"A player once said that Ryno really only has two real friends in the world: Lindsey and Justin," says one Sandberg associate. "You're a public figure looking at going through a public divorce. You hate what's going on with the team, and there's trouble with your wife. What do you do? It was easy for him to go to the one thing he had to hold on to: the kids. He didn't need the money. So why stay?"
Says another source, "He quit because of the kids. Like a lot of decisions, it's never one thing but 800 things. But he had to be with the kids."
In court Cindy testified, "He retired to be with the children." She declined to speak with SI.
Cindy had filed a divorce petition on Dec. 17, 1993—six months before Ryne quit—that claimed the marriage was "irretrievably broken." The Sandbergs reconciled 12 days later. She refiled on June 20, 1994, just seven days after Ryne announced his retirement.
Ryne now says he knew his marriage was in trouble when he quit but adds, "I wasn't sure how that was going to turn out. A lot of things were on my mind. My marriage and the kids, that's something personal. It was something that I had to take care of. I didn't want to have it blown up all over the place. That's why I said what I said."
His retirement shocked most everyone in baseball. Who could have known the destructive undertow in his life churning beneath that ever placid surface? A mortician's son from Spokane, Sandberg revealed little of himself, even to teammates. "People think we were tight just because we played together," says Shawon Dunston, Sandberg's double play partner for nine years who now plays shortstop for the San Francisco Giants. "Me and [first baseman Mark] Grace were tight. But me and Ryno? No way. All those years I lockered next to him, he probably said no more than 10 to 15 words to me a day. And most of those were on pop-ups. He'd say, 'You take it,' and I'd say, 'I got it.' "
Ryne married Cindy, his former high school sweetheart, in 1979, when he was 19. That was his first full season in pro baseball. He was homesick and alone in Spartanburg, S.C. He asked her to visit him, and when she did, he insisted she stay. On May 8, after one day of planning, they were married by a justice of the peace. They did not immediately inform their parents. Asked if he communicates with Cindy now, Ryne says, "When it's about the kids."
As a part of the divorce, which became final on July 5, 1995, Ryne and Cindy agreed to remain in the same Phoenix neighborhood and entered into a 20-page "parenting plan" that gave them equal time with their children, who alternate weeks in homes a short distance apart.
Ryne insisted in his book that "I'll never play the game again" and ridiculed those who doubted him, writing, "Hadn't I just spent the  summer telling everyone that I didn't want to travel anymore and that I wanted to stay home with the kids? I don't know, maybe I need to speak more slowly."
Four days before the divorce decree, Ryne says, he became engaged to Margaret Koehnemann, whom he describes as a neighborhood friend whose three children also knew Justin and Lindsey. Seven weeks later, on Aug. 19, Ryne and Margaret were married. It was when Ryne took Margaret and her children to Wrigley Field for a season-ending series against the Houston Astros that he began talking about playing again. His agent, Jim Turner, telephoned Cubs general manager Ed Lynch the morning after the season finished and said, "I've got a shocker for you." Lynch, however, was not shocked.