IT was just about 20 years ago at this time. The Chicago Cubs were basking in the glow of their first postseason appearance in 39 years. The pitchers and catchers were getting ready to report to spring training again, and there was an immense amount of optimism in Cubdom.
Led by their gifted young second baseman, the Cubs seemed to be at the dawn of a new dynasty. Parents all over the country celebrated the occasion by naming their children after the kid at second base.
The dynasty never happened, but Ryne Sandberg finally was voted into the baseball Hall of Fame earlier this week.
And you can't help but notice that there now are17-, 18- and 19-year-old athletes all over the place with that previously uncommon first name.
Before Sandberg became a star, the only Ryne anyone had heard of was Ryne Duren, an old relief pitcher of the 1950s and '60s. In fact, Sandberg was named after Duren.
But now we have Ryne Malone (born in January, 1985), who set a national high school record for career hits. He is now one of two infielders named Ryne on the Florida State University roster. The other is freshman Ryne Jernigan.
Ryne Robinson (born a month after the Cubs' magical 1984 season) was the star receiver on the Miami of Ohio team that played Iowa State in the Independence Bowl. Ryne Nutt is a sophomore offensive lineman at Central Connecticut State.
Ryne Rindfleisch is a golfer at Cal-Irvine. Ryne Liggins is a basketball player at the Community College of Allegheny. Ryne Adolph plays lacrosse for Maryland.
Ryne Rials set an Alabama state record for touchdown passes in a high school career that concluded last year. Ryne Sexton won the Tennessee high school cross country championship and will run for Austin Peay next fall.
I suspect many parents named their kids after Sandberg, not only because he was the centerpiece of that hoped-for Cub dynasty but because they also liked his style.
Not only was he a great player the first ever to have both a 40 home run season and a 50 stolen base season
but he did things in a graceful, effortless way reminiscent of Joe DiMaggio. He always made things look easier than they really were.
He never looked as though he was running hard, but he stole 344 bases.
Like DiMaggio, he sometimes was criticized for not diving for balls n a tactic that involves more risks than benefits n but he may have been the best fielder ever at his position. He went 123 games without an error and once went four years without committing a throwing error.
That's why we now have Ryne Dalke playing baseball at Christian Brothers University in Memphis and Ryne Webb playing for the Community College of Spokane. Ryne Nelson of Dickinson, Texas, was drafted by the Minnesota Twins last June.
Anyone remember that 13-year-old hockey player who skated so marvelously in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City? Ryne Sanborn.
Among the athletes starring for high school teams from West Linn, Ore., to Roxboro, N.C., are Ryne Reder, Ryne Holstrom, Ryne Smitka, Ryne Ford, Ryne Intelkofer, Ryne Eberlin, Ryne Neville, Ryne Able and Ryne Simpson.
Closer to home, we have Riverdale golfer Ryne Schroeder, Wilton basketball player Ryne Hetzler, Midland High School multi-sport star Ryne Kleinsmith, former Quincy soccer player Ryne Schrage, former Kewanee football star Ryne Scott and former Princeton wrestler Ryne Bird.
Ryne Takacs of Bettendorf played hockey for both the Quad-City Blues and Quad-City Express. And we had two Rynes playing defensive back for local colleges last fall Ryne Richardson at Augustana and Ryne Foster at St. Ambrose.
Oh, and there was a kid who earned five varsity letters in baseball and football at Davenport North a couple years ago: Ryne Doxsie.
Yup, we joined the club.
When our first child was born in February, 1985, my wife Gale wanted to call him Adam. I said that was way too common.
There were Adams all over the place. We needed something unique. We needed something different. We needed to celebrate the fact that the Cubs were going to be in the World Series for the next 10 years in a row.
For once, I won an argument. We named him Ryne.
Turns out it wasn't as unique as we thought.
Don Doxsie can be contacted at (563) 383-2280 or firstname.lastname@example.org.