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Monday, September 10, 2001
Sammy Sosa talks history
Editor's note: This Q&A originally appeared on ESPN.com on Sept. 17, 1998.
Mark McGwire may have hit No. 62 first, but he is not the only player making history. Sammy Sosa followed suit five days later, and he and McGwire enter the final two weeks dueling to see whose name will end up atop the single-season home runs leaders.
ESPN's Peter Gammons sat down with Sosa, talking about the nuts and bolts of his mental approach to the Cubs' final 10 games and also discussing his impact on all of Latin America:
Gammons: Were you a little disappointed that there was no one from the league or the commissioner's offense when you hit No. 62?
Sosa: The people that was there at the ballpark when I hit 62 -- that's good enough for me. I think that I don't have any jealousy or complaint about what happened. My situation is different, and hey, I'm happy.
The commissioner called me and said he could not be there, and he said, 'I'm sorry,' and everything, and that's something that made me happy right there.
Gammons: What will it be like back home in the Dominican Republic when you return?
Sosa: Oh my God, Peter. The day that I take the plane and go back home, the whole country is going to go on holiday that day.
Gammons: Right now, can you think about competing with Mark McGwire to end up with the single-season home run record?
Sosa: Mark told me one day, 'Wouldn't it be beautiful if we ended up tied?' My situation is different. I am at the point everybody wanted me to get to, but right now I am going to keep continuing to do my job. Right now, I'm thinking about going to the playoffs.
Now that I am at the point I wanted to get to, now I want to go to the playoffs.
Gammons: Before this year, did you know McGwire very well?
Sosa: Mark is an easy person to talk to, an easy person to be around. He's a gentleman so I have a few talks with him in the American League, but there was never as much of a relationship as we have now until he came over to the National League.
Gammons: What's different between your mindset the last 1½ weeks, and Mark McGwire's mindset?
Sosa: I'm in the middle of a pennant race, and Mark is not. So he has more opportunity go out there only thinking about home runs. I'm not, and we need to win everything. To win everything, you can't go to the plate thinking about home runs. You have to go out there and relax, sacrifice yourself by going to right field, getting your base hit or getting your walk and contribute everything to get that win.
Gammons: What do you think is going to happen these last 10 games?
Sosa: I know the whole world is waiting for that, but if it's going to happen, it's going to happen to me or it's going to happen to Mark. If it happens to him, I will be happy. If it happens to me, I'm going to be happy for me.
The problem for Mark and I was to get to 62, and now we have passed that mark. No matter if he finishes first ... for me, it's a miracle already. Gammons: What's more important right now, being the all-time home run champion or batting either third or fourth in the starting lineup for the Cubs in the Divisional Playoffs.
Sosa: I would like to take them both.
Gammons: Do you think you can help a lot of young people who tend to be victims of a stereotype of Latins in this country?
Sosa: Definitely. Not only the United States, but I would have to say the whole world because of the way that I have been carrying myself and the way I have showed the world that no matter who you are, how good you are, I'm a human being. It can happen to me, and it can happen to all the people out there.
I never forget that.
Gammons: Do you hear from millions of people in the United States who identify with you?
Sosa: People in America have been so great to me. They appreciate everything we do in the field, and outside the field. It is unbelievable. Without America, I don't know what I would be today.
I will never forget what America (has) been to me.
Gammons: It is part of American media to build people up and tear them down. Does that scare you?
Sosa: Nobody is perfect. But when you are a man and you have family and good people around you and good people behind you, I don't think you can go the wrong way.
Gammons: When you were 15, 16 years old, and you were just starting to play baseball, did you ever think about coming back to help your people if you became successful?
Sosa: I think that's what we have in our country. We have good family members, and a good relationship when you're talking about family. Through all my career, I have always had someone who has helped me. This is the example, so when I get where I want to get and I am what I am right now, you don't know how many gifts I am going to give back to the people. People that need help are taken care of. I have taken care of everybody.
Gammons: Have you been annoyed at times at the portrayal of Latin players, and the whole "baseball, been, bery, bery good to me" stereotype?
Sosa: No like it. I like to say baseball has been very, very good to me. I love it. ... This is me. ... This is the way that I am. For me, I am a little kid. I just like to be happy every day, and I like to make people happy.
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