Monday was the 30th anniversary of what Cubs fans refer to as “The Sandberg Game”. It was the breakout moment for the young second baseman and started the team on a crazy run that summer. There’s a story on ESPN.com about the Saturday afternoon game at Wrigley Field but it also had some ramifications in the hobby.
The author pointed out this was televised as the backup NBC Game of the Week but it appeared a great deal of the country watched the game as the drama unfolded. Remember back in 1984, the national Saturday game was still a big deal as the majority of the country did not yet have cable much less some way of watching games over a computer or over a phone.
The Cubs, led by Sandberg who blasted two homers off future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, came from a 9-3 sixth inning deficit to win in 11 innings. Sandberg garnered five hits and became a star based on the coverage of that game.
The only time I can remember since then when one player showed off so many skills was a Texas Rangers game on August 13, 2010 when Josh Hamilton make a seemingly impossible catch, got four hits and made one incredible play to score a run. If that game had been played in 1984 and on network TV, Hamilton would have exploded in the hobby the way Sandberg did after that 1984 game.
And I remember first hand how hot Sandberg cards were after that game as my friend Henry Davis wanted me to bring some of my modern rookies to H&H Sports Cards to see if I could fill some of his needs. His partner Huntz did not want any of the cards at the percent I offered them at but the clientele of the store was salivating so I had one of my best days just selling cards in the store. Yes– with permission– I had my own little show in their shop that day. The Cubs—the Cubs!—were smoking hot and some thought this would finally be their year.
‘Rookie card mania’ was just beginning and Sandberg’s 1983 cards were bringing really good money across the country and crazy money in Chicago. When Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden and Kirby Puckett began taking off and then appeared in the Fleer Traded sets, the second half of 1984 became a wild time in the hobby.
In one of the last shows I did for 20 years, Sandberg had another run at being the most popular card. At the 1990 National Sports Collectors Convention, I swear that almost every dealer was being asked for Sandberg as he was producing one of the greatest seasons ever by a second baseman, hitting 40 homers and finishing among the leaders in several statistical categories while winning a Gold Glove. The NSCC got some coverage on NBC Nightly News that summer (remember, this was the ‘boom’ era) and I’m told I was in their story but I have never seen the news clip.
So 30 years later, while people remember The Sandberg Game, I remember the after effects and just how hot he became in the hobby almost immediately. And I wonder if anyone will ever have that type of explosion again thanks to one network game.