Saturday, January 4, 2014

I remember when “Big Hurt” was nuthin’ compared to Sammy Sosa

I’m going to get some amusement come Wednesday if it turns out that one-time Chicago White Sox hitter Frank Thomas winds up getting inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, while everybody’s favorite baseball clown Sammy Sosa winds up becoming ineligible for future consideration.

Now I’m not claiming to have any real knowledge of how the vote will turn out.

ONLY THAT IT seems Thomas, along with one-time Atlanta Braves star pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, appear to be the candidates who are getting solid support – enough to make it above the 75 percent standard required for Hall induction.

There are other ballplayers who seem to get strong support from select sportswriters, but not enough to gain induction this year.

Although it also seems that on the bottom end, there are some ballplayers getting so few votes that they may be knocked off the ballot for future-year consideration.

Those include Sosa, the one-time Chicago Cubs outfielder who once was the guy who (along with Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals) “saved” baseball in 1998 when both of them managed to hit more than 60 home runs that season! Rejuvenating interest in a sport that supposedly people had given up on because of bitterness from the ’94 strike.

THE ONE THAT now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor brought an end to when she ruled that it was the baseball owners that had acted improperly in their labor negotiations with the players union.

But that’s a commentary for another time.

What I recall of that era was that it was a period (roughly 1998-2002) when Sosa and his clown act on-and-off the field amused fans and resulted in a jolt in Chicago Cubs attendance, while White Sox attendance fell to the level of any other mediocre ball club that couldn’t win on the field.

It didn’t really help that Thomas’ run of big hitting and Most Valuable Player awards that his career will be remembered for pretty much came to an end in 1997.

IT MADE IT too easy for the more casual of baseball fans to think that Sosa was “the Man!” and Thomas was just a crybaby who complained of foot pains.

Of course, we later learned that Thomas had a huge bone spur in his heel that would have prevented most people from even walking – let alone trying to be an athlete.

There were all those home runs that Sosa hit (more than 60 each season in 1998, 1999 and 2001), and the people who tried claiming there was something fishy about Sammy suddenly becoming a star some 10 seasons after he first played in the major leagues?

They were just written off as bitter kill-joys. Either that, or sour-pussed Sox fans! Now, everybody screams "STEROIDS!!!!!" when they think of Sammy.

NOW TO SEE that Thomas is being considered a likely candidate for the Hall of Fame on his first try, while Sosa (in his second time on the ballot) may get knocked off altogether?

What a difference a day (or 16 years) makes!

Although I have to admit to a pet peeve. For one thing, it seems there are some Hall of Fame voters who think that McGwire is entitled to future Hall of Fame consideration, while Sosa is not.

In all honesty, the two are so tied together in my mind that I wonder if some people have an ethnic hang-up against the one-time Dominican beisbol star, as opposed to the Southern California boy and one-time U.S. Olympic baseball player. I can see voting to approve both, or reject both. But one, and not the other? I don't get it.

ALTHOUGH I’M ALSO going to find some amusement from the idea that Maddux and Glavine will be in the Hall of Fame, while McGwire is not.

One of the iconic commercials promoting baseball in that era was that whole “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” concept – remember Glavine and Maddux grousing that Hollywood hottie Heather Locklear was more interested in hanging out with McGwire than them?

Wednesday’s announcement could wind up being a pair of “last laughs” for Maddux/Glavine and Thomas fans, particularly when/if they make the trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., in July for induction ceremonies while ballplayers such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds remain baseball pariahs.

Then, there will be Cubs fans who shift into rhetorical combat mode by arguing that Maddux deserves to be remembered more for his short stints on the North Side – rather than his many seasons of quality down in Atlanta. Baseball always creates something for its fans to argue about – particularly while we’re enduring sub-zero Arctic temperatures waiting for the new season to begin.


No comments: