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Sosa Homers in Return to Lineup

Cub outfielder breaks bat in first at-bat and hits mammoth drive in fifth inning of 4-1 win over Reds.

June 19, 2003|From Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Sammy Sosa was back. The adulation was gone.

Sosa cracked his bat as he singled the first time he made contact, later hit a prodigious homer and made a sliding catch in his first game back from a suspension for using cork.

No matter what he did, the reaction was the same. One of baseball's most beloved players was booed by a capacity crowd.

Sosa hit a two-run homer and Kerry Wood pitched a three-hitter Wednesday night as the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-1, in their slugger's return from a seven-game suspension.

Sosa heard some cheers in his return, but they were drowned out by reminders that it will be a while before his popularity is restored.

"He can erase a lot of stuff with his performance," Manager Dusty Baker said. "His performance is what shot him to that pinnacle in the first place."

Sosa has fallen hard since his bat broke in half and the umpires found cork June 2 at Wrigley Field, raising suspicions from fans and fellow players about his three 60-homer seasons.

Some fans yelled "Cork!" and "Corky!" during his at-bats on Wednesday.

"I'm a tough man," said Sosa, who was two for four. "I pray every night. I'm strong physically and mentally. Anybody else probably would be home, but I'm not.

"Whatever the situation, you've got to fight for it, you've got to deal with it. It happens, and you've got to face it."

Sosa's fifth-inning homer to center field against Jimmy Haynes (1-6) showed he's ready to get on with it, even if some fans won't let it go.

On the last day of his suspension, he asked fans to forgive and forget. Many of the 39,053 fans at Great American Ball Park weren't ready to do either.

The Reds sold 7,835 tickets when the windows opened, their biggest walkup sale of the season for only their eighth sellout. Some Cub fans wore Sosa jerseys and held up supportive signs. They were in the minority.

The last time Sosa was in town, he heard cheers and got a standing ovation for hitting homer No. 500 on May 4. The mood was much different this time.

They booed when he singled to right field the first inning, cracking his black bat toward the handle. Plate umpire Jeff Kellogg matter-of-factly handed it to the bat boy, who deposited it in the dugout.

Sosa did his trademark home-run hop in the fifth, when the ball left the bat with a loud crack and soared to center. Sosa again was booed as he rounded the bases with his head down on the homer, estimated at 464 feet.

It was his first since May 1, a span of 69 at-bats, and his seventh of the season.



Moving Up

In his first game back from a seven-game suspension for using an illegal bat, Sammy Sosa hit his seventh home run of the season, giving him 506 for his career. Sosa is 17th on the all-time home run list. Five players in front of him:

12. Willie McCovey...521

12. Ted Williams...521

14. Ernie Banks...512

14. Eddie Mathews...512

16. Mel Ott...511

17. Sammy Sosa ...506

* On the Cubs: Sosa needs 35 homers to tie Banks for the Cubs' all-time lead. Sosa's first 29 homers were hit in the American League with the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.

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