[Ed. - This is a guest post from BN'er Myles Phelps, a swell guy who writes about the Cubs from time to time (and you can find him on Twitter here). Myles wanted to share this idea with us, and it looked pretty fun/funny to me. This is the third part of his list, so drink in the first part if you haven't already, and then chew on the second part.]
Well, here we are. The final chapter of the
epic saga known as The Chicago Cubs Top Surprises and Scandals series. We’ve learned about early retirements, bad contracts and bribes galore! But what’s at number 1? What could possibly be the all-time surprise and/or scandal? Well before I tell you, here’s what it isn’t. Don’t get mad okay?
It isn’t the goat legend. Why? Because it’s overdone and you were, like, totally expecting it. Plus I’m sick of it. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series in over a hundred years because of poor management and bad baseball. Not because some dummy couldn’t bring his stupid goat into Wrigley. Also, curses don’t exist. Quit watching Ghosthunters. It’s fake.
The top surprise/scandal also isn’t the Bartman game. Why? Because again, it’s overdone and overhyped. It also wasn’t his fault. Let’s talk about the next play where the ball goes off Gonzalez’s glove at short. Or how about the fact that Cubs had another game? It was only Game 6. People never talk about the fact that Cubs had a 5-3 lead in Game 7 and blew it. Perhaps this could have been on the list. I know it’s controversy, but you already knew all of this. So let’s move past it.
So … what it is you ask? One word: Sosa.
No other Cub has been more polarizing. He was loved and revered. And then all of a sudden he wasn’t. What follows are five incidents, in no particular order. Hopefully this will prove my case of this man being atop my list.
1a. Sammy Corks it Up
On June 4, 2003 Slammin Sammy hits a routine ground ball to 2nd. His bat shattered, Sosa throws the remaining piece of his bat aside as he trots halfway down to first before being thrown out. As the game is about to continue, the homeplate umpire notices that there’s something weird in the remaining pieces of bat strewn about the field. The umpire crew gathers around and notices cork in Sosa’s bat. He’s thrown out of the game and is eventually suspended for 8 games.
I remember this so vividly as a young buck. I didn’t get it – it was so confusing. Sosa was a god to me. I recall thinking three things: (1) Was he cheating? (2) Is corking a bat a “thing?” (3) Why the hell do I have so many pimples?
The aftermath wasn’t great for Sosa. Every retired baseball player ever came out of the woodwork to proclaim Sammy a cheater (they obviously had no idea what was in store later on, after Sosa was done playing).
His explanation of it being a “practice bat” sucked. His indifference to the whole situation sucked. And the fact that I had so many pimples sucked.
1b. Sammy Walks Out
In 2004, the Cubs played their final game at Wrigley that season. But Sosa wasn’t there.
The game not having started, a security camera caught Sammy leaving before the first pitch was even thrown (he would deny this fact and state that he left after the 3rd inning. Ugh. Liar). He’d never play another game in a Cubs uniform again. He was later traded in the off-season to Baltimore. Go Orioles!
Leading up to this, Sosa was beginning to wear out his welcome in Chicago, both with fans and teammates. He wasn’t hitting, he was getting freak injuries (seriously, he injured his back that season by sneezing), and someone smashed his boombox. He was on his way out.
But then he left in quite possibly the douchiest way imaginable. I know he couldn’t predict being traded. But he had to have a feeling. He never said goodbye to his teammates. He never said goodbye to his fans. He never said goodbye to Chicago. And that pisses me off.
1c. Sammy’s Skin
In the years following Sosa’s retirement, he inevitably fell away from the spotlight. He was never invited back to Wrigley and fans didn’t really care to have him. We were focused on better up-and-coming stars like Felix Pie! Or Matt Murton! (Sorry, I climbed aboard the sarcasm train for a second. Those guys weren’t stars. But Matt Murton did have a luscious head of red hair.)
In 2009, Sammy was spotted in pictures everywhere with … much lighter skin. Google it. It’s weird.
Rumors started coming from everywhere that Sosa was doing the Michael Jackson (RIP) thing and had started doing skin pigmentation.
Maybe he didn’t like the man in the mirror? Get it?
But it ended up not being the case as Sosa, indeed, looks as he once did. (In fact, he looks even better now.) He credits the skin change to a moisturizer that he had contemplated endorsing, which is just bizarre. I don’t know much about skin care, but I feel like if a lotion turns you into another race, it may be faulty.
1d. Sosa Tests Positive
Sosa and McGwire saved baseball. I don’t think that’s an opinion. I tend to think of that as fact.
Baseball was dying in the late 90’s. It was boring, there were few stars, the strike had come just a few years before, and the league office was out of touch with its fanbase. Then the home run race began, and everything started to change.
I remember going to the ballpark with friends and documenting which home runs I’d seen that season in 1998. It was exciting and people were into it. But then the cloud of steroid use came, and everything changed once more.
Sosa was never formally implicated until a story, published by the New York Times in 2009, linked him to testing positive for steroids in 2003. We all knew well before that time, I think.
I’m not sure if I care, though. He entertained all of us. I know others think differently (“integrity of the game,” and all, which I totally get). He broke a rule (probably), and he cheated. But damn, was it exciting.
1e. Sosa Wants in the Hall
The baseball Hall of Fame is guarded by a bunch of old school dudes. They like class. They like hard work. They like impressive numbers. And they hate steroids.
There’s been a lot of talk about what to do with those who tested positive for steroid use. Do they get into the Hall of Fame? Should they just get their own wing as we accept that baseball was different then? Do we just forget it and scrub the record books of their name?
Sosa doesn’t think so. Sosa wants in.
In an interview with ESPN back in 2009, Sosa was quoted as saying, “I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Don’t I have the numbers to be inducted?”
Well, he’s got balls. I’ll give him that.
I can’t think of anyone who has been more defiant in his cheating.
Okay, maybe Roger Clemens. Oh, and Barry Bonds.
Fine, there are others who have gone above and beyond in trying to vindicate themselves. But I can’t recall any others saying so demonstratively that they deserve to be in the hall. I almost envy him for saying it.
Good for you, bud.
That’s it. We’re done. Maybe you agree with this list. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you were searching for something else on the interwebs and ended up landing here. And now you’re very confused about it. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed this series and found it humorous/entertaining.
What do you think I missed? Feel free to tweet me or hit up the comments.
Thanks to Brett and Bleacher Nation for putting this up.