Samuel Peralta Sosa
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 220 lb.
- Debut June 16, 1989
- Final Game September 29, 2007
- Born November 12, 1968 in San Pedro de Macoris, D.R.
Sammy Sosa hit 609 home runs during an 18-year major league career. He was one of the baseball's biggest stars during his time as a player, but his career has been tainted by allegations of steroid usage, denying him a place in the Hall of Fame.
From Journeyman to Superstar
Sosa was signed as a free agent for the Texas Rangers by scouts Omar Minaya and Amado Dinzey on July 30, 1985. He broke into major league baseball at a very young age, getting 183 at-bats in 1989 at the age of 20. That first year, he was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago White Sox in mid-season.
As a young White Sox player, he was speedy in the outfield, and there was speculation that he might become a Gold Glove center fielder. However, Sosa's ambitions were elsewhere (with his hitting), and as his home runs increased he became known as an inconsistent fielder. At the age of 21, he hit 15 home runs with the White Sox, but also stole 32 bases and had 10 triples.
When he hit only .203 for the White Sox at the age of 22 in 1991, they let him go across town to the Chicago Cubs, where Sosa's preference for the long ball fit in well with the cozy confines of Wrigley Field. At the age of 24 in 1993, still a very young age for a major leaguer, he hit 33 home runs for the Cubs. In 1996, he made a run at Roger Maris's record, with 40 home runs in 124 games before he was injured.
He is best known for the four seasons from 1998 to 2001 when he hit over 60 home runs three times. Although he hit "only" 50 in 2000, that total was enough to win the home run title, while the other three years his 60+ totals garnered him second place. He also led the league with 49 home runs in 2002.
On June 3, 2003, Sosa was ejected from a Chicago Cubs-Tampa Bay Devil Rays game in the 1st inning when umpires discovered he had been using a corked bat. Major League Baseball confiscated and tested 76 of Sosa's other bats after his ejection; all were found to be clean, with no cork. Sosa would later state that he had accidentally used the corked bat, which he claimed he only used during batting practice and/or home run contests. On June 6th, Sosa was suspended for eight games, but the suspension was reduced to seven games after appeal on June 11th. The incident caused some to question whether Sosa's 505 home runs (up to that point) had been fairly hit.
After 13 years with the Cubs, it was clear that his batting average and slugging percentage were slipping, so the Cubs let Sosa go to the Baltimore Orioles after the 2004 season. Hitting only .221 without much power (only 14 home runs) in 2005, he was booed much of the season and was let go by the team in December. Sosa turned down a Washington Nationals offer of a minor-league contract and an invitation to spring training in January and a second offer by the club for a non-guaranteed contract worth $500,000 in February. Sosa decided to turn down the second offer on February 15, 2006, making it appear likely that he would fall just short of 600 home runs.
Although Sosa was an immensely popular and likeable player, he was surrounded by questions about whether his achievements were fairly won. During his career, no proof ever appeared that Sosa took steroids, but fans were astounded at the way in which the slender and speedy Sosa of the early 1990s turned into the monstrously muscular home run hitter of the late 1990s. During his first nine years in the majors, his Adjusted OPS was never over 130, and he never led the league in an important offensive category (other than strikeouts and games played). When he slugged .647 in 1998, that was far above what he had ever done in his previous nine years in the majors.
His lifetime on-base percentage of .345 is one of the lowest among major home run hitters of his time.
An Unlikely Comeback
Early in 2007, Sosa signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. It provided for a base salary of $500,000, plus a possible $2.2 million based on incentives. His contract included an additional $200,000 if he was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year for 2007. Sosa said the year off in 2006 would not affect his hitting, comparing himself to Frank Thomas, and even the great Ted Williams, who had missed significant time due to World War II and the Korean War.
Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo said that Sammy's poor 2005 season was due to bad mechanics at the plate, and that he could help him with that. Sosa made the team in spring training, serving as the team's designated hitter. He began the season needing 12 more homers to become the 5th man in MLB history with 600. He reached that landmark on June 20th, with a blast against the Cubs in an interleague game. The pitcher was Jason Marquis, who was wearing 21, the number Sosa had worn with the Cubs. He ended the year with 609 career home runs. His home run total was the highest for a player born outside the United States, until he was passed by Albert Pujols ten years later, in 2017.
Sosa holds the MLB record for home runs in the most different stadiums, having hit dingers in 45 ballparks, the last of which came on May 17, 2007, off Casey Fossum of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, FL, where the Rays played one series against the Rangers. Ken Griffey Jr. is second with 44 different stadiums.
For his final season season, Sosa's Adjusted OPS+ (a measure of a player's offensive production) was only 102, compared to 100 for the average player. However, in spite of his low batting average and on-base percentage, he led the Rangers with 21 home runs and was second on the team to Michael Young with 92 RBI. However, with the Rangers in a rebuilding phase, he was not invited back for the 2008 season and he retired for good.
In June 2009, the New York Times reported that Sosa's name was among the 104 major leaguers who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the 2003 season.
Hall of Fame Candidacy
Sosa became one of the poster boys for the steroid era well before results of a failed test were leaked. Being forever associated with Mark McGwire in the public's mind did not help, and neither did his very particular career arc that looked ever more unlikely as more became known about the widespread use of PEDs in the 1990s and 2000s. As a result, more than anyone, Sosa suffered the brunt of voters' outrage when he first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013 as part of the infamous "steroid ballot". This was because it was perceived that most of his value derived from hitting home runs, whose legitimacy was now put in question. He finished behind every one of the avowed or alleged steroid users of his era, apart from Rafael Palmeiro, receiving a mere 12.5% of the vote. Given the widespread hostility expressed by voters towards steroid users - proven or alleged - he stood little chance at that point of being elected to the Hall by the BBWAA. Indeed, in 2014, he fell to 7.2%, barely enough to remain on the ballot another year, although he did manage to clear the 5% hurdle - albeit not by much - the following three years.
- 7-time NL All-Star (1995, 1998-2002 & 2004)
- NL MVP (1998)
- 6-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1995 & 1999-2002)
- 3-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1998, 2001 & 2002)
- 3-time NL Total Bases Leader (1998, 1999 & 2001)
- 2-time NL Home Runs Leader (2000 & 2002)
- 2-time NL RBI Leader (1998 & 2001)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 13 (1993-2004 & 2007)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 11 (1993 & 1995-2004)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 7 (1996, 1998-2003)
- 50-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1998-2001)
- 60-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1998, 1999 & 2001)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 9 (1995-2003)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 5 (1998-2002)
|Larry Walker||Sammy Sosa||Chipper Jones|
- Quickest player in NL history to hit 300 Home Runs (1,052 games)
- Quickest player in NL history to hit 400 Home Runs (1,354 games)
- Quickest player in NL history to hit 500 Home Runs (1,651 games)
- Home runs, right fielder, career, 538
- Home runs, right fielder, season, 65, 1998
- Home runs, one month, 20, June 1998
- Extra base hits, right handed batter, season, 103, 2001 (tied with Hank Greenberg in 1937 and Albert Belle in 1995)
- Strikeouts, right handed batter, career, 2,194
- Most home runs in a 5-year span (292 between 1998 and 2002)
- Most home runs in a 6-year span (332 between 1998 and 2003)
- Most home runs in a 7-year span (368 between 1997 and 2003)
- Most home runs in a 8-year span (408 between 1996 and 2003)
- Most home runs in a 9-year span (444 between 1995 and 2003)
- Most home runs in a 10-year span (479 between 1995 and 2004)
- Most RBI in two consecutive games by an NL player: 14, August 10 (9), 11 (5), 2002 (Tony Lazzeri had 15 in the AL)
- Most RBI in four consecutive games: 18, August 8-11, 2002 (tied with Jim Bottomley, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Joe DiMaggio and Alfonso Soriano)
- Most major league ballparks, one or more home runs, career: 45
- Most home runs for runner-up, season: 66, 1998
- Most major league ballparks, one or more home runs, season: 18, 1998 (16 in NL and 2 in AL; tied by Mike Piazza)
- Most seasons with 60 or more home runs: 3 (1998, 1999, 2001)
- Most consecutive seasons with 60 or more home runs: 2 (1998-1999; tied with Mark McGwire)
- Most seasons with 50 or more home runs: 4, 1998-2001 (tied with Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire)
- Most consecutive seasons with 50 or more home runs: 4, 1998-2001 (tied with Mark McGwire)
- Most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs by an NL player: 6, 1998-2003 (Babe Ruth had 7 in the AL)
- Most home runs, one calendar month: 20, June 1998
- Most home runs by a righthander, one month: 20, June 1998
- Most home runs in June: 20, 1998
- Most home runs in October: 5, 2001 (tied with Richie Sexson)
- Most home runs, inning: 2, May 16, 1996, 7th (tied with many other players)
- Most times hitting three or more home runs in a game, career: 6, 1996, 1998, 2001 (3), 2002 (tied with Johnny Mize)
- Most times hitting three or more home runs in a game, season: 3, August 9, August 22, September 23, 2001
- Most times hitting three or more consecutive home runs in a game, career: 4, 1996, 2001 (2), 2002 (tied with Johnny Mize)
- Most times hitting two or more home runs in a game, season: 11, 1998 (tied with Hank Greenberg)
- Most grand slams, two consecutive games: 2, July 27, 28, 1998 (tied with many other players; Babe Ruth achieved it twice)
- Most seasons with 150 or more runs batted in by an NL player: 2, 1998, 2001 (tied with Hack Wilson; Lou Gehrig achieved it 7 times in the AL)
- Closest a player has gotten to hitting more home runs than his team had wins: Sosa hit 63 home runs, the Cubs had 67 wins, 1999 (Sosa played all 162 games)
- NL record: Most at-bats without a triple, season: 643, 1998 (Derek Jeter had 683 in the AL in 2012)
- First player in Chicago Cubs history with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season: 1993, 1995
- Batted 6-for-6, Chicago [NL], July 2, 1993
- AP (June 4, 2003). "Unsplendid splinter". Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 24, 2006.