Chicago Cubs: Can the upcoming 30 for 30 movie save Sammy Sosa?


by - Staff Writer -
Slammin' Sammy and Big Mac in 1998
Slammin' Sammy and Big Mac in 1998

While most of Chicago is living off the excitement and memories that ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary has brought, about Michael Jordan and the dynasty created by the 90s Bulls.

On the documentary front, Chicago fans have another documentary to get excited about. ESPN announced a 30 for 30 is on its way for the middle of June, highlighting the epic home run race of 1998 between the Cardinal’s Mark McGuire and the Cubs’ very own Sammy Sosa.

As we all know, McGwire finished the season with 70 home runs, and Sosa ended just behind him with 66. But Sosa ended up having a better average, more RBIs (to lead the league), and came away with an MVP award and a trip to the postseason.

But beyond that, the home run chase was much needed for the league. When attendance was down, and global interest in the game has been on the decline since the 1995 strike, the long ball (typically hit by Sosa and McGwire) brought a much-needed boost to America’s past time.

This 30 for 30 will highlight the battle for the home run title that brought baseball back from the dead in the summer of 1998, even though both players were some of the poster boys of the steroid era.

There has been a stigma surrounding both Sosa and McGwire and others from that era who have been proven to break baseball’s rules. Would these players have ever been able to hit that many homers without help? Did the MLB know about the cheating before all of us? Did the MLB use these athletes to bring attendance up and attention back to the game after the strike of 1995, and then leave them as scapegoats?

For most of the world, the Bulls’ documentary has served as a reminder of the greatness that has slipped from the franchise — but for the younger generation, it is a glimpse of education into the pure perfection that was Michael Jordan and the 1990s Bulls.

Even though Sosa had some illegal help in his career, you can not replace the amount of energy, electricity, hype, and flat out fans that he brought to Wrigley Field and the game of baseball — and he did this no better than in that epic home run race on 1998.

Perhaps this documentary can twist the negative narrative that has surrounded these players since their careers have ended. Maybe this 30 for 30 can educate the younger generations about the heroes of the past. For Sosa, perhaps this documentary and the hype that surrounds it push the Cubs toward a long-overdue reunion.

Despite having 600 plus home runs, 1667 RBIs, seven all-star appearances, six silver slugger awards, and the MVP from 1998, Sosa has never gotten much love from the baseball Hall of Fame’s voting committee and has the risk of his name being removed from the ballot shortly. Sosa’s most recent showing was appearing on 13.9 percent of ballots, well short of the 75 percent needed to make the Hall of Fame.

While other steroid users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have periodically gained traction over the years, most recently up to near 61 percent, Sosa is in dire need of a jump soon, or his name will fall off the ballot in two years. He has consistently earned enough votes to remain on the ballot but has not been able to make the jump toward potential baseball immortality. Perhaps this 30 for 30 can change that.

As for his relationship with the Cubs, it was an up and down road for Sosa. It had some extreme highs and some very low lows. Then after the 2004 season, that relationship fell off a cliff of sorts. Sosa allegedly stormed out late in the 2004 season, threw his boom box that typically blasted Spanish music after wins, and never returned to Wrigley on the Cubs. His career started with the White Sox, blossomed with the Cubs, and his career fizzled out with both the Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles.

Cubs ownership has not tried to repair the bridge between Sosa and the organization, whether that be the Tribune Company or Tom Ricketts and family. Even after the Cubs won the 2016 World Series and attempted to mend the relationship with Steve Bartman, Sosa’s phone never got a call. Despite Sosa’s expressed interest in a reunion with the Cubs, Ricketts’ demand for an apology has gotten in the way.

Maybe ESPN is Sosa’s last chance to reunite with the Cubs and earn a spot among baseball’s best in Cooperstown.

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