Sandberg waits for the call to the majors

Associated Press Modified: September 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm •  Published: September 9, 2012

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ryne Sandberg is back where he started in Philadelphia.

Ryno is hoping to be more than a September call-up this time.

Before he became a Hall of Fame second baseman with the Chicago Cubs, Sandberg was a rookie for the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, trying to earn a roster spot as a utility infielder.

His first at-bat in 1981 against Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Kent Tekulve showed little of his future All-Star form.

Sandberg took strike one on the outside corner against the submarine-style right-hander. Tekulve froze him on the inside corner for strike two.

"Then he dropped down and threw a breaking pitch on the outside corner," Sandberg said, smiling. "I took three strikes and went back and sat down. One-two-three. Welcome to the big leagues. But I remember that September call-up really well."

Sandberg singled against Chicago's Mike Krukow on Sept. 27 for the first of his 2,386 career hits.

That hit was his only one in 13 games with the Phillies.

Sandberg would be traded to the Cubs in January 1982 in perhaps the most lopsided deal in Phillies history. He was sent to Chicago with shortstop Larry Bowa for light-hitting Ivan DeJesus. Sandberg won the 1984 NL MVP, made 10 All-Star teams and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2005.

Thirty one years later, Sandberg returns wearing his familiar No. 23, hoping another September promotion turns into a permanent spot in the majors.

Sandberg is spending this month on manager Charlie Manuel's coaching staff after leading the Triple-A Lehigh Iron Pigs to a 75-68 record.

He just finished his sixth season as a minor league manager, his second with the Iron Pigs after four years in the Cubs' organization, and is aiming for a 2013 spot on a major league staff.

Sandberg interviewed with the St. Louis Cardinals last winter and was rebuffed by the Cubs. There's a chance he could land on Manuel's staff next season if he isn't hired to manage another team. If not, Sandberg would return to the grueling bus rides and shuffled rosters in the minors.

"I hope one day to be in the major leagues one way or the other," Sandberg said Sunday before the Phillies played a doubleheader against Colorado. "I think this has been the right route for me, starting from the bottom in A ball and working my way up. There's no replacing that. Without that, I would agree there's no chance to get to the major leagues for me. That's the ultimate thing, to get back to the major leagues in some capacity."

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