Ryne Sandberg will be 5th Cubs player with a statue outside Wrigley Field

CHICAGO — Ryne Sandberg thought something was off.

Sandberg is used to being part of panels at the Cubs Convention. However, in a twist Saturday morning, he was asked to sit among the crowd during the Ricketts family panel at the Sheraton Grand hotel. He wondered if he would be handed a microphone to answer questions.

Near the end of the panel, chairman Tom Ricketts announced Sandberg will be honored with a statue outside Wrigley Field. The Cubs shared the news with Sandberg’s family Friday night but wanted to surprise the Hall of Fame second baseman in front of a room full of fans.

“They caught me a little bit off guard,” Sandberg said with a smile.

Sandberg will be the fifth Cubs player with a statue outside Wrigley, joining Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins. The tributes to the Cubs icons are now part of the redesigned “Statue Row” in Gallagher Way.

Sandberg, 63, admitted he’s thought about the possibility over the years, particularly when the topic is brought up by fans, though he’s tried to maintain a see-what-happens approach. He also couldn’t help but notice the open spots last year during Jenkins’ statue unveiling.

“To be part of a structure and be a part of Wrigley Field, that means so much to me because Wrigley Field was always my friend and so friendly to me,” Sandberg said Saturday. “I loved the atmosphere and the fans and WGN TV and 162 games broadcast, and the whole thing about it and the day games. I liked everything about that. And I think the biggest thing is it’s still the Wrigley Field that I know.

“It’s a museum and a place that everybody comes across the country to watch Cubs games just because of Wrigley Field, so to have that outside of there and have the fans be able to see that and enjoy it along with my family, that’s pretty cool.”

The statue is still in the early creation stages, a process that can take a year to complete, setting up for a 2024 unveiling. One of the first decisions: the pose. Sandberg expects it will be a hard decision.

“I was all about offense and defense equally,” Sandberg said. “And that was my goal to be the best at both. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to pick a pose, but it’ll get done. It’s supposed to be a fun process.”

Sandberg was named to the All-Star Game 10 times, won nine Gold Glove awards and seven Silver Slugger awards in 15 seasons with the Cubs. He earned the National League MVP award in 1984 en route to being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.