That didn’t take very long.
The Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society named Chicago Cubs great Ryne Sandberg its “Local Legend” in 2017—only a year after the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman and former Philadelphia Phillies manager moved from Arizona to Lake Bluff with his wife Margaret.
But make no mistake about “Ryno,” a former three-sport star (football, basketball, baseball) from Spokane, Washington, and now a happy, grateful resident of Lake County since April 2016. He certainly deserves the lofty distinction.
“We are thrilled about honoring Ryne Sandberg,” says the historical society’s director of development, Lisa Frey, who watched Cubs games on WGN-TV while growing up in southern Indiana and marveled at the passion and class with which Sandberg—the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1984 and a nine-time Gold Glove winner—played the game. “We are all excited about finding out why he chose to live in Lake Bluff and what he likes about the area.
“Here’s a man, who did all these wonderful things in a Cubs uniform for many years,” she adds, “and now he’s back in the Chicago area and a member of our community.”
The Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society recognizes its “Local Legend” in a unique format at its primary fundraising event each year. The honoree sits down with an interviewer and answers a wide range of questions before audience members. The man with an impressive career fielding percentage of .989 at second base will field queries from sports columnist and radio host Barry Rozner, who wrote a book (Second to Home) about Sandberg in 1995.
Previous “Local Legends” include inaugural honoree and Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, newsman and documentary host Bill Kurtis, architect Adrian Smith, and musician Richard Marx.
This year’s event will be held at Lake Forest Academy’s Cressey Center for the Arts on September 23, beginning at 3 p.m.
About that date …
“I chose it,” says the 57-year-old Sandberg, whose uniform number, 23, was retired by the Cubs in a ceremony at Wrigley Field in 2005.
The 10-time All-Star could not have picked a better year—2016—than the one he did to accept the position of first Cubs ambassador in franchise history. The Cubs edged the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win the World Series last year for the first time in 108 years, and Ryne Dee Sandberg (named after Major League relief pitcher Ryne Duren) has a small boulder (World Series ring) to prove it.
Among his duties as Cubs ambassador are attending meet-and-greets and providing game analysis and answers for callers on the radio after most Cubs home contests. In his free time, Sandberg enjoys a round of golf at Merit Club in Libertyville or at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest or at Shoreacres Golf Course near his house.
He recently shot a round of 70 at Shoreacres. The former No. 2 hitter in the Cubs’ batting order uses a No. 2 pencil to jot small numbers on his golf scorecard.
“Margaret and I love Lake Bluff, and I love any chance I get to spend time with family and friends outdoors,” says Sandberg, who has grandchildren who live nearby. “It’s a challenge to keep up with everything available in the area—farmers markets, parades, block parties, car shows, bike races, and Bluffinia concerts. And everywhere I go, it seems, I see the same friendly faces.”
Frey, for one, can’t wait to hear what Sandberg will share with baseball fans of all ages at Lake Forest Academy in late September. The rapport Sandberg has with Rozner should generate a wealth of eye-opening insights and entertaining anecdotes from the player who finished with 200 hits in 1984, stole 54 bases in ’85, and clubbed 40 home runs in ’90.
It will be an afternoon to discover the human side of a community’s celebrity.
“We saw him play—and he truly played for the love of the game— and we heard him being interviewed on TV many times, and we remember his Hall of Fame speech,” Frey says. “But now, because of the setting and the way we present our ‘Local Legends’ to those in attendance, we’ll have the chance to hear Ryne talk about a variety of topics, not just baseball. It’ll be different, interesting, exciting.
“He’ll enlighten us with little-known stories and describe moments that occurred behind the scenes during his great career.”
Tickets for the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society’s Local Legends fundraiser cost $50 for adults and $25 for children under 12; a $500 Superfan ticket package includes, among other things, two reserved seats at the event and a 1984 Chicago Cubs memorabilia item. The gathering begins at 3 p.m. at Lake Forest Academy, 1500 West Kennedy Road in Lake Forest. For more information, visit lflbhistory.com or call the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society at 847-234-5253.