For Sosa, those numbers all add up to an answer to his critics. "People said negative things about me," Sosa says. "They didn't believe I was hurt. That was a tough thing. And I tried to play every day. I take the blame for that. But I knew I had to get healthy, and once I did, I could do what I always do."
Says first-year teammate Mike Remlinger, "I don't think he could have done anything better to make people forget about the corked-bat incident than going out and playing the way he has. If he was struggling, who knows what we'd be hearing right now?"
Sosa is still heckled sometimes on the road, where fans call him Corky, though the noise has abated. He has declined most in-depth interviews, choosing to speak to groups of reporters after games in a voice barely stronger than a whisper. He still runs the clubhouse boom box, though Alou says, "Anybody in here can walk over and change it or turn it off at any time."
"He's been through a lot of adversity this year," Karros says, "and it would have been very easy for him to go off on his own path. He hasn't."
The rehabilitation of Sosa proceeds apace, especially in Chicago. On Aug. 12 former Beatle Ringo Starr, in town for a concert, called to ask for an autographed Sosa bat. Before the night was out a Cubs intern had delivered two bats to the famous drummer. Three days later actor Russell Crowe made the same request upon his first visit to Wrigley. Chicago's gladiator obliged Hollywood's.
These are heady days in the little old ballpark. The beer is cold, Sosa is hot, and the Cubs are in an honest-to-goodness pennant race this late in the season for only the sixth time in the past 30 years.
"Only in America," Sosa said with his trademark grin after Friday's quintessential Wrigley afternoon. "It doesn't get any better than that. I love it."
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