Sosa with the Baltimore Orioles in 2005
November 12, 1968 |
San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic
|June 16, 1989, for the Texas Rangers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 29, 2007, for the Texas Rangers|
|Runs batted in||1,667|
|Career highlights and awards|
Samuel Kelvin Peralta Sosa (born November 12, 1968) is a Haitian-Dominican former professional baseball right fielder. Sosa played with four Major League Baseball teams over his career, most notably the Chicago Cubs. Sosa's Major League career began with the Texas Rangers in 1989. After three seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Sosa became a member of the Cubs in 1992 and became one of the league's best hitters. Sosa hit his 400th home run in his 1,354th game and his 5,273rd at-bat, the quickest in National League history. In 1998, Sosa and Mark McGwire achieved national fame for their home run-hitting prowess in pursuit of Roger Maris' home run record.
Sosa finished his career with brief stints with the Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers. With the Rangers, Sosa hit his 600th career home run to become the fifth player in MLB history to reach the milestone. He is also second all-time in home runs among foreign-born MLB players. Sosa is one of only three National League players since 1900 to ever reach 160 RBIs in a season, a milestone he reached in 2001. Sosa is the only player to have hit 60 or more home runs in a single season three times.
Sosa is known to family and friends as "Mikey." His maternal grandmother, who had suggested his birth name of Samuel, also came up with his nickname: "[She] heard the name on a soap opera she liked and decided from that moment on he would be Mikey."
On July 29, 1989, the Rangers traded Sosa with Wilson Álvarez and Scott Fletcher to the Chicago White Sox for Harold Baines and Fred Manrique. In 1990, Sosa batted .233 with 15 home runs, 70 runs batted in, 10 triples, and 32 stolen bases. However, he also struck out 150 times, fourth most in the American League. Sosa started the 1991 season by hitting 2 home runs and driving in 5 runs. However, he would slump for the rest of the year and ended up batting .203 with 10 home runs and 33 runs batted in.
Sosa batted .260 with 8 home runs and 25 RBIs in his first season with the Cubs. Although not spectacular numbers, it showed that Sosa improved as a hitter. In 1993, Sosa batted .261 with 33 home runs with 93 RBIs. He also showed his speed by stealing 38 bases. He became the Cubs' first 30-30 player in their history. Sosa continued to hit for power and speed in 1994 but he also improved his batting average. He ended up batting .300 with 25 home runs, 70 RBIs, and 22 stolen bases.
Sosa was named to his first All-Star team in 1995. In 144 games, he batted .268 with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs. Sosa continued his success with the Cubs in 1996 as he batted .273 with 40 home runs and 100 RBIs. However, the next year, Sosa struggled. Despite hitting 36 home runs with 119 RBIs, Sosa batted just .251. He struggled to get on base(.300 on-base percentage) and led the league in strikeouts with 174.
After years as a respected power/speed threat with a rocket arm in right field, he emerged during the 1998 season as one of baseball's greatest. It was in this season that both Sosa and Mark McGwire were involved in the "home run record chase", when both players' prowess for hitting home runs drew national attention as they attempted to pass Roger Maris' single season home run mark of 61 home runs that had stood since 1961. For the early months of the year, Sosa trailed McGwire significantly, being as many as 16 homers behind at one point in May. But as the chase progressed, Sosa would rally and eventually tie McGwire with 46 home runs each on August 10, after a couple months of straggling within a few homers for the lead. However, the moment was short lived as McGwire would pull away slightly and reach 62 home runs to break the record first on September 8, but once again Sosa would excitingly heat up the race by tying McGwire once again at 62 on September 13. Eleven days later, with two games left to play in the season, the two were tied at 66 home runs each. Sosa would end the season with 66 after playing both games without a home run(still a team record), just behind McGwire's 70 after hitting two home runs in each of the last two games. However, Sammy had become the first Major League batter ever to hit 66 home runs in a season. It was during that season, that Cubs announcer Chip Caray nicknamed him "Slammin' Sammy", a nickname that quickly spread. In addition, Sammy produced then career highs in batting average and slugging percentage, at .308 and .647 respectively. Sosa also led the league in RBIs and runs scored.
Also in 1998, Sosa's 416 total bases were the most in a single season since Stan Musial's 429 in 1948. Sosa's performance in the month of June, during which Sosa belted 20 home runs, knocked in 47 runs, and posted an .842 slugging percentage, was one of the greatest offensive outbursts in major league history. Sosa won the National League Most Valuable Player Award for leading the Cubs into the playoffs in 1998, earning every first-place vote except for the two cast by St. Louis writers, who voted for McGwire. He and McGwire shared Sports Illustrated magazine's 1998 "Sportsman of the Year" award. Sosa was honored with a ticker-tape parade in his honor in New York City, and he was invited to be a guest at US President Bill Clinton's 1999 State of the Union Address. 1998 was also the first time the Cubs made the post-season since 1989. The Cubs qualified as the NL Wild Card team, but were swept by the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
In the 1999 season, Sosa hit 63 home runs, again trailing Mark McGwire who hit 65. In the 2000 season, Sammy led the league by hitting 50 home runs. He received the Babe Ruth Home Run Award for leading MLB in homers.
In 2001, he hit 64 home runs, becoming the first player to hit 60 home runs in three seasons in his career. However, he did not lead the league in any of those seasons; in 2001, he finished behind Barry Bonds, who hit 73 homers, breaking the single-season home run record set by McGwire in 1998 (70). In the same season he set personal records in runs scored (146), RBI (160), walks (116), on-base percentage (.437), slugging percentage (.737), and batting average (.328). He led the majors in runs and RBI, was 2nd in home runs, 2nd in slugging percentage, 1st in total bases, 3rd in walks, 4th in on-base percentage, 12th in batting average, and 15th in hits. He also surpassed his 1998 number in total bases, racking up 425. Sosa once again led the league in home runs with 49 in 2002. Known as a free-swinger in his early years, and as a good strikeout candidate, Sammy became an effective hitter for average. He owns numerous team records for the Cubs, and he holds the major-league record for the most home runs hit in a month (20, in June 1998). In recognition of his accomplishments as a hitter, Sosa won the Silver Slugger Award (an award for offensive output, voted on by managers and coaches) in 1995 and in 1998 through 2002.
In 2003, the Cubs won the National League Central Division title. The year was not all good news for Sosa, however. In May, he spent his first period on the disabled list since 1996 after having an injured toenail removed. On June 3, 2003, Sosa was ejected from a Chicago Cubs-Tampa Bay Devil Rays game in the first inning when umpires discovered he had been using a corked bat. Major League Baseball confiscated and tested 76 of Sosa's other bats after his ejection; all were found to be clean, with no cork. Five bats he had sent to the Hall of Fame in past years were also tested, and were all clean as well. Sosa stated that he had accidentally used the corked bat, which he claimed he only used during batting practice.
"I use that bat for batting practice. 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."
When Dusty Baker, the Cub manager was interviewed later, he stated any use of corked bats on his team is strictly prohibited. On June 6, Sosa was suspended for eight games. However, the suspension was reduced to seven games after appeal on June 11. Sosa finished the season with 40 home runs, and he hit two more in the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins, which the Cubs led 3 games to 1 before ultimately falling in seven games.
In May 2004, Sosa suffered an odd injury while sitting next to his locker chatting with reporters before a game in San Diego's Petco Park. He sneezed very violently, causing severe back pain. He was diagnosed with back spasms and placed on the disabled list. Later, he fell into one of the worst slumps of his career, only snapping out of it during the last week of the season. He was greatly depressed when the officials told him he couldn't play. He finished with 35 homers, far below his numbers of his best years. In his final 10 years with the Cubs he clubbed 479 home runs; the most in history over a 10-year span. The final straw for the Cubs was an incident in late 2004. Sosa requested to sit out the last game of the season, which was at home against the Atlanta Braves, and he left Wrigley Field early in the game. It was his last time in a Cubs uniform.
On January 28, 2005, the Cubs traded Sosa to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for infielder/outfielder Jerry Hairston, Jr., infielder Mike Fontenot, and RHP Dave Crouthers. To facilitate the deal, Sosa and his agent agreed to waive the clause that guaranteed his 2006 salary, and the players' union indicated it would not object to that agreement. Under the deal, Sosa earned $17,875,000 for the 2005 season, with the Cubs paying $7 million of his salary. By playing for the 2005 Orioles alongside fellow 500-home-run batter Rafael Palmeiro, Sosa and Palmeiro became the first 500 home run club members in history to play together on the same team after reaching the 500 home run plateau.
Sosa finished the 2005 season batting .221 with 14 home runs, his worst performance since 1992, and continuing his post-2001 trend of declines in batting average, homers, total bases, and RBI. On December 7, 2005, the Orioles decided not to offer him an arbitration contract, effectively ending his Baltimore Orioles tenure and making him a free agent.
In 2005, The Sporting News published an update of their 1999 book Baseball's 100 Greatest Players. Sosa did not make the original edition, but for the 2005 update, with his career totals considerably higher, he was ranked at Number 95. During a stretch of nine consecutive years, Sosa hit 35+ home runs and 100+ RBIs, all with the Chicago Cubs.
At the end of January 2006, the Washington Nationals offered Sosa two different minor-league offers, both of which he turned down. On February 15, 2006, Sosa's agent Adam Katz stated: "We're not going to put him on the retirement list. We decided that [not putting him on that list] was the best thing to do. But I can say, with reasonable certainty, that we've seen Sammy in a baseball uniform for the last time."
The Texas Rangers, Sosa's original team, signed him to a minor league deal worth $500,000 on January 30, 2007. This was the same contract that Sosa turned down the previous year from the Nationals. The contract included an invitation to spring training, where Sosa competed for a spot in the lineup with Nelson Cruz, Jason Botts, and other rookies/prospects. Sosa was successful during spring training and was added to the team's 25-man roster. He started the 2007 season as the Rangers' designated hitter and occasional right fielder.
At the same time, the Chicago Cubs awarded Sosa's # 21 to new pitcher Jason Marquis, despite the fact that it was formerly worn by Sosa, who coincidentally later hit his 600th home run against Marquis. Ted Lilly, who had also signed with the Cubs that prior winter had requested #31 but was told it was not available as it was going to be retired for Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins, and they were just waiting for Maddux to retire. This caused some concern, due to Sosa's accomplishments with the Cubs, including his status as the Cubs' all-time home run leader.
On April 26, 2007, Sosa made history by hitting a home run in his 45th major league ballpark. He has also homered in The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports, near Orlando, Florida, a usually minor-league and Spring training park that hosted a regular season series between the Rangers and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in May 2007, although he did not hit a homer at the two regular season games the Cubs played at the Tokyo Dome in 2000 vs. the Mets.
On June 20, 2007, Sosa hit a home run off of Jason Marquis during an inter-league game against the Chicago Cubs. Sosa became only the fifth man in history, following Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds, to hit 600 regular season home runs. The home run was the first one that Sosa had recorded against the Cubs, and as a result he has hit a home run against every active MLB team. Sosa is the Cubs' all-time home run leader, having hit 545 with that team.
On December 25, 2008, Sosa announced he intended to unretire and play in the World Baseball Classic and once again test the free agent market in hopes of signing with a Major League ballclub in 2009. Sosa said that he had been keeping in shape at his home, and was hoping that after a strong World Baseball Classic he would prove to major-league teams that he was still capable of playing in the MLB. However, he was not selected as part of the Dominican Republic's roster. He remained a free agent and did not actively look for a team.
On June 3, 2009, Sosa announced his intention to retire from baseball. He made the announcement in the Dominican Republic and said that he was calmly looking forward to his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame since his statistics were up to par.
On June 16, 2009, The New York Times reported that Sosa supposedly was on a list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, including Sosa in baseball's steroids scandal. The paper did not identify the drug nor the source of the information. Sosa's agent, Adam Katz, told The Associated Press he had no comment on the report. Rich Levin, commissioner Bud Selig's office spokesman, declined to comment on the situation, claiming that MLB did not have a copy of the test results. Michael Weiner, the union general counsel, also declined comment. The union, while fighting to get the list back from the government, has mostly refused to discuss reports. Likewise, Sosa never admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs nor did he ever fail an MLB drug test throughout his professional career.
Previously, Sosa sat alongside Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire at a 2005 hearing before Congress. His attorney testified on his behalf, stating "To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything. 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."
In an interview with ESPN Deportes, Sosa said he would "calmly wait" for his induction into baseball's Hall of Fame, for which he became eligible in 2013. On January 9, 2013, Sosa was not elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) into baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, receiving 12.5% on his first year on the ballot (the requirement for election is 75%). For the elections of 2014 through 2016 he received 7.2%, 6.6%, and 7.0%. A candidate remains eligible for inclusion on subsequent ballots as long as they receive a minimum of 5.0% of the vote from the BBWAA.
On October 2, 2016 at a press conference at Fenway Park, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the anonymous drug test in 2003 were inconclusive because "it was hard to distinguish between certain substances that were legal, available over the counter, and not banned under our program." Manfred argued that "it was important to make people understand that even if your name was on that list, that it was entirely possible that you were not a positive". Furthermore, Manfred sustained that the 2003 test was supposed to be confidential and it would be unfair to judge players based on "leaks, rumors, innuendo, [and] not confirmed positive test results". Manfred finished by stating that Hall of Fame voters should use their best judgment and only consider confirmed testing by the MLB as there were many "legitimate scientific questions about whether or not those were truly positives."
Sosa is married to Sonia Rodríguez, a Dominican TV dancer as a child, with whom he has six children: Keysha, Kenia, Sammy Jr., Michael, Kalexy and Rolando. The couple were married by the Catholic Church on December 18, 2004, at Altos de Chavón, La Romana; they had already been married civilly for 12 years prior to the church wedding.
By 2001, they were paying their own way to present Sammy Sosa with his Babe Ruth Award.(subscription required)