2018 is the 20th anniversary season of the famed home run chase between INF Mark “Big Mac” McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals, the year’s eventual HR champ with 70, and OF “Slammin’ Sammy” Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, who hit 66. In honor of this anniversary, David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago recently traveled to South Florida to interview Sosa about his magical season and the Cubs legend’s persona non grata status with the Cubs organization since his retirement in 2007.
Cubs ownership has taken the stance that Sosa will not be invited to Wrigley Field or any Cubs fan conventions until he apologizes for his past transgressions, such as leaving the game early in his last game as a Cub in 2004, and confesses to his alleged PED usage. In his interview with Kaplan, Sosa corrected the perception that he is looking for some sort of role with the Cubs organization by pointing out that “I formed my own company, so I’m not looking for a job,” and stated he was interested in returning to Chicago to give back to his fans. “If one day I come back to Chicago, I’d come back for the fans, I owe those people something.” Sosa also noted that when he played for the Cubs, the team was under an entirely different ownership group, the Tribune Company.
Many other Cubs greats have been welcomed at Wrigley Field, especially during the run-up to the 2016 World Series championship – even SP Carlos Zambrano, who parted with the Cubs on bad terms in 2011.
In Kaplan’s view, it is long past time for the Cubs and Sosa to mend fences as he “played an important role in the history of the Chicago Cubs organization” and brought in many fans during his historic run with the Cubs. I agree with him because I am one of these fans. If not for Sammy Sosa leading the Cubs to a playoff appearance and his historic home run chase with McGwire, I would not be a baseball fan today.
I grew up in a “mixed” Chicago baseball fan household, as my dad is a White Sox fan and my mom is a Cubs fan. When I was a kid, my family attended games of both teams, which required a 2-hour drive to Chicago. I remember my mom following previous Cubs playoff appearances and celebrating Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game (also in 1998), but I didn’t really pay attention until Sosa started heating up that year. That was when I began listening in to the Cubs radio broadcasts along with my mom and learning about the game beyond what I knew from playing Little League. Throughout the rest of my teenage years, I faithfully tuned into Cubs broadcasts whenever they were on and tuned in to catch the remainder of the games after the end of my work shifts at McDonald’s.
In 1998, my family made a trip to Wrigley Field for a game so we would have the chance to see Sosa hit a home run. We did not see one that day, but I do remember when the Cubs took up their positions at the beginning of the game, Sosa sprinted out to right field to the cheers of thousands of fans. I can only imagine how loud it would be if Sosa made a return to Wrigley to throw out the first pitch, and/or if his #21 jersey was retired.
A photo I took at Wrigley Field in 1998.
I have not returned to Wrigley Field since immigrating to Canada in 2014, but am still regularly tuning into the Cubs broadcasts. I miss singing the stretch with the Wrigley faithful. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” plays at Rogers Centre during the stretch, but it’s a follow-up song to “Ok, Blue Jays” and is not the same experience at all. If Sammy Sosa were to make a return to Wrigley, I would make the trip to see him, and I’m sure many other fans from near and far would do the same. Sosa’s transgressions against the Cubs organization and MLB took place many years ago when the team was under different ownership, and the current owners should prioritize bringing a Cubs legend back into the fold and honoring a fan favorite over moralizing about his PED use.
Bring Sammy back!
Featured Image: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com
I grew up a Cubs fan in Northwest Illinois and became an avid follower of the team during the Sosa-McGwire home run chase. Now I am the #1 Cubs fan in Toronto, Canada. You can find me on Twitter @Troll_Hamels (personal) and @farnorthsider (blog).