There’s understandably been a lot of talk about Sammy Sosa lately: will he ever get in the Hall of Fame? Should he get in the Hall of Fame? Does anyone even care if he gets in the Hall of Fame? For his part, Sammy has helped stay on Cubs’ fans’ radar lo these past few weeks with a social media blitz that has left most of us, if not doubled-over in fits of laughter, at least scratching our heads. Does Sammy really think that a few pictures on Pinterest are going to re-kindle the love we once bore him? Especially when they are really REALLY bad photos on Pinterest?
And therein lay the problem with Sammy Sosa: it’s not just we all found out he was cheating (and yes, it was cheating and no, everyone wasn’t doing it), it was that most of us had come to dislike him as a human being we came to the conclusion that he was using performance-enhancing drugs.
If you are puzzled by this statement, allow me to refresh your recollection: there was his tempertantrum at being asked (nay, politely requested) to hit lower in the lineup by Dusty Baker, even though Sammy couldn’t break .200 to save his life at the time he was asked. There was the lashing out in indignation at reporters who dared to ask Sammy if he’d be willing to take a test to prove he wasn’t using steroids. There was the corked bat incident (hello, you can’t argue that wasn’t cheating). There was the walking out on his team before games were even over.
All of this, of course, leading up to Sammy driving Kerry Wood, possibly the most mild-mannered of all the recent Cubs, to take a baseball bat to Sammy boom-box, which reportedly streamed salsa music non-stop, no matter how poorly the team had played that day.
And, of course, there was Sammy’s sudden and infamous inability to speak English when hauled before Congress as part of a farcical “investigation” into PED use by major league ballplayers.
I wish I’d never come across THAT Sammy Sosa. I, like the rest of America, was in love with the first Sammy Sosa. The one who seemed to play baseball with joy and verve. The one who seemed to remember, and rejoice in, the fact that he was a grown man paid million of dollars to play a child’s game. He had raised himself up from a poor family in the Dominican Republic to chase one of the most-hallowed records in baseball, and he was having a goddamned great time doing it.
Who could ever forget Ted Williams, being driven out to the mound at Fenway before the 1999 All-Star game, surrounded by some of the greatest ballplayers to ever play the game, and straining his neck to see through the crowd to ask “Where’s Sammy? Where’s Sammy?” Even the greatest pure hitter in the history of the game had fallen under Sammy’s joyous mid-summer spell.
That’s the Sammy Sosa I like to remember, though it turned out that the real Sammy was much like most other professional athletes: spoiled, selfish, and more concerned about appearances and his own accomplishments than the good of the team. Try as I might, that’s the Sammy Sosa that lingers in my memory.
Sammy’s recent social media push seems to indicate that he feels that his problem with HOF voters is that people have forgotten him. The problem with Sammy Sosa isn’t that I’ve forgotten him . . . it’s that I remember him.
(Please take a second to like LOHO’s page on Facebook. We post a lot of things over there during the day that don’t make the site.)