CHICAGO -- Just when did it all begin, this miracle season for the Chicago Cubs?
Purists would argue the day the Chicago Tribune Co. bought the club from the Wrigley family and decided to pump fresh revenue into a franchise known for its frugality.
Others would say it was in the fall of that year, 1981, when the Cubs hired Dallas Green away from the Philadelphia Phillies to be their general manager.
But the Cubs labored under Green for two disappointing campaigns so a more accurate focal point was Jan. 27, 1982.
It was that day the Cubs shipped Ivan DeJesus to the Phillies for shortstop Larry Bowa. But all Green could talk about was the player that was considered a 'throw-in.'
'We kept saying the key to that deal was getting Ryne Sandberg,' Green said. 'Not many people outside of the Philadelphia organization had heard of him but he was the guy we were after.'
Sandberg didn't immediately make a prophet out of Green. He got off to a 1-for-31 start in 1982 but two years later he is the odds-on favorite to be the National League's Most Valuable Player if the Cubs hold on and win their first flag since 1945.
Green has earned a reputation through his various deals with the Phillies to help construct the cornerstone of the 1984 club.
But others consider his non-Philadelphia deals his best.
He began to rebuild the starting staff on Dec. 7, 1983 -- possibly a day that will live in Cubs' infamy -- when he got Scott Sanderson from Montreal in a three-way trade that sent promising outfielders Carmelo Martinez, pitcher Craig Lefferts and third baseman Fritz Connally to San Diego. San Diego sent Gary Lucas to the Montreal Expos to complete the trade.
'We took a lot of heat for that deal. Martinez had shown a lot in September with us,' Green said, 'but we couldn't pass up a chance to get a quality starting pitcher.'
The second member of the starting staff was acquired May 25 of this year. Pitcher Dennis Eckersley was obtained from Boston for disgruntled first baseman Bill Buckner.
The final cog of the starting staff came aboard June 13 when, in a deal that was nearly botched by Green, the Cubs got Rick Sutcliffe along with George Frazier and Ron Hassey from Cleveland. Like the San Diego deal, Green gave up promising players in Mel Hall and Joe Carter along with pitchers Don Schulze and Darryl Banks.
Sutcliffe caught fire immediately and became the National League's premier pitcher over the next three months for the Cubs.
But insiders in the Cubs' organization believe Green's most strategic deal was the one made right before the start of the regular season. The Cubs, 7-20 in spring training, obtained centerfielder Bob Dernier, left fielder Gary Matthews and pitcher Porfi Altamirano from the Phillies for reliever Bill Campbell and minor leaguer Mike Diaz.
'I told Dallas before the start of the season,' explained manager Jim Frey, 'that we needed a center fielder. Presto! He gets me Bobby Dernier. I also told him we needed another outfielder from the right side. He gets me Gary Matthews.'
Dernier combined with Sandberg to give the Cubs a key one-two punch at the top of the lineup. The duo allowed the Cubs to score consistently in the first inning, making a good starting staff that much better.
Matthews brought leadership and a steady bat.
'We had wanted Dernier for a long time,' Green recalled. 'When we could get a guy like Matthews, it was that much better.'
Other deals by Green to form the 1984 club:
-December, 1981: Traded Mike Krukow to Phils for Keith Moreland.
-January, 1983: Traded two minor leaguers to Los Angeles for third baseman Ron Cey.
-May, 1983: Sent Willie Hernandez, later traded to Detroit, to Philadelphia for pitcher Dick Ruthven.
-March, 1984: Sent two minor leaguers to Oakland for pitcher Tim Stoddard.
The only key players currently on the roster that Green inherited were first baseman Leon Durham, catcher Jody Davis and reliever Lee Smith. Smith and Davis were the only regulars that came up through the Cubs' own farm system.