August 24, 2010

Sammy Sosa

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.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know how sad it is. Sosa probably made a lot more money as a great hitter rather than an ok one, even if it was for a shorter time.

Mark Wethman said...

Uh oh. Um, how is booming out your favorite new song 35 times in a row evidence of an Aspergers type personality? Just curious...

Anonymous said...

Is there a speaking tour? If so what is the date for a speech in the Los Angeles area?

Anonymous said...

Do you mean "deep rifF" or more likely "deep rifT"?

Kevin K said...

Matt Welch, the editor of Reason, once said the home run binge in the late nineties was like men wearing shirts that showed off their chest hair in the late seventies : Embarrassing now, but, boy, did we enjoy it at the time!

Bonus Gift said...

Steve:
It isn't clear that without steroids he could have stayed in the majors. Some people become psychologically dependent on them to perform; others just respond well to them and know their higher end performance is largely dependent on them. Sammy struck me as the latter type, kind of a baseball equivalent of Brian Bosworth.

Harry Carey said...

Sosa dictated the clubhouse music?

I feel sorry for the rest of the players. No wonder they always fell apart as a team.

Anonymous said...

Apparently no one will ever listen to me about steroids. Steroids are a reality of modern life. Treating them as evil is rather like railing against electric lights. Wait, I just remembered there are plenty of carbonaphobes who do just that. Anyway it's silly.

I think steroid usage in the majors has already had a positive effect on public health. I see on TV ads for testosterone supplements. One reason for testosterone's sudden acceptability to the older American male is the analogy to estrogen supplements for post-menopausal women. But another reason is probably the heightened awareness of anabolic steroids from sports figures like Sammy Sosa.

If this so then Sosa and Canseco and Bonds have done a good thing.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

There's a metaphor for American sports. The whole thing is one big freak show.

Jack Quinn said...

Sosa Shmosa, Steve...besides the Cubs have Lou Piniella to get all weepy about for the time being.

By the way, what's Pete Rose doing these days?

Black Death said...

Players like Sosa and McGwire helped to kill any slight interest I ever had in baseball. The steroid thing had gotten so out of hand about ten years ago that the new records had become meaningless. And MLB was obviously reluctant to do anything about it because the fans flocked in to see staged contests between hyper-juiced players. They can have it.

Anonymous said...

I met a Puerto Rican guy who played with Sammy in the minors. He said that all of the Latin players in the organization were pretty good friends back then due to the language barrier and the need to band together. But he said that that no one turned their back on the other Latin players faster than Sammy did when he made it to the Show.

helene edwards said...

In 1998, Sosa's best year, the Cubs finished 12.5 games behind in their division. Personally, I think Lee Elia was more entertaining than Sosa.

Geoff Matthews said...

The last bit in the story says it all. He could have been an all-around great ball player, but he just wanted to hit home runs.

My favorite player growing up was Tony Fernandez, shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays. Fielded like Ozzie Smith and hit just under .300. While moneyball claims that fielding doesn't matter, that's the part of the game I'd rather watch.

eh said...

Freak.

Anonymous said...

i'm no longer a fan, you're becoming crankier and you seem more unhinged

Anonymous said...

"He had some Aspergery traits that meant he might boom out his new favorite song 35 times in a row."

It's clear you don't understand what Asperger's syndrome is.

Svigor said...

Uh oh. Um, how is booming out your favorite new song 35 times in a row evidence of an Aspergers type personality? Just curious...

Heh, yeah, I've described myself here as having some Aspergery tendencies myself but I really have no idea WTF Asperger's is, LOL.

But now I'm having a similar "uh-oh" moment because sometimes I just get into that mood, or find a great new song, and play it on repeat for an hour or two. :)

Anonymous said...

this obsession with steroids is yet more evidence of how successful the elite have been at molding the culture.

cryofan

Anonymous said...

Say it ain't so Sammy.

Anonymous said...

"It's clear you don't understand what Asperger's syndrome is."

No, its clear MW HAS Asperger's syndrome.

As for Sosa: the liberal media loved Sosa since he was the minority they could root for against White boy McGuire. Sammy's decline after he stopped juicing shows he probably was better off financially taking the steroids.

guest007 said...

Steve,

A more interesting part of the story is how "sports journalist" when along with the steroid era. Barry Bonds was treated by the Giants the same way that Sosa was treated by the cubs. Yet, no baseball writer ever wrote about the special treatment, the club funding of lackies, and how others in the clubhouse resented it.

Sports journalists refuse to be journalists and always leave the real reporting to others. Look at how business reporters have to write about the business of college sports because sports reporters refuse to learn how college athletic departments function. Look at how Mitch Album managed to write an entire book about the Fab Five at the University of Michigan but managed to not say anything about the street recruiters and under the table payments.

Maybe sports journalist should divide themselves into the jock sniffers who write puff pieces and real journalist who will actually report.

Anonymous said...

"Uh oh. Um, how is booming out your favorite new song 35 times in a row evidence of an Aspergers type personality? Just curious..."

My socially popular 7 year old daughter has read "Charley and the Chocolate Factory" at least fifteen times and sings the Oompa Loompa songs over and over to various Christmas carol tunes while pulling her socks up and down or zipping and unzipping her jacket. If she wasn't reading other books and singing Taylor Swift songs, too, I'd take her for a psychiatric evaluation.

By the way, her Uncle has Aspergers so I'm pretty sure her behaviors are some latent genetic thing, but it hasn't impeded her social or cognitive development (for example, she can control it in the classroom) so we ignore it. But it's actually pretty funny to see her go through all her nutty OC rituals in front of her friends and somehow manage to pass it all off as cool. She is the very definition of high function.

Dutch Boy said...

"One reason for testosterone's sudden acceptability to the older American male is the analogy to estrogen supplements for post-menopausal women"

Dear Albertosaurus: Estrogen supplements are no longer routinely prescribed for post-menopausal women (nor should testosterone be routinely prescibed for aging men).

Anonymous said...

"Dear Albertosaurus: Estrogen supplements are no longer routinely prescribed for post-menopausal women (nor should testosterone be routinely prescibed for aging men)."

Of the two men I know who tried testosterone supplements after 50, one dropped dead of a massive heart attack at 65 with no prior history of heart trouble and the other guy now has stage IV prostate cancer although he had no family history of this disease and had a normal PSA baseline up until he started peeing blood. I recommend middle age men just relax and stop obsessing about their man boobs.

Anonymous said...

Game of Shadows had Bonds not make an out that could have won them a game in the World Series because he refused to listen to another player as to where he should have been positioned.