Banks to help Sosa image Print E-mail
Written by Fred Mitchell   
Saturday, 06 September 2008

The legacy of Ernie Banks will remain forever solid, his likeness immortalized with a statue outside of Wrigley Field.

But Sammy Sosa, the Chicago Cubs' all-time home run leader, remains reviled by many of the same fans who used to cheer his majestic home runs and animated chest-thumping routine.


Sosa, who reached 609 career home runs last season while playing for Texas, is not playing this season and plans to announce his official retirement after playing in the World Baseball Championships as a member of his native Dominican Republic team. 

Sosa splits time between his homes in Miami and the Dominican Republic.

"I travel now, just had another vacation. I traveled all over the world with my family," he said. "I am being a good dad. I am very happy; I'm fine. I came back last year and got my 600th (homer), which I was working for. So I am waiting for my chance to go to the Hall of Fame."

While Sosa became the only major league player ever to hit 60 or more homers in three seasons, his use of a corked bat, leaving Wrigley Field early during the Cubs' final game of the 2004 season, and other selfish acts led to seemingly irreconcilable issues between the fans and Sosa.

Banks hopes Sosa eventually can be welcomed back to the Cubs' family.

"It's going to take time to do that. Maybe there is a possibility with everything changing and a new leadership- new owners and stuff... it could be that way," said Banks. "I am going to try to bridge that gap a little bit and try to have him come back and possibly have him throw out the first pitch and possibly sing 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame.' That would be a good start. I am going to work on that a little bit after everything gets settled. That would be a good thing."

Sosa insists his love affair with Cubs fans remains intact.

"Ernie has his statue, and he worked for that time," said Sosa. "I don't think they are going to build a statue for me right away. Chicago has supported me all of my life. Some people think I don't have love for Chicago, but Chicago hasn't done anything (wrong) to me. I will defend that to the day that I die. I had a few misunderstandings with a few people in the organization. But other than that, people want to put it a different way. It is not like that."

Sosa was the main reason many Cubs fans packed Wrigley Field during some losing seasons in the '90s. When he and Mark McGwire of the Cardinals waged their assault on Roger Maris' one-season home run record in 1998, Sosa was the toast of the nation, appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and virtually ever other national sports magazine. He sat next to Hillary Clinton while President Bill Clinton delivered a State of the Union speech in 1999.

But unsubstantiated rumors of steroid use also began to chip away at Sosa's hero status.

"It is unfortunate that it turned out that way," said Banks. "Sammy did a lot for the city and he did a lot for the game and for his country- the Dominican Republic. There was not a celebration or a big ending to his career. He is just kind of walking away quietly and nobody is recognizing him. It is a very unfortunate thing."

Sosa says he would be agreeable to throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field.

"I don't really have a problem with that," said Sosa. "If anyone wants to find me, they know where they can find me. I am not going to call them and say, 'Hey, I want to go up to Chicago and throw out the first pitch.' I am not going to do that. But if they want to call me and say they want me to do that, I will do it. Nothing wrong with that. I am not going to go up there begging to throw out the first pitch. That is not me.

"Probably with the new ownership, definitely, things probably will be better," said Sosa. "And I am looking forward in the future to going to Chicago because no matter what happened, all those years that I was giving to my people...all those years of glory, all those years of happiness...they cannot scratch that. They can't scratch that."

Banks refers to Sosa as representing "a son to me" and Sosa appreciates their bond.

"I am very happy for Ernie Banks and the recognition he got. If they couldn't put the statue in front of the ballpark, they should have put it on Waveland Ave. (beyond the leftfield bleachers). They were very familiar with his home runs over there," Sosa said with a laugh.

"Ernie and I have a great relationship. We have played golf together. I am thrilled with everything that happened to him. He always has the attitude of 'Let's play two.'"

Sosa said he continues to share Banks' enthusiasm for baseball and Cubs fans.

"You will see me in Chicago, believe me," said Sosa. "Believe me."







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