Ryne Sandberg played almost every day for the Cubs for the better part of the 80’s, so the guy who filled the role of “backup second baseman” never really had much of a chance to draw the ire of the fans. That is until 1987, when Sandberg injured his ankle in a collision with Jack Clark and threw Paul Noce into the spotlight. Wait, who?
Like a young Joe Mantegna with similar plate discipline.
In the month that Noce replaced Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, he whiffed 23 times against 3 walks. In comparison, Sandberg struck out 79 times against 59 walks all year. It isn’t fair to expect a Ryne Sandberg level production from Paul Noce. But it is fair to expect a Mario Mendoza level of production.
In the summer of 1987, I was still a young boy. Perhaps it was good for my appreciation of the game to see the juxtaposition of the sweet swing and plate discipline of Sandberg and the wild flailing approach of Noce. Nah. Probably not.
Low Point: July 10, 1987. In the bottom of the 9th, down 1 run to the Dodgers, the Cubs rally to tie the game at 4-4. Dave Martinez is at third with 2 outs, and Paul Noce strides to the plate. If Disney had written the script, the light-hitting Noce would have driven in Martinez and been mobbed by his teammates. Instead, he fans (his third strikeout of the game, not to mention the double play he hit into), and the Dodgers win 5-4 in 10 innings.
Did You Know? Noce has been the head coach of the Hillsdale College Chargers for the past 12 years. Yes, the baseball coach.