Posted By: Michael Sweeney June 27, 2009 It was a bit of no-surprise, "Well, finally!" sports news that hit last week – before getting buried by the troika of heavy-burning Gov. Sanford foreign affair / Farrah Fawcett long-anticipated R.I.P. / "King of Pop" completely unexpected death headlines. In fact, the semi-perfect (accidental and incidental) timing meant that, in most places, the word that former Cub Sammy Sosa had allegedly tested positive for some performance-enhancing drug (PED) – likely steroids – several seasons back faded away pretty quickly. …But not here in Chicago – not where he had long patrolled right field and blasted out crowd-pleasing homers (on his way to 6th place on the all-time list, at 609 total home runs) for the Cubbies...
Posted By: Michael Sweeney
June 27, 2009
It was a bit of no-surprise, "Well, finally!" sports news that hit last week – before getting buried by the troika of heavy-burning Gov. Sanford foreign affair / Farrah Fawcett long-anticipated R.I.P. / "King of Pop" completely unexpected death headlines. In fact, the semi-perfect (accidental and incidental) timing meant that, in most places, the word that former Cub Sammy Sosa had allegedly tested positive for some performance-enhancing drug (PED) – likely steroids – several seasons back faded away pretty quickly.
…But not here in Chicago – not where he had long patrolled right field and blasted out crowd-pleasing homers (on his way to 6th place on the all-time list, at 609 total home runs) for the Cubbies...
(As a then-panther-sleek and speedy youngster, he had also briefly played for the Chicago White Sox – as well as the Texas Rangers (before getting dealt away under the led-by-part-owner-George-W.-Bush-era of the Rangers – about the only career mistake that the bumbling 43rd President ever (even jokingly) admitted to)…but, of course, it is as the bulky, homers-to-Sheffield-and-Waveland-spewing Cub that Sosa is most recalled…)
Ironically, this long-suspected and potentially-career-altering news broke just a short while after Sosa – who hasn’t played in the bigs since his mostly-DH-ing season with the Rangers in ’07 – gave a self-pumping, who-cares? interview, where he talked about (yet didn’t officially announce) ending up retiring fully from baseball…and speculated – positively and enthusiastically – about his qualifications to be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. "I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame," he said, both defiantly and somewhat-pleadingly. Hmm, most baseball fans at least momentarily considered…then, the PED news broke…and into the flusher went all the Sosa / Cooperstown talk.
Additionally, while musing his eventual post-career reputation (and destination) from the comfort of his native Dominican Republic (where he is still quite highly regarded), Sosa added, "I always played with love and responsibility and I assure you that I will not answer nor listen to rumors. If anything ugly comes up in the future, we will confront it immediately, but with all our strength because I will not allow anybody to tarnish what I did in the field." Uh…except, once the PED news broke, Sosa apparently moved more into the "Speak-a no Englais" mode that he embarrassed himself showing in front of Congress (during the famous testimony there, along with Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro) in 2005…because he has had nothing to say defending this latest oh-so-"ugly" news about him.
Sigh – of course, it's a complicated issue for us lifelong Cubs fans.
Now, quite truthfully, I was never any sort of a full "Sosa guy," as much of the first two-thirds of his still-impressive Cubs career coincided with that of my all-time favorite ball-player, Mark Grace – the team's multiple All-Star, hit-for-high-average, reliable-fielding longtime first baseman. (In fact, Grace had the most hits AND the most doubles of ANY major league player during the decade of the 1990s...and the only "substances" that Gracie perhaps over-indulged in were Winston cigarettes and Old Style beer (OK, and MAYBE "Baseball Annies" before he settled down)...)
That said, of course, I still cheered on Sosa's multiple-60-homer seasons...AND initially believed (sort of, anyway) his "Flintstone vitamins" denials of ever taking banned substances while playing. Sure, we may have suspected, but...we (sorta) hoped and believed. Because the ’98 McGwire-Sosa homer race – after the ’95 Ripken streak record – was such a help in repairing the damage of baseball’s ’94 strike (and World Series-less season)…and, man, anything that seemed good for baseball was more than OK by me – and many of the sport’s other most-devoted fans.
Of course, then came the Barry Bonds ridiculousness (really? 73 homers? uh…) and then the Sosa corked bat and the disingenuous Congressional appearance...and now this latest – and, as I said, completely unsurprising – revelation. And, much like the deal with A-Rod, now history is being rewritten…and ALL of our previous cheers, excuses, and explanations are being closely, guiltily re-examined.
As a lifelong, deeply committed Cubs fan, I know that I am now ashamed of our prior support of that loser...even though you can – within the context of the times – pretty much understand why baseball time would stop and all eyes would pay attention every time Sosa strode into the batter’s box. Those long, frequent smashes were that absorbing…AND that potentially game-changing.
HOWEVER – unlike too many (for good example) Giants and Cardinals fans (re: Bonds and "Big Mac") – I am at least thankful that almost all of Cubdom seems to agree with me these days, and now has mostly banished the image and support of Sosa from our team, park, and thoughts. For example, although we’re a century-and-a-quarter-old team with "only" 5 uniform numbers retired (one shared by 2 players – the recently honored "31" for Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux), almost NOBODY is calling for the hoisting of a flag to honor the 21 that Sosa used to sport (currently being worn by the "uh, let’s perhaps not get into HIM right now" Milton Bradley). Plus, head over to Wrigley, and I guarantee that you'll see more (ex-players) "WOOD 34" and "PRIOR 22" jerseys being worn by fans than any "SOSA 21" shirts. Hell, you might even still spot a few more poorly-timed purchases of "GARCIAPARRA 5" Cubs jerseys scattered around the "Friendly Confines" than Sosa shirts anymore…
At this point, we just don't want anything to do with that cheating, lying, self-aggrandizing turd. We took our chances, cheered on a bit blindly, and now we feel disgusted and burned by our support and trust. And we’re a fan base with a long memory. We long ago forgave Cubbie icon Ronnie Santo’s final year in the bigs playing for the despised White Sox…we gratefully accepted Derrek Lee coming over to our team even after he helped lead the Marlins past us (gulp…I hate even thinking about those games I was at, much less typing about them) in Game 6 and 7 of the doomed 2003 N.L.C.S….and we even learned to cheer for longtime hated Cardinal Jim Edmonds when he played for us last year. But, this betrayal ain’t gonna diminish anytime soon. To devolve (once again) to handily adapting my favorite Jospeh Conrad / "Heart of Darkness" quote to this situation, when it comes to Cubs fans, "Mistah Sosa? He dead…"
...And here's hoping that his arrogant humiliation is completed by a LONG (if not – hopefully – permanent) wait outside of the halls of Cooperstown with the rest of his asterisk-era cohorts who abused the rules of the game, their bodies, AND the (perhaps too often gullible) support of many baseball fans. Good riddance to him and his ilk!
I know that we fans only have ourselves to blame for the perhaps-benign ignorance we let cloud those years while they were happening, but, well…we will gladly let the future blame – and ALL the resulting responsibility connected with it – sit squarely on the artificially-inflated shoulders that faux-easily bore all of that weight…AND that helped swat out those then-impressive homers…
Sosa? Bah! I – and most of Cubdom – just wanna say a dismissive, "So long!"
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