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Sosa, Sammy 1968–

Sammy Sosa 1968

Professional baseball player

Flipped Between Majors and Minors

Joined the Cubs

Signed a Controversial Contract

A Historic Season

Enduring Stardom and Corked Bats

Selected writings

Sources

Sammy Sosa, the Chicago Cubs outfielder who was involved in the most dramatic home run race in baseball history in 1998, evolved into one of the most well-rounded and best-loved players of the early 2000s. Early in his career, Sosa was an offensive force with weak defensive and baserunning skills. But following his epic 1998 chase of the single-season, home-run recordin which his 66 home runs placed second to slugger Mark McGwires 70Sosa determined to become better at every part of the game. In 2003 Sosa recovered from a bat-corking incident to lead the Chicago Cubs deep into the playoffs. Cubs fans, long accustomed to having their team lose, hope that Swingin Sammy Sosa will some day lead the Cubs to a World Series victory.

Flipped Between Majors and Minors

Samuel Sosa was born on November 12, 1968, in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Sosa and his five brothers and sisters grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in an abandoned hospital. His father, Juan Montero, died of a brain aneurysm when Sammy was seven. His mother Lucrecia and her children were left to fend for themselves. To help his family financially, Sosa sold oranges, shined shoes, and worked as a janitor in a shoe factory. He began playing organized baseball at the age of 14 and was signed to a contract by the Philadelphia Phillies one year later. However, the contract was voided because Sosa was only 15 years old. He signed another contract the following year, this time with the Texas Rangers. He gave his $3,500 signing bonus to his mother and bought his first bicycle.

In 1986 Sosa left the Dominican Republic and arrived in Sarasota, Florida. At the age of 18, he led the Gulf Coast League in doubles. The following year, as a member of Gastonia, North Carolinas Class A team, he was selected as a South Atlantic League All-Star. In 1988 Sosa spent the entire season with Port Charlotte in the Florida State League. He was then promoted to the Rangers Double A club in Tulsa in 1989. After compiling a .297 batting average, seven home runs, and 31 runs batted in (RBIs) in 66 games with Tulsa, Sosa was promoted to the major leagues. In his major league debut with the Texas Rangers on June 16, 1989, he had two hits against the New York Yankees. Following this impressive start, Sosa hit only .238 in 25 games, compiled no walks,

At a Glance

Born Samuel Sosa (Peralta) on November 12, 1968, in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic; married Sonia; children: Keysha, Kenia, Sammy Jr., and Michael.

Career: Texas Rangers, professional baseball player, 1986-89; Chicago White Sox, professional baseball player, 1989-92; Chicago Cubs, professional baseball player, 1992.

Awards: National League All-Star Team member, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002; Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002; Gene Autry Courage Award, 1998; National League Most Valuable Player, 1998; Roberto Clemente Award, 1998; Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year with Mark McGwire, 1998; Hank Aaron Award, 1999.

Addresses: Office Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison Street, Chicago, IL 60613-4397.

and struck out 20 times. The Rangers sent him back to their Triple A team on July 20, 1989. Nine days later, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. After three weeks in the minors, Sosa was called up to the White Sox on August 22nd. In his first game with the White Sox, Sosa had three hits, including a home run.

The 1990 season was Sosas first full season in the major leagues. Although he only had a .233 batting average, Sosa was the only American League player to reach double figures in doubles (26), triples (10), homers (15), and stolen bases (32). In 1991 Sosa struggled to find the success and consistency that he had enjoyed the previous season. On July 19, 1991, the White Sox demoted him to the minors. Although he finished the season in Chicago, Sosa compiled a dismal .203 batting average and struck out 98 times in 116 games.

Joined the Cubs

In 1992 the White Sox traded Sosa to the Chicago Cubs. He suffered injuries throughout the season and played in only 67 games. From June 13th to June 27th, Sosa was on the disabled list with a broken right hand. Ten days after returning to action, he fractured his ankle and was forced to miss the rest of the season.

Sosa enjoyed a spectacular season in 1993, becoming the first player in Cubs history to record 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season. He finished the year with a .261 batting average, 33 home runs, 93 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases. In 1994 Sosa led the Cubs in batting average (.300), home runs (25), and RBIs (70). He also stole 22 bases. During the 1995 season, he was named to the National League All-Star team for the first time. He also hit 36 home runs, compiled 119 RBIs, and stole 34 bases. In 1995, Sosa won the Silver Slugger Award and The Sporting News named him to its National League All-Star team.

During another outstanding season in 1996, Sosa was hit by a pitch and broke a bone in his right hand on August 20th. He was placed on the disabled list and missed the rest of the season. Although Sosas season was ended prematurely, he had compiled an impressive .273 batting average, hit 40 home runs, and knocked in 100 RBIs. During July of 1996, he was named the National League Player of the Month for his .358 batting average, 10 home runs, and 29 RBIs.

In 1997 Sosa proved again that he had become one of the finest power hitters in the National League. He finished near the top of the National League in home runs (36), RBIs (119), doubles (31), total bases (303), extra-base hits (71), and at-bats (642). Sosa also achieved two career milestones by getting his 1,000th major league hit and hitting his 200th major league home run.

Signed a Controversial Contract

Midway through the 1997 season, Cubs general manager Ed Lynch signed Sosa to a four-year contract extension worth $42.5 million. The $10 million-per-year contract was a great source of controversy. Although Sosa had enjoyed several fine seasons with the Cubs, many fans and sportswriters did not feel that he was worth the money. Some fans called him Sammy So So and he was viewed by many as a selfish player who was more concerned with personal statistics than team goals.

Sosas behavior, at times, seemed to support these claims. After he hit 30 home runs and stole 30 bases in 1993, Sosa commissioned an enormous, diamond-encrusted 30-30 gold pendant, which he had to put in a safe before games. His license plate read SS 30-30 and a shopping mall he owned in the Dominican Republic was also christened 30-30. Although he had hit 36 home runs and collected 119 RBIs in 1997, he also led the National League in strikeouts and was undisciplined on the base paths. Omar Minaya, the scout who signed Sosa, offered Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated a reason for Sosas lack of discipline, Youve got to understand something about Latin players when theyre youngor really any players from low economic backgrounds. They know the only way to make money is by putting up offensive numbers. Only now is Sammy at a mature stage. Only now is he becoming the player he always could have been. Sosas teammate, Mark Grace, told Verducci that Sosa had made so many mistakes because he did not have a firm grasp of baseball fundamentals, When he first got here (in 1992), you could see he had great physical skills, but he was so raw. He didnt know how to play the game. He didnt understand the concept of hitting behind runners. So many little things he just didnt know.

A Historic Season

Sosas 1998 season would make Ed Lynch look like a genius. During the off-season Sosa worked hard to become more patient at the plate, improve his bat speed, and hit the ball to all fields more consistently. In an interview with Wendy Cole of Time, Sosa spoke of his desire to become a better player, A few years ago I was trying to do too much. Id go to home plate with no idea and swing at everything.

In 1998 Sosa and Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals thrilled baseball fans with their quest to break the record of 61 home runs in a season set by Roger Maris in 1961. Both men eventually broke Mariss record and, at one point in the season, were tied with 63 home runs apiece. McGwire went on to hit 70 home runs, while Sosa finished the season with 66. During their home run race, both men showed tremendous class and excellent sportsmanship. They were also credited with baseballs resurgence as Americas national pastime. For their achievements, Sports Illustrated named Sosa and McGwire Co-Sportsmen of the Year.

In addition to hitting 66 home runs, Sosa also knocked in 158 RBIs and batted .307 for the season. During June of 1998 he hit a major league record 20 home runs and batted in 40 runs. In a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he hit back-to-back grand slams. Sosa also led the Cubs to their first playoff berth in many years. He was named to the National League All-Star team and earned the National Leagues Most Valuable Player Award.

Enduring Stardom and Corked Bats

Sosa did not rest on his laurels following his 1998 season. Instead, he went back to the drawing board to improve himself as a baseball player, working hard on his fielding and his base running. The results were nothing less than breathtaking, as Sosa went on to enjoy a five-year stretch of baseball that is among the best in history. In the years 1999 through 2003, he hit .288, .320, .328, .294, and .279; averaged 173 RBIs per game; and averaged 53 home runs per year. In two of those years he hit more than 60 home runs, taking him over the 500 home run barrier in 2003 and making him the only player in major league history to hit more than 60 home runs three times. Describing what it was like to play alongside someone playing at Sosas level, teammate Eric Young told the Sporting News: It was very exciting to see. Other guys would say, Hey, when weve got a superstar busting his butt like that, then the rest of us have to do the same.

Though Sosa was piling up the statistics at a feverish pace, the Cubs remained an inconsistent team, dogged by failure and the entire citys fear that the team could never make the playoffs, let alone the World Series. But all that changed with the 2003 season. In their first season under manager Dusty Baker, the Cubs went 88-74, won the National League East title, and were five outs from progressing to the World Series when the eventual champion Florida Marlins staged a come from behind victory.

The year 2003 was a tough one for Sosa, however. On April 20 he was beaned in the head by a pitch from Pittsburgh Pirates righthander Salomon Torres that shattered his helmet. Then he missed nearly a month with a painful right toe that would not allow him to push off his back foot. Just four days after returning from this injury, Sosa had the most humiliating moment of his career. He hit a pitch and broke his bat, and an umpire who picked up the bat found that it was filled with cork. The baseball world was outraged. Many wondered how many of Sosas homeruns had been hit with a corked bat, which lightens the weight of the bat and increases its speed. Around the league, people argued over whether Sosa was a fraud and whether corking really changed anything anyway. In the end Sosas sincere apologieshe claimed that the bat was one he used for batting practice only, and that it got mixed in with his game batsand his and his teams stellar performance following his seven-game suspension helped everyone forget all about Sosas mistake.

In 2004, with the Cubs preseason favorites to dominate their division, Sosa was considered one of the great players in the game, and not just for his skills at the plate. While he has always been good to his family and to youth groups in both Chicago and his native Dominican Republic, he decided to do more after signing a four-year, $72-million contract in 2001. He created the Sammy Sosa Foundation to raise funds for underprivileged children in Chicago and the Dominican Republic. Fans love Sosa, both for his tremendous work ethic on the field and for the joy and happiness he brings to the game. Sosa begins every home game with a spirited run out to right field, followed with his trademark sign of appreciation to the fansa tap of his heart and a salute. Reflecting on his good fortune, Sosa told Sports Illustrated: My life is kind of like a miracle.

Selected writings

(With Marcos Breton) Sosa: An Autobiography, Warner Books, 2000.

Sources

Books

Bayless, Skip, Sammys Season, Contemporary Books, 1998.

Christopher, Matt, At the Plate withSammy Sosa, Little, Brown, 1999.

Duncan, Patricia J., Sosa! Baseballs Home Run Hero, Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Gutman, Bill, Sammy Sosa: A Biography/Sammy Sosa, la biografia, Pocket Books, 1998.

Periodicals

Sporting News, April 1, 2002.

Sports Illustrated, June 29, 1998; September 14, 1998; September 28 1998; December 21, 1998; June 26, 2000; June 16, 2003; August 25, 2003.

Time, July 27, 1998; September 28, 1998; June 16, 2003.

On-line

Player Bio: Sammy Sosa, Chicago Cubs, http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/chc/team/chc_player_bio.jsp?club_context=chc&playerid-122544 (February 11, 2004).

Sammy Sosa, ESPN, http://espn.go.com/mlb/profiles/profile/4344.html (April 10, 2004).

Michael J. Watkins and Tom Pendergast

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Sosa, Sammy

Sammy Sosa

1968-

Dominican baseball player

Relatively unknown outside Chicago, Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa burst upon the national scene with a vengeance during the summer of 1998, as he battled

Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals for the single-season home run record. Although McGwire eventually won the competition, besting Roger Maris 's 1961 record of 61 homers by nine for a new record of 70 home runs in a single season, Sosa finished not far behind with 66 homers. In the process Sosa endeared himself to millions of baseball fans in the United States and abroad and proved himself one of the game's most productive power hitters. As if to prove that his headline-grabbing performance in 1998 was no mere fluke, Sosa knocked in 63 home runs in 1999 and 64 in 2001. Long after he leaves major league baseball, Sosa will be fondly remembered not only for his achievements on the field but for the classy and sportsmanlike way in which he and McGwire conducted their 1998 battle for the record.

Born in Dominican Republic

Sammy Sosa was born Samuel Sosa Peralta in San Pedro de Marcoris, Dominican Republic, on November 12, 1968. His father, Juan, a farmer, died when Sosa was only 7 years old, leaving his mother, Lucrecia, to raise him, his four brothers, and two sisters. To help support his family, Sosa shined shoes, sold oranges by the roadside, and later worked as a janitor in a local shoe factory. As a boy, he played a primitive form of baseball in the streets near his home, but it was not until he was 14 years old that he joined what he later described as "a real team." He quickly showed an aptitude for the game. Only a year later, at age 15, Sosa signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies; the contract, however, was later declared void because of Sosa's age.

When Sosa was 16, Omar Minaya, a scout for the Texas Rangers, invited the young Dominican to a tryout in the northern city of Puerto Plata, five hours by bus from his home. Malnourished and frail, Sosa nevertheless showed promise. Recalling his first impressions of Sosa, Minaya later said, "I saw athletic talent, and I saw courage. I saw a guy who was not afraid to air it out and to play. I saw bat speed. I saw a good arm." Convinced that Sosa was a worthwhile prospect, Minaya offered him a contract for a signing bonus of $3,000. Sosa asked for $4,000, and they eventually settled on a bonus of $3,500. Sosa took out only enough to buy himself a bike and turned the rest of the money over to his mother.

Makes Professional Debut in Florida

Just shy of his 18th birthday, Sosa in 1986 left the Dominican Republic and came to Sarasota, Florida, to make his professional debut with a minor league team in the Gulf Coast League. He spoke little or no English, but he had no trouble being understood on the diamond. In his first year, he led the league with 19 doubles and a total of 96 bases. In 1987 he moved to a Class A team in nearby Port Charlotte, where he led the Florida State League with 12 triples and 42 stolen bases. The following year, Sosa played for the Texas Rangers' Class AA club in Tulsa. At the age of 20, he made his major league debut with the Texas Rangers on June 16, 1989. Barely six weeks later, Sosa was traded by the Rangers to the Chicago White Sox. In 1990, his first year as a regular with the White Sox, he hit 15 home runs and stole 32 bases, posting a batting average of .233. He also became the only player in the American League to reach double digits in doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases.

Chronology

1968 Born in San Pedro de Marcoris, Dominican Republic, on November 12
1984 Signs contract with Philadelphia Phillies at the age of 15; contract later voided because of his age
1985 Signs contract with Texas Rangers at the age of 16
1986 Leaves Dominican Republic to play for Gulf Coast League's Sarasota (FL) team
1987 Plays Class A ball for Port Charlotte (FL) team
1988 Plays for Rangers' AA Tulsa club
1989 Makes major league debut for Rangers on June 16
1989 Traded by Rangers to Chicago White Sox on July 29
1992 Traded by White Sox to Chicago Cubs
1997 Signed by Cubs to four-year, $42.5 million contract

Sosa's second season with the White Sox proved a bit of a comedown from 1990. His batting average slipped to .203, and his home run total slipped by a third to 10 in 1991. Sosa's RBI total also slipped significantly, down to 33 from 70 in 1990. He was traded by the White Sox to the Chicago Cubs on March 30, 1992, but his first season with the Cubs was marred by a hand injury that kept him sidelined for nearly half of the season. In the 67 games he did take the field, however, he managed to compile a batting average of .260. He bounced back dramatically in 1993, hitting 33 home runs and stealing 36 bases, becoming the first player in Cubs history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a single season.

Criticism of Sosa's Style Mounts

Over the next four years with the Cubs, Sosa continued to post some impressive statistics, but increasingly he came under fire for a seeming inability to focus his talents. Commentators criticized the Dominican for his "hot-dogging." His batting average increased to .300 in 1994, with a total of 25 home runs and 70 RBIs. The following year he walloped 36 home runs and 119 RBIs, although his batting average slipped to .267. Sporting News named Sosa to both its NL All-Star Team and Silver Slugger Team in 1995. His home run total soared to 40 in 1996 and almost certainly would have gone higher had his season not been cut short by a wrist injury. Despite boasts that he might hit the 60-home run mark in 1997, Sosa managed to post only 36 homers and 119 RBIs. On top of that, his batting average slipped to .250, and he logged more strikeouts than anyone else in the NL. Despite these weaknesses, Cubs general manager Ed Lynch seemed confident that Sosa soon would come into his own, and the team signed him to a four-year, $42.5 million contract.

Early in the 1998 season, it was clear from Sosa's performance that Lynch's faith had not been misplaced. In a four-week stretch from May 25 through June 21, Sosa hit 21 home runs in 22 games, one of the most remarkable achievements in major league history. He broke a 61-year-old major league record in a June game against the Detroit Tigers, hitting his 19th home run for the month. He finished the month with a total of home runs and by the All-Star break had run that number to 33 for the season. Sosa suddenly found himself in a race with Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals for the single-season home run record. The standing record was 61 homers, set by Roger Maris in 1961. Sosa and McGwire became the only two hitters in NL history to hit 30 or more home runs by July 1. Sosa confessed to a reporter a deep admiration for his rival in the home run race. "Mark McGwire is the man. Mark McGwire is in a different world. He's my idol. He's the man."

Sosa's feelings for McGwire did nothing to inhibit his push for the record. The two stayed neck and neck for much of the season. McGwire was the first to reach Maris's 61-homer mark. The red-headed Cardinal also was the first to set a new record. McGwire's 62nd homer came during his team's final game of the season with the Cubs. As Sosa watched from right field, McGwire blasted number 62 into the left field stands. Sosa ran in from the outfield to congratulate the new record-holder. With a handful of games left in the season, however, the homer derby of 1998 was not yet over. Sosa blasted four homers in a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers, taking his total to 62 and tying McGwire. In the final three games of the season, Sosa pulled ahead of McGwire for the first time when he hit his 66th homer in a game against the Houston Astros. It was to be Sosa's last homer of the year. In the end, McGwire pushed his total for the year to 70. However, Sosa's overall statistics for the yearbatting average of .308, 158 RBIs, and 132 runs scoredmade him the runaway choice for the NL Most Valuable Player Award.

Career Statistics

CHC: Chicago Cubs; CWS: Chicago White Sox; TEX: Texas Rangers.
Yr Team AVG GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB
1989 TEX .238 25 84 8 20 1 3 0 20 0
CWS .273 33 99 19 27 3 10 11 27 7
1990 CWS .233 153 532 72 124 15 70 33 150 32
1991 CWS .203 116 316 39 64 10 33 14 98 13
1992 CHC .260 67 262 41 68 8 25 19 63 15
1993 CHC .261 159 598 92 156 33 93 38 135 36
1994 CHC .300 105 426 59 128 25 70 25 92 22
1995 CHC .268 144 564 89 151 36 119 58 134 34
1996 CHC .273 124 498 84 136 40 100 34 134 18
1997 CHC .251 162 642 90 161 36 119 45 174 22
1998 CHC .308 159 643 134 198 66 158 73 171 18
1999 CHC .288 162 625 114 180 63 141 78 171 7
2000 CHC .320 156 604 106 193 50 138 91 168 7
2001 CHC .328 160 577 146 189 64 160 116 153 0
2002 CHC .288 150 556 122 160 49 108 103 144 2
TOTAL .278 1875 7026 1215 1955 499 1347 738 1834 233

Although he has yet to equal or top his home run performance of 1998, Sosa has come close. In each of the three seasons immediately following 1998, Sosa managed to hit 50 or more home runs64 in 1999, 50 in 2000, and 63 in 2001. In 2002, his homers total dropped just below the 50-mark to 49. During the baseball season, Sosa and his wife, Sonia, live in Chicago with their four children, Keysha, Kenia, Sammy Jr., and Michael. The Sosa family spends most of the rest of the year at a home they maintain in the Dominican Republic.

Sosa will long be remembered for what he accomplished in the summer of 1998, but he's not content to rest upon his laurels. He knows that he can't have a season like that every year, "but I believe in myself, I have a lot of ability, and if I've done it once I know I can come back and do it again. I know I'll never forget '98."

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Sammy Sosa, c/o Chicago Cubs, 1060 W. Addison St., Chicago, IL 60613.

Related Biography: General Manager Ed Lynch

Even when others were vocal in their criticism of Sammy Sosasome calling him "Sammy So-So"charging that he was more interested in personal statistics than being a team player, one man remained steadfast in his faith that Sosa had the stuff to make an all-round baseball star. That man was Ed Lynch, general manager/vice president of the Chicago Cubs. It was Lynch who engineered Sosa's lucrative four-year, $42.5 million contract extension in 1997. He didn't have to wait long to be proved right. The following year, Sosa tallied an incredible 66 home runs, powering the Cubs into the playoffs for the first time since 1989.

On September 20, 1998, as the Cubs celebrated Sosa's accomplishments in Wrigley Field, Lynch presented the Dominican superstar with several gifts, including a purple Chrysler Prowler. To Sosa, Lynch said: "I am proud and honored to have you as my friend. I don't think there's any way that we can properly show the depths of our appreciation and respect for all that you've accomplished in 1998 and throughout your entire career."

Lynch, who pitched in the major leagues for eight seasons from 1980 through 1987, was born in Brooklyn, New York, February 25, 1956. After studying at the University of Miami, he made his professional debut as a pitcher for the New York Mets in 1980. He was traded to the Cubs in 1986 and pitched in Chicago for most of 1986 and all of the 1987 season. He was brought on as general manager of the Cubs in October 1994 and resigned in July 1999 after five seasons in which the Cubs finished above .500 only twice.

Awards and Accomplishments

1986 Leads Gulf Coast League with 96 total bases
1987 Ties for South Atlantic League lead in double plays by outfielder with four
1993 Collects six hits in a single game on July 2
1995 Ties for NL lead in double plays by outfielder with four
1995, 1988-1999 Named outfielder on Sporting News NL All-Star Team and NL Silver Slugger Team
1996 Hits three home runs in a single game on June 5
1998 Hits 21 home runs in 22 games from May 25 through June 21
1998 Hits three home runs in a single game on June 15
1998 Collects 66 home runs for the year but trails Mark McGwire's 70
1998 Named Co-Sportsman of the Year by Sporting News
1998 Named NL's Most Valuable Player by Baseball Writers' Association of America
1999 Leads NL with 397 total bases for the year

SELECTED WRITINGS BY SOSA:

(With Marcos Breton) Sosa: An Autobiography, Warner Books, 2000.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Christopher, Matt. At the Plate with Sammy Sosa. Boston: Little Brown, 1999.

Gutman, Bill, and Rob Meyer. Sammy Sosa: A Biography. Dimensions, 1998.

"Sammy Sosa." Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 21. Detroit, MI: Gale Group, 1999.

"Sammy Sosa."Newsmakers 1999, Issue 1. Detroit, MI: Gale Group, 1999.

"Sammy Sosa." Sports Stars, Series 5. UXL, 1999.

Periodicals

Johnson, Chuck. "Cubs, MLB Give Slugger Due on Sammy Sosa Day." USA Today (September 21, 1998): 6C.

"Lynch to Stay in Cubs' Office." Sports Network (November 10, 1998).

"Sosa Hits Home Run No. 63." AP Online (October 3, 1999).

Other

"Ed Lynch." Baseball Almanac. http://www.baseballalmanac.com/players/player.php?p=lynched01 (November 8, 2002).

"Sammy Sosa." Sporting News. http://www.sportingnews.com/baseball/players/4344/index.html (November 7, 2002).

"Sammy Sosa." Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/sosasa01.shtml (November 1, 2002).

Sketch by Don Amerman

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Sosa, Sammy 1968–

Sammy Sosa 1968

Professional baseball player

At a Glance

Joined the Cubs

Signed a Controversial Contract

A Historic Season

Sources

Sammy Sosa, the Chicago Cubs outfielder who put together one of the most prolific seasons in baseball history in 1998, was born on November 12, 1968 in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Sosa and his five brothers and sisters grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in an abandoned hospital. His father, Juan Montero, died of a brain aneurysm when Sammy was seven. His mother Lucrecia and her children were left to fend for themselves. To help his family financially, Sosa sold oranges, shined shoes, and worked as a janitor in a shoe factory. He began playing organized baseball at the age of 14 and was signed to a contract by the Philadelphia Phillies one year later. However, the contract was voided because Sosa was only 15-years-old. He signed another contract the following year, this time with the Texas Rangers. He gave his $3,500 signing bonus to his mother and bought his first bicycle.

In 1986, Sosa left the Dominican Republic and arrived in Sarasota, Florida. At the age of 18, he led the Gulf Coast League in doubles. The following year, as a member of Gastonia, North Carolinas Class A team, he was selected as a South Atlantic League All-Star. In 1988, Sosa spent the entire season with Port Charlotte in the Florida State League. He was then promoted to the Rangers Double A club in Tulsa in 1989. After compiling a .297 batting average, seven home runs, and 31 runs batted in (RBIs) in 66 games with Tulsa, Sosa was promoted to the major leagues. In his major league debut with the Texas Rangers on June 16, 1989, he had two hits against the New York Yankees. Following this impressive start, Sosa hit only .238 in 25 games, compiled no walks, and struck out 20 times. The Rangers sent him back to their Triple A team on July 20, 1989. Nine days later, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. After three weeks in the minors, Sosa was called up to the White Sox on August 22nd. In his first game with the White Sox, Sosa had three hits, including a home run.

The 1990 season was Sosas first full season in the major leagues. Although he only had a .233 batting average, Sosa was the only American League player to reach double figures in doubles (26), triples (10), homers (15), and stolen bases (32). In 1991, Sosa struggled to find the success and consistency that he had enjoyed the previous season. On July 19, 1991, the White Sox demoted

At a Glance

Born Samuel Sosa (Peralta) on November 12, 1968 in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic; married to Sonia; children: Keysha, Kenia, Sammy Jr., and Michael.

Career: Drafted by the Texas Rangers at the age of 16; began professional career in the Gulf Coast League for rookies, 1986; traded from the Rangers organization to the Chicago White Sox, 1989-92; traded to the Chicago Cubs, 1992-.

Awards: Member of the National League All-Star team, 1995, 1998; Gene Autry Courage Award, 1998; National League Most Valuable Player, 1998;Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year with Mark McGwire, 1998.

Addresses: HomeSan Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic; Office Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison Street, Chicago, IL 60613-4397.

him to the minors. Although he finished the season in Chicago, Sosa compiled a dismal .203 batting average and struck out 98 times in 116 games.

Joined the Cubs

In 1992, the White Sox traded Sosa to the Chicago Cubs. He suffered injuries throughout the season and played in only 67 games. From June 13th to June 27th, Sosa was on the disabled list with a broken right hand. Ten days after returning to action, he fractured his ankle and was forced to miss the rest of the season.

Sosa enjoyed a spectacular season in 1993, becoming the first player in Cubs history to record 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season. He finished the year with a .261 batting average, 33 home runs, 93 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases. In 1994, Sosa led the Cubs in batting average (.300), home runs (25), and RBIs (70). He also stole 22 bases. During the 1995 season, he was named to the National League All-Star team for the first time. He also hit 36 home runs, compiled 119 RBIs, and stole 34 bases. In 1995, Sosa won the Silver Slugger Award and The Sporting News named him to its National League All-Star team.

During 1996, Sosa was having another outstanding season. However, on August 20th, he was hit by a pitch and broke a bone in his right hand. He was placed on the disabled list and missed the rest of the season. Although Sosas season was ended prematurely, he had compiled an impressive .273 batting average, hit 40 home runs and knocked in 100 RBIs. During July of 1996, he was named the National League Player of the Month for his .358 batting average, 10 home runs, and 29 RBIs.

In 1997, Sosa proved again that he had become one of the finest power hitters in the National League. He finished near the top of the National League in home runs (36), RBIs (119), doubles (31), total bases (303), extra-base hits (71), and at-bats (642). Sosa also achieved two career milestones by getting his 1,000th major league hit and hitting his 200th major league home run.

Signed a Controversial Contract

Midway through the 1997 season, Cubs general manager Ed Lynch signed Sosa to a four-year contract extension worth $42.5 million. The $10 million per-year contract was a great source of controversy. Although Sosa had enjoyed several fine seasons with the Cubs, many fans and sportswriters did not feel that he was worth the money. Some fans called him Sammy So So and he was viewed by many as a selfish player who was more concerned with personal statistics than team goals.

Sosas behavior, at times, seemed to support these claims. After he hit 30 home runs and stole 30 bases in 1993, Sosa commissioned an enormous, diamond-encrusted 30-30 gold pendent, which he had to put in a safe before games. His license plate read SS 30-30 and a shopping mall he owned in the Dominican Republic was also christened 30-30. Although he had hit 36 home runs and collected 119 RBIs in 1997, he also led the National League in strikeouts and was undisciplined on the base paths. Omar Minaya, the scout who signed Sosa, offered Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated a reason for Sosas lack of discipline, Youve got to understand something about Latin players when theyre youngor really any players from low economic backgrounds. They know the only way to make money is by putting up offensive numbers. Only now is Sammy at a mature stage. Only now is he becoming the player he always could have been. Sosas teammate, Mark Grace, told Verducci that Sosa had made so many mistakes because he did not have a firm grasp of baseball fundamentals, When he first got here (in 1992), you could see he had great physical skills, but he was so raw. He didnt know how to play the game. He didnt understand the concept of hitting behind runners. So many little things he just didnt know.

A Historic Season

Sosas 1998 season would make Ed Lynch look like a genius. During the off-season Sosa worked hard to become more patient at the plate, improve his bat speed, and hit the ball to all fields more consistently. In an interview with Wendy Cole of Time, Sosa spoke of his desire to become a better player, A few years ago I was trying to do too much. Id go to home plate with no idea and swing at everything.

In 1998, Sosa and Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals thrilled baseball fans with their quest to break the record of 61 home runs in a season set by Roger Maris in 1961. Both men eventually broke Mariss record and, at one point in the season, were tied with 63 home runs apiece. McGwire went on to hit 70 home runs, while Sosa finished the season with 66. During their home run race, both men showed tremendous class and excellent sportsmanship. They were also credited with baseballs resurgence as Americas national pastime. For their achievements, Sports Illustrated named Sosa and McGwire Co-Sportsmen of the Year.

In addition to hitting 66 home runs, Sosa also knocked in 158 RBIs and batted .307 for the season. During June of 1998, he hit a major league record 20 home runs and batted in 40 runs. In a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he hit back-to-back grand slams. Sosa also led the Cubs to their first playoff berth in many years. He was named to the National League All-Star team and earned the National Leagues Most Valuable Player Award.

Sosa also made changes in his personal life. While he has always been good to his family and to youth groups in both Chicago and his native Dominican Republic, he decided to do more after signing his big contract. He created the Sammy Sosa Foundation to raise funds for underprivileged children in Chicago and the Dominican Republic. In 1998 he received one of the Gene Autry Courage Awards, which honor athletes who demonstrate heroism through times of adversity. With his rise to baseball stardom complete, Sosa has had the opportunity to reflect on his good fortune. As he told Steve Rushin of Sports Illustrated, My life is kind of like a miracle.

Sources

Periodicals

Time, July 27, 1998; September 28, 1998.

Sports Illustrated, June 29, 1998; September 14, 1998; September 28 1998.

Other

Additional statistics and information for this profile were found on the Chicago Cubs website at http://www.cubs.com/profiles/sosa.htm.

Michael J. Watkins

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Sosa, Sammy

Sammy Sosa (Samuel Kevin Sosa Peralta) (sämwĕl´ sō´sä pĕräl´tä), 1968–, Dominican baseball player. An outfielder and designated hitter, he broke into the major leagues with the Texas Rangers and then the Chicago White Sox (both American League; AL) in 1989, moving to the Chicago Cubs (National League; NL) in 1992 and the Baltimore Orioles (AL), for one season, in 2005. In 2007 he returned to the majors for a season with the Texas Rangers. Long regarded as a powerful hitter and prolific base stealer, but prone to striking out, Sosa engaged in 1998 in a highly publicized race with Mark McGwire to break the single-season home-run record (61) held by Roger Maris. McGwire finished with 70 home runs, Sosa with 66, and their good-natured competition was widely hailed; Sosa won the NL's Most Valuable Player award. In 1999, Sosa became the first player ever to reach the 60-homer plateau in two seasons but was overtaken by McGwire, finishing with 63 home runs to the Cardinal slugger's 65. Sosa led the NL in homers in 2000, with 50, and hit 64 in 2001, finishing second to Barry Bonds record-breaking performance (73) and becoming the first player to hit 60 home runs in three seasons. Sosa's image was hurt in 2003 when he was caught using an illegal, corked bat; suspicion that he used anabolic steroids has also tarnished his reputation. He hit more than 600 career home runs.

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