Sosa takes the blame for being ejected in first

CHICAGO (AP) -- Once Sammy Sosa was caught using a corked bat,

there was one big question: Was he cheating when he hit any of those 505 home runs?

We all know that Sammy Sosa used a corked bat in the first inning of Tuesday night's Cubs-Devil Rays game. But we don't yet know the results of the investigation of his confiscated bats.

Officials took all of Sosa's bats after the incident, and until that investigation is completed, I'll reserve my judgment. If it turns out that Sosa has a number of corked bats, then I'll have a different opinion than I have now.

If he has only one or two, he could have made a mistake. This could have been an accident, because all bats, corked or not, look alike. But if lots of his bats are corked, that's a different story. So stay tuned.

The Chicago Cubs' star slugger, 17th on the career home-run

list, was ejected in the first inning of Tuesday night's 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays after umpires found cork in his shattered bat.

"I use that bat for batting practice," Sosa said. "It's

something that I take the blame for. It's a mistake, I know that. I

feel sorry. I just apologize to everybody that are embarrassed."

Sosa apologized to fans, his teammates and the commissioner of

baseball. His bats were confiscated by security personnel.

The Cubs had runners at second and third when Sosa broke his bat

with a grounder to second that at first appeared to drive in a run.

But crew chief Tim McClelland gathered with the other three

umpires to examine the bat. Cubs manager Dusty Baker came out and

the umpires showed the bat to him.

Mark Grudzielanek was sent back to third base, the run was wiped off the board and Sosa was ejected as he stood in the dugout.

Sosa said he hoped fans will believe he didn't intend to use a

corked bat.

"That's why I'm here right now, to explain that it was a

mistake," he said. "I know that right now, anybody or somebody

probably want to think whatever comes to their mind, but you know,

I just picked the wrong bat.

"I don't really need to use that. I break so many bats in my

life. But when you make a mistake like that, you got to stood up

and be there for it. ... It's a mistake and I take the blame for


Cubs manager Dusty Baker meets with umpires Tim McClelland and Lance Barksdale after they discovered cork in Sammy Sosa's bat.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker meets with umpires Tim McClelland and Lance Barksdale after they discovered cork in Sammy Sosa's bat.
AP Photo/Steve Matteo

Sosa, who gained national prominence in 1998 during his home-run

battle with Mark McGwire, said he had the corked bat "for batting

practice -- just to put on a show for the fans ... I like to make

people happy and I do that in batting practice."

Cork inside a wooden bat is thought to help players hit the ball

farther and is against baseball rules. Several players have been

caught using altered bats in the past, including Albert Belle,

Wilton Guerrero, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher and Graig Nettles. All

were suspended.

"I saw what the umpires saw. It was cork," Tampa Bay manager

Lou Piniella said. "You don't want to see that happen to a great player like Sammy."

Security workers were seen carting off two boxes of Sosa's bats

in the ninth inning, as well as a bat bag.

Umpires initially took part of the corked bat into the Cubs

dugout and down the runway toward their clubhouse before security

came and took it away about an inning later, McClelland said.

McClelland also was the umpire who took away a home run from

Kansas City's George Brett in 1983 because of excessive pine tar, a

decision later reversed by AL president Lee MacPhail.

"I thought about that when I picked the bat up," McClelland

said. "I was on the crew for Albert Belle and the White Sox.

Strange bats follow me around, I guess."

McClelland said the cork was clearly visible.

"I turned it over and there was a small, probably half-dollar

size piece of cork in the bat right about halfway down the barrel

head, I guess," he said. "It was notched in there. I felt it, and

it obviously was cork, so I called the crew together and it was

reminiscent of what happened about 20 years ago with me.

"I wanted to make sure the crew knew it was cork, we all knew

it was cork, and what the ruling would be. We all agreed that it

was cork and he had to be ejected and runners would go back. All action would be nullified."

Sosa's bat immediately became a big topic around the major


"Everyone who hits a home run now, they're going to think

you're using a corked bat," said Atlanta's Andruw Jones, who hit a game-winning, two-run homer against Texas. "It just makes home-run hitters look bad."

Especially Sosa.

"Unfortunately, it's a dirty mark, when you consider all he's

accomplished," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It's really

unfortunate for the game. Everybody's scratching their heads right

now. ... It's embarrassing. He's too good of a player. It's too bad."

Sosa just came off the disabled last Friday after having the

nail taken off his big right toe and missing 17 games.

Entering Tuesday, he was just 2-for-15 in his three games since

coming off the DL, including one five-strikeout game in which he

also had the game-winning single against Houston.

"I just hope it doesn't taint what he's done," Seattle second

baseman Bret Boone said. "Corked, not corked, he's got as much

power as anyone in baseball. He's probably got as much power,

outside Mark McGwire, as anyone in history. It's probably embarrassing for him.

"Pitchers cheat all the time. They scuff balls, use pine tar.

I've never used a corked bat, not even in batting practice. If I

was guaranteed I wouldn't get caught, I probably would."

Sosa, a six-time All-Star who reached 500 career homers earlier

this season, hasn't had a homer since May 1 and his power numbers

have dropped drastically since he was beaned April 20 by the

Pirates' Salomon Torres.

He has just six homers this season and 24 RBI, while batting


Sosa has the most 60-homer seasons (three) in major league

history, hitting 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001.

Chicago's then Comiskey Park was the site of one of baseball's

biggest corked bat capers in July 1994 when the bat of Belle, then

with Cleveland, was confiscated.

Umpires took it to their dressing room before an Indians

teammate crawled across the ceiling and switched Belle's

confiscated bat with one belonging to a teammate.

Once the caper was discovered, the original bat was finally

examined and Belle was suspended for 10 games, a penalty that was

reduced to seven games.

Guerrero, then with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was suspended for

eight games in 1997 for using cork in his bat. Sabo, a part-time

third baseman with Cincinnati, was suspended for seven games and

fined $25,000 for using a corked bat against Houston in 1996.

Hatcher was suspended for 10 days in 1987 after using a corked

bat for Houston. It was the first such ejection since Nettles, then

with the New York Yankees, was tossed in 1974 after six superballs came out of his bat during a game against Detroit.

A cork center might make a bat lighter, but further advancements are also available. Rockies manager Buddy Bell said some members of the Angels once experimented with liquid mercury.

Chicago won Tuesday's game in the ninth when Al Levine (2-2)

threw a wild pitch that allowed Troy O'Leary, who had replaced Sosa, to score from third.

O'Leary and Moises Alou singled, Hee Seop Choi sacrificed and Levine then threw the wild pitch.

Mike Remlinger (4-0) got the win with a scoreless ninth.

Game notes

The Cubs activated Mark Guthrie from the disabled list and

sent Juan Cruz to Triple-A Iowa. ... The Devil Rays put LHP Joe Kennedy on the 15-day disabled list and activated Steve Parris.

Kennedy has a sore left shoulder.