He was “God” in this town at one time, second only to Michael Jordan. He was even the big superduperstar of Chicago who brought glory upon all of our city from baseball fans around the globe.
THERE WERE THOSE who back then talked trash about Sosa’s legacy – although those people were usually dismissed as bitter Chicago White Sox fans who couldn’t stand the fact that Sammy’s home runs and Chico Escuela-inspired routines were putting all the attention on Chicago’s other ballclub.
Now, just about everybody wants to talk trash about Sosa – who in his first round of being on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame only got 12 percent of the vote (far short of the 75 percent standard required for induction).
The annual Cubs Convention held in January to build up interest and inspire people to keep buying tickets to ballgames hasn’t included Sosa in its program since he left the ballclub after 2004 – or baseball overall following 2007.
Which is why I found it intriguing that Cubs team Chairman Tom Ricketts made comments on Saturday implying that the day will come when Sosa will be rehabilitated enough to be allowed to appear in public on behalf of the ballclub.
HE TALKED OF “put(ting) this chapter to rest” and “welcom(ing) back” the guys who played professionally back in the era of a decade ago – which is one we now suspect involved many ballplayers using anabolic steroids to bolster their strength and skills on the playing field.
Ricketts even told reporter-types how “maybe it’s an issue we pick up this year” to make it possible for Sosa to be seen in Chicago without inspiring the contempt of Chicago fans.
Or at least those who persist in root, root, rooting for the Cubbies. White Sox types are going to grouse no matter what anybody says – in part because they remember just how mediocre and ego-bloated he was during those couple of seasons he played at Comiskey Park (and later complained that the ballpark was too big for his style of play).
Personally, I believe the White Sox are going to be a factor in how seriously the Cubs go about trying to rehabilitate Sosa’s “good” name.
FOR NEXT YEAR will be the first season that the other BIG name of Chicago baseball from the 1990s gets consideration for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That would be “the Big Hurt” himself – Frank Thomas – who may never have hit 60 or more home runs in a single season three times like Sosa did, but had his share of power combined with the ability to hit for a decent batting average AND not strike out so often.
There are those who think Thomas, along with Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux are the likely Hall of Fame inductees for 2014.
You just know the Cubs-types are going to become infuriated at so much attention being paid to a White Sox star (and two-time Most Valuable Player), along with the reminders of how Maddux got away because the Cubs didn’t want to pay him – allowing the Braves to get all those seasons of Cy Young Award-quality play as they repeatedly contended for championships.
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THE CUBS ARE going to need to resurrect what WAS unique about them back in the 1990s to counter that. And that is going to mean looking back fondly on the “fun” of that era when Sosa put on such a spectacle that people felt the need to go to Wrigley Field.
I don’t expect the Wrigley crowd to start openly admitting that the best Chicago ballplayer of the ‘90s played the bulk of his career at 35th Street and Shields Avenue.
A fact that, for the time being, too many people seem determined to cover up in the same way the Soviet Union of old used to like to rewrite their history to get rid of the moments that didn’t fit in with the image they preferred to project.
Let’s be honest. There is a whole generation of people who felt compelled to go to Cubs games solely so they could say, “I saw Sammy Sosa hit a home run!” A fact they now utter with a mere whisper.