Chicago Cubs players both past and present joined in a pre-game ceremony on Wednesday afternoon to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of legendary Wrigley Field. Some of the all-time great Cubs players were on hand, including Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams. One glaring omission at the party was former Cubs slugger, Sammy Sosa, who reportedly had not been invited to the centennial celebration.
Sosa is the team’s all-time home run leader with 545 career blasts as a member of the Cubs, and is responsible for one of the most memorable, four-year runs in baseball history between 1998 and 2001. During those four consecutive seasons, the improbable run saw Sosa hit more than 50 home runs in each of those years, including the record breaking 66 in 1998 and 64 in 2001.
The battle between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in their chase to eclipse 61 home runs, the 37-year-old record held by Roger Maris undoubtedly refueled baseball, propelling it to new heights after the strike of 1994-95. The strike resulted in thousands of fans abandoning the game, turning on America’s pastime and losing interest in the sport. The dramatic back and forth duel between the two sluggers re-energized the fan base. It was a time when fans returned to the game and became enthralled in the chase for the record—it was an exciting time for the fans, and it was a momentous time for baseball. For the Chicago Cubs, it was one of the greatest moments in their long but frustrating history. Although their team collectively could not win the war, Sosa, as an individual was able to rise to the top and win one of baseball’s great battles.
It was the best of times for the Chicago Cubs and then it was quickly followed by some of the worst of times. The steroid scandal spread like a wildfire, super-human sluggers were left with scarred images, and records were put into question. It is no wonder the Cubs snubbed Sosa from the 100 year anniversary of Wrigley—he became an embarrassment to the team, and brought shame to the city of Chicago. Some may say that the Cubs performance on the ball field is an embarrassment alone, but at least their lineup of great and memorable ball players has been filled with lovable figures like Banks, Sandberg, Grace, and Hall of Fame broadcast announcer Harry Caray. Sosa changed all of that when he drilled the franchise with a high and tight fastball that left a black eye on the organization.
A celebration is a time to commemorate the good times and pay homage to the great and beloved players of a historic pastime. It is a time to pay tribute to one of the most famous sports venues in the world and a time to pay respect to the names that grace the flags that fly beyond the ivy-covered wall. It is not the time to scratch at the skin and discover a blister that has been bubbling just below the surface. It should be a joyous occasion, and in this case the Cubs made a wise decision to snub Sosa from the 100 year anniversary of the fabled and infamous Wrigley Field. If Harry Caray was alive today, he would most likely be looking out from behind his thick, coke-bottle glasses, leaning out of the press box and yelling, “Holy cow, Cubs win, Cubs win!”
Commentary by Johnny Caito