Sammy Sosa: A Corked, Corrupt, Conundrum of Saviors, Steroids & History

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By:  Soxman

On June 3rd, 2003 Sammy Sosa used a corked bat in a baseball game.  With a Ruthian swing, the bat exploded into 1000 pieces exposing a hollow core.  Sosa smiled and walked away denying any knowledge of wrong doing.  Years later this memory becomes the perfect analogy for not only his career, but the career of almost anyone who used illegal performance enhancing drugs.

As the unofficial steroid correspondent for the Sportsbank, I, like most baseball fans can’t say I’m at all surprised by the revelation from the New York Times yesterday that Sammy Sosa was among the 104 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003.  Honestly, with the exception of Sosa himself, who appears to suffer from short-term memory loss, was anybody?

My memory is not short-term either.  After the 1994 season was cancelled, baseballs true most valuable player, the fan, filed for divorce from the game.  One of the seven deadly sins, Greed appeared to forever tarnish America’s pastime.  Attendance was down and the game seemed to lose that magical romantic connection that fans, regardless of age or gender, had with it since the first time they could grip a baseball.

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1998, enter Sammy Sosa and McGwire:  The Saviors of the Game.

Engaged in an epic race to break Roger Maris’ season record of 61* (remember this asterisk) homers, the fans’ love affair with the game was reborn.  Fans flocked, cash flowed, and baseball once again had “juice.” Unfortunately, it was much more than “juice” as the term is used in the world of hip hop, which means “power and influence.”  The balls and players were also juiced up- in a totally different way.

We know now that everyone knew it too, players and owners alike, but they turned their heads because everyone was happy. I question, if the fans knew then, what they know now, would the magic truly have returned to the game?  Maybe, but perhaps on a level equal to that of World Wrestling Entertainment, another “sport” rocked by steroid scandals. Like watching Hulk Hogan body slam the Big Show, Sosa and McGwire traded gargantuan homers.  Would we say: “I know its fake, but I love it anyway.”  Like it requires skill to belt a 500 foot blast, it requires strength to slam 600 lbs like a paperweight.


Enough conjecture, let’s look at the facts.
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Major League Baseball, modifying a bat or a ball with foreign substances and using it in play is illegal and subject to ejection and further punishment.  Until 2003, it was ok to modify bodies with foreign substances, but not bats and balls.

Baseball has a moral clause since the early 1900s, where illegal actions taken by a player outside the game can lead to suspensions inside the game. Another key part of the moral clause has not been enforced for years.  If a players knows of illegal activity but fails to report it, that player possesses the same guilt as if those who committed the crime. Buck Weaver batted .324 in the 1919 World Series, tallying 11 hits. He also played errorless ball in the Series, yet was banned for life from the game based on his Black Sox connections.

Weaver was banned for having knowledge of other players’ plans to throw the World Series and failing to tell team officials. However, Charles Comiskey, owner of the Chicago White Sox, had learned of the fix before the World Series began from both Kid Gleason, manager of the White Sox, and Hugh Fullerton, a Chicago baseball reporter.  Yet, he was never fined, reprimanded, or punished in any way.  Sound familiar?

Baseball management’s drug policy has prohibited steroid use without a prescription since 1991, but the policy had no penalties associated with it.  Why?  Because fans were happy and money flowed. Sosa sat alongside Rafael Palmeiro, Canseco and McGwire at a 2005 hearing before Congress and testified: “To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.”

“I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything,” he told the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, 2005. “I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.”

Sammy Sosa likely lied in official testimony to Congress in 2005.  It’s a crime called perjury.  Yet no moral clause was ever evoked for him or Palmeiro, who tested positive for steroids after his testimony.
So where do we go from here?vince_mcmahon_-_ecw_champion


My final thought on the matter of steroids in baseball is as follows:

Steroid use without a prescription has always been illegal outside of the game in America, so why did baseball develop a special set of laws to govern an already illegal activity?  Where is the moral clause and in fairness to the players, where is the penalty to the owners and executives of Major League Baseball who turned the other cheek in the interest of the game..or the almighty dollar? MLB owners deserves no less scrutiny than Vince McMahon received when his employees started dying from chronic steroid and painkiller abuse.


So the question of the day: Does Sammy Sosa deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

In giving my answer, know this admission of honesty by Soxman.  As a former member of the White Sox, I loved Sammy Sosa even when he wore the colors of the enemy.  I owned a Sosa Jersey, his Wheaties Box, and a hat which commemorated his 66* (like the asterisk?), bombs in 1998. 6th on baseballs all-time HR list with 609*.  1667 RBIs*, 234 SBs* and a lifetime .534 slugging percentage* is worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, providing the Hall, which is the protector of our game’s history, however dark it may be, has the courage to tell a truth its owners and players couldn’t.

* All record denoted with an asterisk are reflective of an era in major league baseball where performance enhancing substances while illegal, where not actively tested for.