the National League in home runs in 1921, RBIs in 1920 and 1924, and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1973. He appeared at second base in 145 games during his career, 108 in 1925 when Frankie Frisch was injured.
Kelly was considered one of the top defensive first basemen in the history of the game, and it was his approach to cutoff plays that became the standard for first basemen.
Hall was signed by the Pirates as an outfielder, and was also auditioned by Branch Rickey at third base and shortstop. Hall was a September callup in 1953, when he drew seven starts at second base. By 1955 he was converted to the mound, and became one of the game’s top relief pitchers during his 16-year pitching career.
The oldest player in the majors at the ages of 39 and 40, he was a member of the Orioles World Series championship teams in 1966 and 1970, and the AL championship teams in 1969 and 1971. He became the first pitcher to win an LCS game, getting the final two outs in the top of the 12th inning of the Orioles 5-4, 12-inning victory over Minnesota on Oct. 4, 1969. Voted into the Orioles hall of fame in 1989, Hall was known for his command of the strike zone. He threw only one wild pitch in 1,259 2⁄3 career innings, and 70 of the 236 walks he issued were intentional.