This afternoon at 1:05pm, the Philadelphia Phillies are scheduled to play hosts to the Minnesota Twins at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida.
That might normally not be a matchup to elicit a great deal of interest outside of the two organizations, or their most hardened fans.
But thanks to a couple of Baseball Hall of Famers, there will be a larger spotlight on the proceedings than usual this afternoon.
The Phillies are managed by Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. The Twins are managed by Baseball Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.
It is believed that this will be the first time that two Hall of Fame players have matched up against one another as a manager.
The two ballplayers are contemporaries, though they starred at the same time in opposite leagues at a time when there was no Interleague play.
However, both Sandberg’s Cubs and Molitor’s Brewers did hold their spring training in Arizona, so it’s not as if they were strangers.
Ryne Sandberg, as most around here know, began his career as a Phillie. He was the Phils’ 20th round selection in the 1978 Amateur Draft, breaking in with the team for a 13-game cup of coffee at the end of the 1981 season.
He was then dealt to the Chicago Cubs along with Larry Bowa for shortstop Ivan DeJesus. Sandberg went on to play 15 seasons in a Cubs uniform, becoming one of the greatest 2nd basemen of all-time.
He was the 1984 National League MVP, an NL All-Star for 10 straight years from 1984-93, an NL Gold Glover at 2nd base for 9 straight from 1984-92, and was the NL Silver Slugger winner at 2nd base in 7 seasons.
Molitor played for three different organizations, all in the American League, over the course of a 21-year MLB career, making a lasting mark with each of them.
He began with the Milwaukee Brewers, who made him their 1st round selection, the 3rd overall pick, in the 1977 Amateur Draft, a year before Sandberg was picked by the Phils.
He broke in with Milwaukee in 1978, finishing 2nd in AL Rookie of the Year voting as a 21-year old.
He played for 15 seasons with the Brew Crew, helping lead the 1982 team to the American League pennant, the organizations only ever World Series appearance.
After moving to Toronto, Molitor helped the Blue Jays win their 2nd consecutive World Series crown in 1993, and was named the Most Valuable Player of that ’93 Series against the Phillies.
He then finished up his career with three seasons for his hometown Twins, the team he now manages.
Over his career, Molitor amassed 3,319 hits while scoring 1,782 runs and stealing 504 bases. He was a 7x AL All-Star, won 4 Silver Sluggers, and had nine Top 20 MVP vote finishes, including as the AL MVP runner-up during that 1993 campaign in Toronto.
Molitor was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2004 with 85.25% of the vote.
Sandberg was elected to the Hall of Fame on his third ballot in 2005 with 76.2% of the vote.
And so, Molitor was drafted a year before Sandberg, and ultimately reached the Hall of Fame a year ahead of him as well.
On getting the Phillies full-time gig beginning last season, Sandberg was just the 2nd Hall of Famer to ever be named a manager after being enshrined, the first having been Ted Williams with the old Washington Senators way back in 1969.
A number of men were named as managers prior to their being eventually enshrined as players at Cooperstown.
Of course, there was no Hall of Fame until 1936. A number of players later enshrined were managers before it’s inception, including Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson.
The game today will be televised back to local Philadelphia viewers on The Comcast Network. The game will be aired again at midnight our time, 9pm Pacific time, on the MLB Network.