Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Sam's the Man
By Brent Hyland
Special to ESPN.com
September 25, 1998 - For 45 minutes on the final Friday night of the season, Sammy Sosa held the lead in the most famous home-run race in baseball history.
At 8:39 p.m. CDT Sosa crushed a pitch in the fourth inning from Houston's Jose Lima 462 feet into the leftfield seats at Enron Field. That blast gave Sosa 66 homers and undisputed possession of the home-run lead as he broke his deadlock with Mark McGwire.
But at 9:24 p.m. CDT, McGwire, who had held no less than a share of the lead since May 14 except for a short time on August 19, homered off Montreal's Shayne Bennett to draw the duo even again.
McGwire would go on to homer four more times in the season's final two games to finish with 70, while Sosa had to settle for 66, the second-highest total ever.
Odds 'n' Ends
*Sosa's first home run came off Roger Clemens on June 21, 1989, in front of a sold out Fenway Park crowd.
Sosa's first marriage, in 1990, to U.S. citizen Karenlie Bright lasted less than a year.
He was detained by a Dominican Republic judge at the opening of 1991 spring training due to charges filed by his then ex-wife, who alleged that he had beaten her with a rum bottle and threatened to kill her. The charges were thrown out.
Sosa married Sonia Rodriguez, whom he met in a Dominican Republic nightclub, in the fall of 1991. The two have four children: Keysha, Kenia, Sammy Jr. and Michael.
During the season the family lives in a high-rise condo on Chicago's lakefront. They spend their winters in a mansion by the sea in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
In June 1998, Sosa became the first major leaguer to hit 20 home runs in a calendar month. Rudy York had held the record of 18, set in August 1937.
On July 27, 1998, Sosa hit his first grand slam (No. 248 overall). Bob Horner had held the record for homers without a grand slam at 210.
Saying that "I like it so much, I'll do it again," Sosa ripped another the next day to become the first Cub and 18th major leaguer to hit grand slams in consecutive games.
In 1998, Sosa set the National League record for most at-bats without a triple at 643.
That season, he tied the record set by Hank Greenberg in 1938 for most multi-homer games in a season with 11.
Sosa had 57 homers and 127 RBIs in his last 110 games in 1998.
He and McGwire were selected as co-Sportsmen of the Year for 1998 by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News.
In 1999, Sosa led the NL in extra-base hits (89) and total bases (397).
Between 1998 and 2002, Sosa hit 292 home runs, a record for homers in a five-year period.
Sosa's 469 home runs from 1994 to 2003 are the most any player ever hit in a 10-year span.
Sosa is one of nine players to reach 350 homers, 800 runs, 1,000 RBI and 200 stolen bases.
Sosa led the NL in strikeouts from 1997-99, whiffing 174 times and then 171 twice.
On Sept. 23, 2001, Sosa became the first to homer three times in a game three times in a season.
When Sosa hit 64 homers in 2001, not only did he become the first player to hit 60 or more homer three times, but he also was the first to hit at least 50 for four consecutive seasons.
On April 4, 2003 in Cincinnati, Sosa, 34, became the 18th player and 3rd youngest to reach 500 homers when he connected off Scott Sullivan.
In 2004, Sosa became the second major leaguer to strike out more than 2,000 times. He trails only Reggie Jackson (2,597).
On Feb. 2, 2005, Sosa was traded to Baltimore for second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. and two minor leaguers, Mike Fontenot and Dave Crouthers. The Cubs also agreed to pay the Orioles $16.15 million of the $25 million Sosa was still owed under his $72-million, four-year contract.
In 2000, he had to reimburse and restructure the Sammy Sosa Charitable Foundation because of fiscal misconduct and the criminal indictment of his co-director, Bill Chase. Chase was charged by the DEA for drug trafficking and laundering money through the charity.
Sosa donated an office complex in San Pedro, which he dubbed 30/30 Plaza to commemorate the feat. His foundation operates medical clinics that vaccinate and maintain the health of the children of San Pedro.
In March 2005, at a congressional hearing investigating steroid use in baseball, Sosa denied ever taking any illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
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