It’s been 40 years since the epic Card Cubs “Sandberg Game”

Dan Kaiser St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Quite succinctly, it was simply called “The Sandberg Game.”

It's almost called “The McGee Game.”

But 40 years later on Sunday, the game is still considered one of the craziest games in Cardinals-Cubs history — and maybe the craziest — a back-and-forth heavyweight contest in which the Cubs The team won 12 -11. It was such a lively and engaging game that Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster Bob Costas is still in awe of the drama, and he and analyst Tony Kubek Together, the game was broadcast nationally on NBC's “Game of the Week.”

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“This is the best regular season I've ever played,” he said recently. “must.”

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, and the Cardinals led 7-1 after two innings and 9-3 in the middle of the sixth inning. But the Cubs fought back, trailing only 9-8 in the bottom half of the ninth. An epic battle ensued between future Hall of Famer and Chicago second baseman Rian Sandberg and Cardinals standout closer Bruce Sutter. Sandberg had done nothing to Sutter in her previous career.

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“His pitches would just eat me up inside the plate,” Sandberg said in a fascinating documentary about the game, which includes interviews with many of the participants. “…But my swing and mentality were different…I do remember taking aim at a baseball for the first time in my career, and then boom!”

“Boom” is right. He sparked a commotion at Wrigley Field with a 1-1 shot into the left field bleachers in the middle of the half.

But Sutter calmed down, finished the inning without more damage, and fought back against the Cardinals in a classic game, scoring twice in the top of the 10th inning – Cardinals Outfielder Willie McGee not only doubled up with his sixth RBI of the game. He then scored what looked like an insurance score to give the Cards an 11-9 lead.

Costas captured the drama: “If you're a fan of whichever team ends up losing this game – it might be hard to accept that – but if you're just a fan of the game itself, and No special interest in the game No matter what the club, you leave a ballpark like Wrigley Field after such a great game.

But the light then was just a flicker compared to the light that followed.

In the bottom of the tenth inning, Sandberg loaded the bases with a runner on base and two outs. He faced Sartre again.

Former long-time Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray left no doubt about what happened during a call on Cubs radio:

“He did it again! He did it again! The game is tied! The game is tied! Oh my God!”

So not only did Sandberg hit two game-tying home runs in the final inning of the game, but both came from the game's top relievers at the time.

“With Bruce Sutter on the mound, it makes the game a lot tougher,” McGee recently told Post sports columnist Benjamin Hochman. “I mean, it's amazing what Sandberg has done.”


Chicago Cubs player Ryne Sandberg, recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, walks in baseball before the Padres-Cubs spring training game on March 27, 2005, at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa, Arizona. Signature.

Charles Rex Arbogast, The Associated Press

Sutter once said of Sandberg's heroics against him that day, “The shots you made that night were either going to win the game or lose the game, and you just had to live with that.”

But neither home run really decided the game. After the Cardinals were held scoreless in the top of the 11th inning, the Cubs scored one run in the bottom of the inning to seal an epic 12-11 victory, despite Sandberg not being involved. Ty Herzog calls Sandberg 'the other' Baby Ruth.


Sandberg went 6-on-5 with seven runs scored that afternoon, and Costas likened him to the title character in an epic baseball movie released last month.

“'Naturally' Roy Hobbs would have been happy with Sandberg's performance today,” Costas said on the TV show. “…They couldn't have been more heroic. Oh my gosh, it was beautiful. one day.”

It was only Sandberg's third season in the majors, and it not only served as the launchpad for a Hall of Fame career, but also led to a 60-34 record for the Cubs, putting them in the playoffs for the first time since 1945.

“I remember that game like it was yesterday,” Sandberg told reporters on the 35th anniversary of the game.

He was the National League MVP that year, led the league in triples (19) and runs (114), batted .314, and won the second base Gold Glove. After that game in June 1984, he suddenly became a star.

“Fans started showing up on the road to greet the bus, and the media reported that,” Sandberg said. “It keeps growing and only Cubs fans pop up”

Meanwhile, McGee was overshadowed by Sandberg on one of his most personally productive days in baseball.

“You know, he deserved to be the MVP of that game,” McGee told Hochman. “But the game — it was a battle, it was a grapple. But it was a good, clean Cardinals-Cubs baseball game.”


Chicago Cubs player Ryne Sandberg, recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, walks in baseball before the Padres-Cubs spring training game at Ho Ho Kam Park on March 27, 2005 in Mesa, Arizona. Sign on.

Charles Rex Arbogast, The Associated Press

He also called it “one of the greatest games I've ever been a part of. I mean, both teams competed all day long and it didn't end until the (very) end, and it was just a fun game.”

television influence

This gem came at a time when NBC's “Game of the Week” was becoming a mainstay of television sports programming, airing across the country every Saturday afternoon. Cable TV is still in its growth stages. Streaming, the Internet and most instant messaging devices other than land phone lines are still a long way off, so Saturday's over-the-air broadcast is the only game of the week that many fans outside major league markets will receive .

They'll have a special focus on “games,” usually with one game for most of the country and a backup game for the rest of the country. The second was primarily to provide NBC with insurance in case the main event was rained out.

On June 23, 1984, heavy rain washed out another game, and NBC honored its policy. Costas said there have been crazier regular seasons in baseball history, but given the context of the era, there may have never been a more famous game.

“For others, the difference is they're not 'game of the week,' they're not at Wrigley Field, they're not traditional foes like the Cardinals and Cubs,” he said. “It's the context and the environment. 'Game of the Week' ratings are higher than some of the playoff games right now.”

The game lasted nearly four hours, and even 11 innings was an eternity at the time. That spelled big trouble for NBC, which would then broadcast a boxing match from Panama. Baseball teams began receiving emergency treatment from network brass.

So after McGee doubled the lead in the top of the 10th inning and then scored to give the Cardinals a two-run lead, NBC named him Player of the Game early in the bottom half of the inning ( Sponsor Endorsement), although Costas' announcement read: “Unless there are major changes.”

Have you ever done it. With the home team trailing by two runs in the bottom of the tenth inning, with one out and no one on, Costas recognized advertisers Ford, Miller High Life, IBM and AC Delco. Sutter retired the next batter and then walked Bob Dernier on a 3-2 boundary, bringing Sandberg home. When the score reached 1-1 and the game might be about to end, NBC was really anxious and Costas was told to read the credits.

“They literally locked the boxers in the locker room and delayed the bell until we threw the ball to them,” Costas recalled. “They had me filling up the credits.”

Costas didn't miss a beat, switching back to live coverage in an instant. What a transformation:

“One pitch after another. He hit it to deep left-center. Look out! Can you believe it? The ball's gone!”

Although this did not end the legendary marathon, it gave birth to a legendary runner.

Sandberg said he “floated right into home plate. I do remember walking into the dugout with probably the biggest smile on my face… in a major league ballpark, just like (saying): 'You know What? “

The game ended with a bases-loaded hit by Dave Owen, a journeyman infielder who hit .194 in 94 games over four seasons in the majors.

“At least they had a cool head and didn't jump into the game right away and let us discuss the game,” Costas said.

“I've never seen a game like this in my life, and I've lived a long life,” Carey, who is in his 40th season calling major league games, said at the end of the Chicago broadcast. “Oh my God!”

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