In this week’s edition of This Week in Cubs History, we look at the career and first retirement of Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg. On June 13, 1994, Sandberg unexpectedly retired from the game of baseball at the age of 34, only 57 games into the season.
In his book, Second to Home, the Hall of Fame second baseman wrote the following of his decision:
The reason I retired is simple: I lost the desire that got me ready to play on an everyday basis for so many years. Without it, I didn’t think I could perform at the same level I had in the past, and I didn’t want to play at a level less than what was expected of me by my teammates, coaches, ownership, and most of all, myself.
Sandberg was selected in the 20th round of the 1978 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, who considered him as little more than a utility prospect despite his stellar numbers in the minors. He was traded to the Cubs in 1982 in what is now considered one of the best trades in Cubs history and one of the worst trades in Phillies history.
Sandberg won his first Gold Glove in 1993, which helped set the stage for his breakout season in 1984. In that magical season, which saw the Cubs reach the playoffs for the first time in 39 years, Sandberg slashed .314/.367/.520 to earn an All-Star nod, along with his second Gold Glove, and a Silver Slugger award. On top of these accolades, Sandberg took home MVP honors, becoming the the first Cub to do so since Ernie Banks won consecutive awards in 1958 and 1959.
Sandberg continued to put up strong numbers with the Cubs until his retirement in 1994. After sitting out the 1995 season, he returned for 1996 and 1997. Sandberg finished his 16-year career as a 10-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glover, and seven-time Silver Slugger, the most all-time among second basemen. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.