The fact that Sammy Sosa wasn’t invited to the 100th anniversary celebration of Wrigley Field today isn’t a surprise. I anticipated it and wrote about what a bad decision it was a couple of weeks in my first post on ChicagoNow.com
But I must admit I was surprised to hear the Cubs admit today that Sosa wasn’t invited – and I was stunned to see that a team spokesman actually went on record saying so.
“There are some things Sammy needs to look at and consider prior to having an engagement with the team,” Julian Green, the team’s VP of communications and community affairs, told ESPN.com.
“Sammy Sosa was a Cub that left his indelible print on this franchise, but as it was said by (owner) Tom Ricketts before, he hopes there is a time when Sammy can be back and be with the franchise.”
That time was today, and any repairs to the relationship should have occurred prior to the celebration.
I’m not a Sosa apologist and I recognize his flaws. Even though nothing’s been proven, I have no doubt he used performance-enhancing drugs, he was caught using a corked bat and he certainly had a selfish, me-first attitude for much of his 13-year Cubs career. He also didn’t depart the organization on good terms, showing up late and leaving early on his last day with the team.
But there’s also no denying that Sosa provided more memorable moments in the first 100 years of Wrigley Field than most, if not all, of the assembled players in attendance today.
The Cubs won’t admit it, but the explosion in fans flocking to Wrigley Field didn’t happen until Sosa and Mark McGwire began their historic chase of Roger Maris’ home-run record in 1998.
I moved to Chicago in 1994 and back then it was possible to walk up to the ticket window on game days and buy good seats to any game with the exception of weekend games in June, July and August.
Not long after the home-run chase, all night games began selling out and even weekday day games during the summer were played before close-to-capacity crowds.
I was a Cubs season ticketholder from 2003 to 2010. When I first bought the tickets, the top price for any game was $32. When I gave up the tickets, the top price for a marquee level game was $112 – for the same exact seat.
Sosa is the person most responsible for that dramatic jump in popularity – although I bet there are a bunch of folks in the franchise’s marketing department who believe their brilliant campaigns are the main reason.
I was most appalled that Green felt comfortable making his anti-Sosa comments on the record at the ceremony. I mean, this was a day for celebration, not petty disputes.
Had Sosa attended the ceremony, I’m sure many people in the crowd would have voiced their displeasure at him with a chorus of boos. That’s fine. That’s their right, and if that’s how they feel, then booing would be an appropriate reaction.
Of course, many of those same folks probably became diehard Cubs fans during one of Sosa’s three seasons of hitting 60 or more home runs. (By the way, he’s the only player in Major League Baseball history – PEDs or no PEDs – with three seasons of 60 or more homers.)
For all his flaws and real or perceived shortcomings, Sosa is one of the more important players in the 100-year history of Wrigley Field. Any celebration of Cubdom that doesn’t include him is woefully inadequate.
After all, with no championships and only two pennants in the last 100 years, the Cubs don’t have enough great moments to exclude all of Sosa’s accomplishments.
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The following video is of Mark McGwire breaking Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in a season, plus a historic Sammy Sosa homer at Wrigley Field:
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