The Cubs hung around a modest form of contention for most of 1996. Even in early July, seven games under .500, they were just seven games back on July 7, when the mediocre performances of all five teams in the N.L. Central got it dubbed by some the "Comedy Central."
Still just 5½ games behind the Astros entering the action August 20, despite being a game under .500, they had been helped by a fine season from Sammy Sosa. The previous night, in a 4-3 loss, Sosa had hit his 40th home run of the year. It was the first of what was to become seven 40-homer seasons for Sammy.
Marlins righthander Mark Hutton got the start in an afternoon affair that was the middle game of a three-game set, facing the Cubs' Kevin Foster. It was the only start Hutton ever made against the Cubs, and he did not retire a hitter. Hutton walked the bases loaded to start the game, and then up came Sosa.
Hutton hit Sosa on the right wrist; Sosa left the game. The Cubs eventually scored eight runs in that first inning and cruised to an 8-1 win. Mike Kiley wrote about Sammy's injury in the Tribune:
Sammy Sosa's consecutive-games streak could end Wednesday at 304. But don't bet the mortgage on it, or even the row boat. He emphasized he has no great motivation to extend the streak but at the same time indicated playing in the finale of the Florida series was likely. Manager Jim Riggleman was more direct: "He'll play (Wednesday)." Sosa wasn't so certain after being hit near his right wrist in the first inning Tuesday by a Mark Hutton pitch. He was removed from the game in the fifth and was wearing a bandage afterwards. "It doesn't matter to me," Sosa said of the streak, "because I'm not out to break the record. I just play the game every day. "But if I can't go, I have to shut it down. Why should I play if it's bothering me? We'll see (Wednesday). I'll be OK."
Riggleman was wrong. Sosa didn't play the next game -- nor any other game the rest of 1996. His wrist had been broken. The 38 games he missed very likely cost him the home-run title, which was won by Andres Galarraga with 47.
Sammy had nine 100-RBI seasons in his career. He just barely made it in 1996 -- the bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in this game gave him RBI No. 100 for the season.