Remembering the time a Chicago Cubs great walked away

(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Watching Jake Arrieta struggle to recapture old glories has been painful for all of us. It’s obvious that he is a shadow of his former greatness. It’s enough to make one recall the time another Chicago Cubs great took a highly unusual route in his career when he felt that he wasn’t performing at the level he expected of himself.

On April 5, 1994, 57 games into the season, Ryne Sandberg, perennial All-Star second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, announced his retirement, effective immediately.

Sandberg said he wasn’t happy with the way he was playing, his performance on the field didn’t meet his high expectations for himself. When he left, he was hitting at a .238 average, the lowest of his career in his 13 years with Chicago. His OPS was .702, the lowest since 1983.

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There were extenuating circumstances surrounding Sandberg’s actions. His marriage was in trouble and he thought that by quitting baseball to spend more time with his family, he might still salvage it. His attempt failed and he and his wife divorced.

Evidently Sandberg felt he wasn’t done as a baseball player and after sitting out the entire 1995 season he applied for free agency and it was granted.

Fortunately for Cubs fans, he re-signed with the North Siders. He went on to have a solid year, batting, .244, with 25 homers and an OPS of .760. Though his season was marred by a career-high 116 strikeouts, the 36-year-old managed to steal 12 bases and amassed 92 RBI for in 150 games for a Cubs team that finished 76-86.

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Sandberg’s home run and RBI totals were second on the team that year only to Sammy Sosa. The future Hall of Famer would play one more year for the Cubs and then he retired from playing for good, but he didn’t leave baseball. He went on to manage at various levels, including a stint as the Phillies’ manager from 2013 to 2015.

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After a brief self-imposed retirement, Ryne Sandberg was able to return to baseball and perform at a level that was personally satisfying. In the end that may be all anyone could expect of a player of his caliber.