August 24, 2010
Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa was a huge deal in American culture a decade ago, but for years now, you only hear of him when he lightens his skins. Here's a long article by Shane Tritsch in Chicago Magazine on the deep riff between the slugger, now retired in Miami, and the Cubs.
Sosa started out dirt poor in the Dominican Republic as a child laborer. He only got to start playing a lot of baseball at 14, and 5 years later his physical skills had him in the majors. But his slowness of learning and his evident lack of learning ability kept him and his fans frustrated. But then he started to bulk up in his mid-20s. After a weak season in 1997, he returned at age 29 a new man. He hit 66 homers to challenge Mark McGwire for the all time single season homers record. It was one of the biggest baseball stories of the last century.
He had two more seasons with over 60 homers, including 2001's .328, 64 homers, 160 rbis, 146 runs, 116 walks, and 425 total bases. Will we ever see those kind of numbers again?
The Cubs let him do whatever he wanted, including letting him choose all the music in the locker room all the time. He had some Aspergery traits that meant he might boom out his new favorite song 35 times in a row. Eventually, better drug testing meant he had to ease off on the juice and his performance skidded. The Cubs ingloriously greased the skids under him and he was gone, and they haven't asked him to return either.
A sad story. With the right kind of leadership, he could stayed off the juice and, with his work ethic, could have been a solid all-around ballplayer. But the Cubs, who obviously knew he was on steroids, did everything they could to facilitate the Sammy Show. And the fans loved it.