Work in Sports
Sammy's home run show confirms his value to baseball
Posted: Tuesday July 11, 2000 01:09 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ATLANTA -- If the past few weeks have soured you on Sammy Sosa -- what with all the contract talks and trade rumors and the general bad feelings floating around -- welcome back.
Sosa, the Chicago Cubs' smiling superstar, showed once again Monday night why he is so valuable for baseball.
You want the long ball, fans (and, evidently, you do)? Sammy's your man.
You thinking about trading him, Cubs' officials?
Well, you'd better give that one some more thought.
"I think, with the hurricane that has happened to me in the last month," said Sosa, who now says he wants to stay in Chicago through the end of his contract in 2001 and insists he won't talk contract until the end of the year, "everything's coming back down to normal."
In the end, we probably should have figured this was going to be the stage for Sosa. His homer-hitting partner, St. Louis' Mark McGwire, had to sit out this All-Star trip because of a bad knee. Hobbled Cincinnati star Ken Griffey Jr., here only to compete in the Derby, has a knee sore enough that he won't play in Tuesday night's All-Star Game.
There were other sluggers who could have commanded this made-for-TV stage. Boston's Carl Everett had six home runs in the first round and six more in the second.
But Sosa, with everything he's been through, grabbed it almost from the start.
With much of the crowd of more than 50,000 chanting "Sammy, Sammy, Sammy" and flashbulbs filling the humid night air with his every swing, Sosa wrested the home run title from Griffey in a final between the best available sluggers.
And he did it in true Sosa fashion, with blasts that thrilled the fans and All-Stars watching and probably made his friend McGwire proud.
"That," Sosa said smiling, "was a good show."
The secret, if there is a secret in such a bright-lights kind of exhibition, is that Sosa took his sweet time and swung only at the pitches he thought he could crank out of Turner Field. He also got some sweet pitches where he liked them from a former minor-league manager, Chino Cadahia, now a minor league field coordinator with the host Atlanta Braves.
In the second half of the final round, when he sent out seven homers to pull away from Griffey, Sosa was taking a pitch practically every other pitch. In all, during his final five outs (contestants got 10 outs, or non-homers, in each round, and the last round was split into two rounds of five outs), he took 10 pitches.
He had hit four homers by the time he recorded his first out, taking a pitch to start the streak and taking one after each homer.
"I came here [to the Home Run Derby] the last three years and didn't do nothing," Sosa said. "I [wanted] to take some few pitches ... then I started to make some contact."
Griffey and Sosa were tied at two homers apiece heading into the second half of the final round when Sosa came up and ripped his seven dingers. All of them were bona fide blasts, but the final one bounced off the face of the upper deck in left field, an estimated 508 feet away.
That tied the longest of the night, a second-round shot by Sosa that landed by a TV cameraman underneath the scoreboard in straightaway center field. In fact, Sosa had the 12 longest shots of the night.
After Sosa's final-round show, Griffey came up, took the first two pitches, made three straight outs, took another, then made his final two.
The score of the final round was 9-2.
Sosa's 26 total homers, for those who keep track of such things, were the most ever since the Derby changed to its current format. Griffey held the previous mark, along with Larry Walker, at 19.
But more than that, Slammin' Sammy Sosa's homer show Monday night reminded the rabid fans at Turner, millions more on TV, the whole game of baseball -- and, maybe, some people that count in Chicago -- that this guy is worth keeping around.
Maybe at any cost.