Sosa, Sammy (1968–)
Sosa, Sammy (1968–)
The baseball slugger and right fielder Samuel "Sammy" Peralta Sosa grew up in the baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic. After dropping his dreams of being a boxer, Sosa developed his youthful baseball skills on the edge of poverty, shining shoes and playing with makeshift equipment on unkempt fields. He made his major-league debut with the Texas Rangers in 1989, finished that season and two more with the Chicago White Sox, then was traded across town to the Chicago Cubs, where he set records and achieved celebrity status. In 1998 he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award and, with St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire, shared the Sports Illustrated Sportsmen of the Year award. His friendly competitions with McGwire for the most home runs caught national attention in 1998 and 1999. In those two years and in 2001, Sosa was the only player ever to hit sixty or more homers in three seasons. Though his strikeout totals remained high in those peak seasons, his batting average never dropped below .288 between 1998 and 2002. In August 2007 his sixteen-year career average was .273 and his home run total 604, which made him only the fifth baseball player in the history of the sport to have hit 600 or more homers.
Each year between 2001 and 2004 Sosa's batting average, runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage all declined. Those falling numbers, combined with his eight-game suspension in 2003 for using a corked bat in a regulation game, his sometimes inconsiderate treatment of his teammates, his violations of team rules, and frequent yet unproven charges of steroid use, led the Cubs to trade him to the Baltimore Orioles in 2005. That season—probably Sammy's worst since 1992—was a disappointment for both parties, and the Orioles cut him loose. After sitting out a season, Sosa signed a minor-league contract with the Texas Rangers before spring training in 2007, then made the parent club as the regular designated hitter. He remains a beloved hero in the Dominican Republic.
Ballard, Chris. "Is There Any Whammy Left in Sammy?" Sports Illustrated (March 5, 2007): 44-47.
Duncan, P. J. Sosa! Baseball's Home Run Hero, bilingual edition. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
Morris, Timothy. "Home-Run Race of 1998." In Sport in American Culture: From Ali to X-Games, edited by Joyce D. Duncan. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004.
Morrison, John. Sammy Sosa. New York: Chelsea House, 2006.
Olmstead, Frank J. "Sammy Sosa." In Latino and African American Athletes Today: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by David L. Porter. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004.
Sosa, Sammy, with Marcos Bretón. Sosa: An Autobiography. New York: Warner Books, 2000.
Joseph L. Arbena