Without the names and numbers on their uniforms, some of the members of the 1984 Cubs found it difficult initially to recognize all of their former teammates.

Yet soon the memories and recognition returned during last weekend’s 40-year celebration of one of the franchise’s most iconic seasons. The ’84 Cubs won 96 games en route to a division title and came agonizingly close to reaching the World Series for the first time in 39 years. Led by Ryne Sandberg’s National League MVP season and Rick Sutcliffe’s Cy Young Award performance, the Cubs of manager Jim Frey are remembered as the first to attract routine sellout crowds and unprecedented national attention to a franchise that previously had been referred to as “Lovable Losers.”

The dedication of a Ryne Sandberg statute outside Wrigley Field on June 23rd was the highlight of the reunion. Ryno joined fellow MLB Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins with a statue created by renowned sculptor Lou Cella.

“You carried me my entire career, but you have taken it to a new level,” Sandberg said to his fans. “I’ll never be able to thank you properly.” Sandberg disclosed several months ago that he has been battling prostate cancer and undergoing chemo and radiation treatment.

The significance of June 23rd was the fact the Cubs defeated the St; Louis Cardinals, 12-11, on that date 40 years ago when Sandberg went 5-for-6, including two late-inning home runs off Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter to set the stage for an incredible come-from-behind extra inning win. That game is forever remembered as “The Sandberg Game.”

The following year, I was asked to write a book with Sandberg entitled “Ryno!” since I covered the Cubs at the time for the Chicago Tribune.

Renowned sportscaster Bob Costas, who broadcast that NBC “Game of the Week” 40 years ago along with Tony Kubek, spoke at the Sandberg statue ceremony outside of Wrigley Field as current Cubs players looked on from the concourse level. Poignant comments also were offered by former Cubs Shawon Dunston and Larry Bowa, as well as Cubs president Tom Ricketts as actor and lifelong Cubs fan Bill Murray watched in the audience.

Renowned Chicago publicist Betsy Shepherd, president of Connected Communications LLC, and former Cubs media relations directors Bob Ibach and Sharon Pannozzo were among the many who arranged the ’84 Cubs reunion activities, including a Club 400 golf outing at Pinecrest Country Club in Huntley, Il., and a gala dinner the following night. Stewart McVicar is the founder of the Club 400 charity organization. Former Cubs trainer Tony Garafolo and renowned National Anthem singer Wayne Messmer were among those welcoming the ’84 Cubs at the golf outing with humorous stories and anecdotes. The many former Cubs players in attendance seemed to truly appreciate the fellowship.

“It’s every year for some of us, we get to gather at Wrigley for some reason or convention over the years. But for others, it’s been a long time,” said Bobby Dernier, centerfielder on the ’84 Cubs who was known as part of the “Daily Double” along with Sandberg in the batting order. “So in that regard, it’s really, really special. But, you know, it’s a lifelong love affair. And we have a real tremendous story, I think, in Cub history to tell and share.”

Former Cubs first baseman Leon “Bull” Durham and his wife, Angela, also attended the reunion while seated at a table with former pitchers Steve Trout and Warren Brusstar at the golf function.

“Oh, man, this has been a hell of a weekend right here,” Durham said. “I’m tired, my legs are stiff. I’ve been smiling for the past 48 hours. I’ve been honored to see some of the guys I haven’t seen in 35, 40 years. There’s a couple that we stay in touch with– Bobby (Dernier), Jody (Davis), Sarge (Gary Matthews). But there’s some that I haven’t seen since ’84. So it’s been an honor and it’s been a pleasure to see them this weekend.

“We’ve exchanged numbers and we’ve been able to stay in touch.There’s memories you don’t forget. We may not see each other for a long time, but at the same time, when you see a face, something rings a bell where you remember a moment that we all had shared together. So that’s what’s been great about this weekend.”

Former Cubs relief pitcher Tim Stoddard, now baseball coach at North Central College, enjoyed the Sandberg statue ceremony as well as the golf outing the next day.

“Coming back with the ’84 Cubs and being part of that is just such a great thing,” Stoddard said. “I mean, the honor of what we accomplished for the city of Chicago at the time and the people you get to meet and do stuff… and watch a guy like Ryne Sandberg accomplish what he did and Rick Sutcliffe and those guys…

“Just to be part of that was just absolutely tremendous and such a joy. We live all over different parts of the country.
So it’s really such a great, great time for me and all the other guys that are doing this.”

Ryne Sandberg statue.

Ryne Sandberg and sculptor Lou Cella.

Anthem singer Wayne Mesmer with Fred Mitchell.

Margaret Sandberg, middle, with Grant Deporter and Beth Heller.

Actor Bill Murray.

Former Cubs reliever Warren Brusstar golfing.