I have been a Cubs fan for as long as I’ve been alive. I am 28 years old and some of the earliest memories involved my dad and I watching afternoon games on WGN. I remember Jody Davis, Leon Durham, Rick Sutcliffe, and Lee Smith all fighting the Chicago summer heat. The times were special and moments that I wouldn’t change at all. The teams were bad and most of the crowd didn’t care, and I didn’t care too much either. I was a little kid who idolized the players with dreams of one day playing professional baseball too. Those dreams never came true, but I am still a Cubs fan, although I am a little confused of how happy I am about that today.
I was in middle school when the Cubs traded George Bell to the White Sox for a young outfielder, Sammy Sosa. I liked Bell for the few seasons that he was with the Cubs, but I kind of understood that they needed to get younger. I didn’t know much about Sosa, other than owning a few of his rookie cards. My lone opinion was that he looked extremely happy. Almost immediately, the trade for Sosa started to pay off. He was stealing bases and hitting more homers than I expected. The first season, I thought that he may be a better version of Shawon Dunston, since he didn’t strike out as much, which didn’t say much.
The Cubs didn’t win many games the first few seasons that Sosa was around. I can still hear Harry Caray yell out Sosa’s name after he jacked a 400+ foot home-run. Those moments gave me joy, about as much as an actual Cubs victory. Sosa’s home-run total kept creeping up, but the whispers of the ball being juiced calmed my fears of anything fishy going on. It wasn’t until the summer of ’98 that the homers were getting out of hand. I have to admit, I still didn’t care. Mark McGwire was hitting just as many homers as Sosa and he looked noticeably huge. I didn’t suspect much about steroid use, the only thing that was written was something new to me called “Andro.” I read about it and saw that it wasn’t illegal. I didn’t think anything was wrong, but I wanted Sosa to beat him. I think most people wanted Sosa to beat McGwire, if not for the fact that he was more likeable.
Every time that Sosa took the field in the first inning, he would run out into right field like a perfectly choreographed play. Everything Sosa did was more of a show for the fans. After 9/11, he hit a homer and ran around the bases with a little American flag.
Sosa’s numbers stayed the same as McGwire began to breakdown. Sosa’s average took a hit, since he looked like he was wanting to knock it out of the park with every swing. Finally, his behavior the last year with the Cubs was too much for the club to handle. They dealt him to Baltimore for a few young players. Sosa’s career was never the same, mainly because the cloud of suspicion was too great. To this day he denies all claims of using PEDs, but the revelation of a failed test in 2003 makes it all clear. Sosa apparently cheated, it doesn’t surprise many, but I’m just confused.
I believe that a large number of players used some sort of performance-enhancing drug during the same period of Sosa’s career. I believe he wanted an edge and once he had a taste of success, he couldn’t leave it alone. If he didn’t do it for himself, he did it for the fans. As I said before, my first opinion of Sosa was his smile. He didn’t lose his smile until the end of his career. He didn’t have his smile when he was testifying in front of Congress. If Sosa’s number isn’t retired and he doesn’t make the Hall of Fame, Sosa may never smile again. A decision to forgive and forget has to be made at some point. Some purists still have a big problem with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the Black Sox. I say that we still need to decide on what kind of punishment would suit the crime.
My opinion is for the Baseball Writers of America to have a conference. Everyone should take sides and maybe come to a conclusion. I would like to see all the alleged steroid users, that have Hall of Fame numbers, be inducted in the same class. You would be able to put that on Pay-Per-View and it would have a high buyrate. I don’t think it’s right that they used PEDs, but enough is enough. I want to move past this. It may take the player’s union to allow blood testing, it would be a step in the right direction.