Kodak, Tenn. (WVLT/SUBMITTED) -- The Southern League announced that former Tennessee Smokies manager and Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg has been inducted into the inaugural class of the league’s Hall of Fame. The initial class of 13 will be honored at the 2014 Southern League All-Star Game at AT&T Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee on June 17.
“I don’t believe anyone has made more of an impact during a season for this team and the Southern League than Ryne Sandberg in 2009,” said Smokies President Doug Kirchhofer. “He is more than deserving of this honor and we are very proud to have him represent our club in this initial Hall of Fame class.”
Sandberg helmed the Smokies all the way to the Southern League Championship Series during the 2009 campaign, though the club ultimately fell to the Jacksonville Suns, and recorded a North Division best 71-69 overall record. The club combined to post a .268 batting average, which ranked second in the circuit, in addition to collecting the second-highest hits total (1,246) that year. That team also featured 19 future Major Leaguers, including current Cubs Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo and Darwin Barney. The Hall of Famer was a fan favorite throughout the Southern League as he graciously greeted fans and signed autographs before every game – at home and on the road.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this first class,” said Sandberg. “We really enjoyed our time in the league and all the people involved in Tennessee. That was a great run in 2009, and we had a really good ball club.”
Now in his first full season as skipper of the Philadelphia Phillies, Sandberg put together a 16-year Hall of Fame career, accumulating a .285 career batting average, adding 282 homers and 1,061 RBI in 2,164 games, the vast majority in a Cubs uniform. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2005 class along with Wade Boggs after receiving a voting percentage of 76% from the Baseball Writers Association of America. That same year his number 23 was retired by the Cubs, at the time becoming just the fourth Chicago Cub to be given that honor.
The Spokane, Washington native went on to manage the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2010, before moving on to lead the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs for two seasons. He began the 2013 campaign as the Phillies’ third base coach and infield instructor prior to ascending to interim manager in August. A month later, the interim title was stripped and Sandberg was named the club’s permanent skipper.
Sandberg joins former Southern League presidents Billy Hitchcock, Jimmy Bragan and Don Mincher, all of whom were unanimously selected in July 2013, as well as representatives from each of the other circuit’s clubs, including former players Reggie Jackson (Birmingham), Bo Jackson (Jackson), Dale Murphy (Mississippi) and Alan Trammel (Montgomery), as well as executives J. Frank Burke (Chattanooga) and Peter Bragan, Sr. (Jacksonville) in the initial class. Beginning in 2015, the league will induct three new members each year, with a plaque placed in the Southern League office listing the inductees from each year.