With the off-season coming to a close, I have made it a point to dive through some old VHS tapes that I haven't seen in years. A lot of these tapes are from the magical year of 1998, and of course, Sammy Sosa. (Back then, I had edited down the highlights from the live footage into a two-tape set "best-of" style) Watching these again after 11 years brought back the unbelievable emotion of that wild season, and of course of Sammy's improbable run as well! The unmitigated joy that permeated the ballpark, and all of our hearts came flooding back to me! Who would have believed that it would end up the way it did just 6 years later?
Of course, there were so many ups and downs in Sosa's tenure with the cubs--starting off as an unpolished player with potential to 30/30 seasons, to the astounding years of '98 to '01, to the cork incident, and finally, leaving the team at the end of the horribly disappointing '04 season. So much drama, in a matter of really just 12 seasons--amazing! But through it all, right to the end of the '04 season, I always stuck up for the guy. (I live in deep cardinal country in Illinois near Saint Lou, and believe me, just the cork incident was enough to have to live through here!)
Then, when he left the team, that is when I said "that is it, no more!" Now, another 5 years have passed, we have seen the senate hearings in which he "forgot" how to speak english, Sosa being inconsistant in Baltimore and Texas, (though hitting his 600th there), and now seemingly to retire, only to say that he wants to play once more. My question to everyone is: from where we sit today, what are your thoughts about him now, and would you like to see Sammy return to the cubs for any kind of "celebration day" that we have seen the cubs give out to all of the other cubs greats in the past?
I can say that for me, I will remember those days and weeks in '98 fondly for what they were--some of the best times of my baseball fandom. Those two brewer games back to back in September were to this day the most exciting games I have ever seen! I attended two games at Wrigley that year, and the buzz at the ballpark was wonderful--the team was exciting, and with the recent passing of Harry, it had a magical quality around it all year! Sure, it didn't end up like we all would have liked, but it remains one of my favorite years ever by the cubs, and Sosa was right in the mix of this magic. Three 60 home run seasons, all of the RBI's; for better or worse, he was OUR star, and he produced levels of excitement at the ballpark that seldom have been reached since.
I don't know if Sosa cheated with PED's or not; I know of the boom-box, the supposed problems with Grace, etc. But the memories and good feelings for me will never go away, and that is how I personally choose to remember Sosa; he did hurt me when he left that day in '04, but I have moved on, and I would eventually like to see him return to the cubs in some capacity again someday.