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Sammy Sosa
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Sammy Sosa

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Samuel Sosa Peralta, better known as Sammy Sosa (born November 12, 1968 in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic), is a professional Major League baseball player for the Chicago Cubs. Sosa is currently ninth on baseball's all-time home run list with 559.

Early Life

Sammy Sosa's family was very poor and he grew up in an abandoned hospital. He started playing baseball at a young age, and at times used a folded milk carton for a glove as he could not afford a real one. His talent was apparent at a young age, so much so that the Philadelphia Phillies attempted to sign him at age 15, but this deal was not allowed by Major League Baseball because of a rule making the minimum age for contracts between major league teams and players 16. After turning 16, he signed with the Texas Rangers in 1985.

Early Career

He made his major league debut on June 16, 1989 with the Rangers, who traded him to the Chicago White Sox along with Wilson Alvarez in exchange for Harold Baines and Fred Manrique later that same season (a move that U.S. President George W. Bush, then the Rangers' owner, later joked was the biggest mistake he ever made). After a promising 1990 season in which he hit 15 home runs and collected 70 RBI as a full-time player, in 1991 his production fell and Sosa was relegated to the minor leagues for a time.

Prior to the start of the 1992 season, Sosa was again traded. This time he was sent packing across town to the Cubs along with reliever Ken Patterson in exchange for slugger George Bell. Many at the time thought the Cubs had been swindled by the White Sox in the trade, including a vocal George Bell, who said he was insulted at being traded for a player as unproven as Sosa. Larry Himes, who had been the general manager of the White Sox when they acquired Sosa, was now the general manager of the Cubs, and having traded for him a second time, defended his view that Sosa would turn out to be an outstanding player.

Sosa spent the 1992 season in centerfield for the Cubs, but spent more than half the season on the disabled list with a broken wrist and a sore shoulder. In 1993 Sosa finally started to show the talent that scouts and fans alike had seen glimpses of for years. Sosa finished with 33 home runs and 36 stolen bases, joining the exclusive 30-30 club. Sosa followed with another solid campaign in the strike-shortened season of 1994.

During the strike, Sosa supposedly agreed to a free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox, but Major League Baseball decided not to allow any contract negotiations between players and teams during the strike. By the time the strike had been settled, Sosa had a change of heart and decided to stay with the Cubs.

Sosa once again reached the 30-30 plateau in 1995, and made his first All-Star team. In 1996, Sosa was leading the National League in home runs with 40 when he was hit by a pitch, breaking his wrist and effectively ending his season. Sosa had trouble rebounding from his broken wrist during the 1997 season. A late season surge rose his batting average to a mildly disappointing .251, but the Cubs were well on their way to a last place finish by then.

During his subpar 1997 season, Sosa agreed to a contract extension with the Cubs that made him one of baseball's highest-paid players. Many experts felt that this was a mistake, since Sosa in their views did not possess the talent to merit such a contract. He didn't waste any time proving them wrong.

Best Years

After years as a respected power hitter, Sammy Sosa emerged during the 1998 season as one of baseball's greats. It was in this season that both Sosa and Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris's long-standing single season home run record of 61. Sosa ended the season with 66, behind McGwire's 70. His 416 total bases were the most in a single season in 50 years, since Stan Musial's 429 in 1948. Sosa found some consolation in winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award for leading the Cubs into the playoffs in 1998, earning every first-place vote except for the two cast by St. Louis writers, who voted for McGwire. He and McGwire shared Sports Illustrated magazine's 1998 "Sportsmen of the Year" award. Sosa's accomplishments were celebrated with a ticker-tape parade in his honor in New York City, and he was asked to be a guest at US President Bill Clinton's 1999 State of the Union Address.

The following season Sosa hit 63 home runs, again trailing Mark McGwire who hit 65. Sosa, already a home run legend, finally claimed his first home run championship by hitting 50 in the 2000 season.

In 2001, he hit 64 home runs, becoming the first (and, thus far, only) player ever with three 60 home run seasons (though, oddly, he did not lead the league in any of those three seasons; in 2001, he finished behind Barry Bonds). In the same season he set personal records in runs scored (146), RBIs (160), walks (116), on base percentage (.437), slugging percentage (.737), and batting average (.328). He led the Majors in runs and RBIs, was 2nd in home runs, 2nd in slugging percentage, 3rd in walks, 4th in on base percentage, 12th in batting average, and 15th in hits. He also surpassed his 1998 numbers in total bases, compiling 425. Sosa once again led the league in home runs with 49 in 2002.

Known as a free-swinger in his early years, and as an easy strikeout candidate, Sosa has become an effective hitter for average. He owns numerous team records for the Cubs, and holds the major-league record for the most home runs hit in a month (20, in June 1998).

Corked Bat & Aftermath

While Sosa's accomplishments during his career with the Cubs had been vast, as a team they saw little success, only once making the playoffs during Sosa's tenure-a wildcard playoff birth in 1998. That would change in 2003, when the Cubs and new manager Dusty Baker won the National League Central Division title. The year was not all good news for Sosa, however. In May, he spent his first time on the disabled list since 1996 after having a toenail removed. On June 3, 2003, Sosa was ejected from a Chicago Cubs-Tampa Bay Devil Rays game in the first inning when umpires discovered he had been using a corked bat. [1] Major League Baseball confiscated and tested 76 of Sosa's other bats after his ejection; all were found to be clean, with no cork. [1] Sosa stated that he had accidentally used the corked bat, which he claimed was his batting-practice bat. On June 6, 2003, Sosa was suspended for eight games on account of the corked bat. [1] However, the suspension was reduced to seven games after appeal on June 11, 2003. [1]

After the suspension, Sosa returned to form and hit 40 home runs in his shortened season, including titanic blasts in games 1 and 2 of the NLCS against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were just five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945, before a Game 6 collapse left them empty-handed.

In May of 2004, Sosa suffered a strange injury. While sitting next to his locker chatting with reporters before a game in San Diego's Petco Park, he sneezed violently, causing severe back pain. He was diagnosed with back spasms and placed on the disabled list.

External links

See also