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Before Cubs, Ryno's career took root with Phils

Before Cubs, Ryno's career took root with Phils

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NEW YORK -- Ryne Sandberg smiled this week as he recalled a few of his favorite stories from his playing days at Wrigley Field.

He played with the Cubs from 1982-97, where he established himself as a Hall of Fame second baseman. He returns to Wrigley on Friday as interim manager of the Phillies.

"I guess the first thing is I'll probably check out my flag out there on the right-field pole," Sandberg said.

Sandberg picked up his first big league hit at Wrigley on Sept. 27, 1981, but as a member of the Phillies. He recalled his own bats had not arrived yet, so he borrowed one from Phillies teammate Larry Bowa. He hit a flare to right field against Cubs pitcher Mike Krukow.

"I still have the bat and the ball," Sandberg said. "It was ... slightly off the end of the bat and the Rawlings writing on the ball came off on the bat. So I have the ball and the bat, and there's no writing on the ball. It's all on the bat."

Sandberg and Bowa talked Wednesday on MLB Network, where they shared a few stories. They recalled how a frustrated Bowa once took a bat to the urinal in the Cubs dugout, bashing it into a million pieces. Sandberg later said he never broke anything like that during his playing career, although he did admit to smashing a few batting helmets.

Bowa also recalled how he told Sandberg, once they became Cubs teammates in 1982, that because he had seniority over Sandberg that Sandberg had to take any popups hit between them.

And why is that?

Because the sun and wind at Wrigley Field could be so difficult, Bowa let Sandberg take on the challenge. Sandberg chuckled, recalling how he told future Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston he had to take fly balls because he had seniority on him.

"We both go to Chicago, he takes me under his wing and teaches me everything about the game," Sandberg said of Bowa. "Having lunch with him every day pregame, talking about the pitcher that day, talking about at-bats the day before -- for the four years that I was with him, [I] really learned a lot about the game. Just being with him and spending the time after the game, having a beer and going to pregame lunch, talking about the game -- how to play catch right, working hand in hand pregame at shortstop, double play combinations, all that. That went a long way."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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