|Sosa becomes fifth player in 600-homer club|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 20 June 2007 19:02|
Playing for the Texas Rangers after a year out of baseball, Sosa became the fifth member of the 600-homer club Wednesday night when he connected against his former team.
After driving a 1-2 pitch to right-center for a solo shot in the fifth inning of Texas' 7-3 victory, Slammin' Sammy bounced out of the batter's box with his trademark hop and thrust his right fist into the air before reaching first base. He was mobbed at home plate by his teammates while the scoreboard showed pictures of all five members of the elite club: Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sosa.
``It was something that cannot be explained,'' Sosa said. ``Getting my 600th against the Chicago Cubs, and my first team (was) the Texas Rangers. It's like everything clicked. My emotions, I don't know what they are.''
Sosa played for the Cubs from 1992-2004, winning the '98 NL MVP award and making seven All-Star teams while hitting 545 homers with Chicago.
No. 600 came off Jason Marquis (5-4), the 364th pitcher the 38-year-old Sosa has homered off in his 18 major league seasons.
``It was a cutter I left up in the zone,'' Marquis said. ``I went away from my strength and he made me pay for it. Other than the fact that it cost us the game, it doesn't really matter.''
It was Sosa's 12th homer in 62 games this season since signing a minor league deal and making the roster in spring training with Texas, the franchise that gave him his start. He hit his first big league homer with the Rangers in 1989.
Sosa also has 52 RBIs, which ranks seventh in the American League. He has homered against every major league team in his career.
After going into the dugout with his teammates, Sosa came out for a curtain call. He blew kisses to the crowd and acknowledged the Cubs' dugout by pounding his chest with his fist, and Chicago manager Lou Piniella pointed back toward the slugger. Sosa had never faced the Cubs before the series opener Tuesday night.
A countdown banner that has hung in right field for about a month was flipped from 599 to 600 - and a new banner was unfurled in center field congratulating Sosa for joining the 600-homer club.
Chants of ``Sam-my! Sam-my!'' prompted a second curtain call from Sosa.
While Sosa has had an impressive comeback this season, his pursuit of 600 homers was overshadowed by the Rangers (27-44) having the worst record in baseball and Bonds' chase to catch Aaron atop the career home run list.
Bonds has 748 homers - seven shy of Aaron's mark - with only three in his last 97 at-bats. Ruth is third on the home run list with 714 and Mays is fourth with 660.
Sosa had a similar homer drought. No. 600 was only his second in 22 games - a span of 83 at-bats in which his only other homer was a grand slam Friday at Cincinnati.
``It was a good moment. He should be proud of it,'' Piniella said. ``I wish he would have done it in a losing effort but it's a tremendous feat and he should enjoy the moment.''
When Sosa returned to the majors, he insisted he was coming back for more than the 12 homers he needed to reach 600.
``Definitely,'' Sosa reiterated after the game. ``I'm showing the whole world I still have a few years left in the tank. I'm hungry every day. I'm here because I want to compete. Everything depends on how I feel a few more years. I feel great. Nothing can stop me right now.''
A tumultuous 2005 season almost drove Sosa out of the game for good.
It started during spring training that year when he testified before Congress about possible steroid use in baseball, and it didn't get much better from there. He hit .221 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs in 102 games with Baltimore before going home to the Dominican Republic, where he stayed for more than a year.
``People that know baseball know that I was retired for one year and to put everything together and come back, that's big,'' Sosa said. ``That's why tonight, it was a great night.''
Like Mark McGwire and Bonds, Sosa is suspected of using steroids before they were banned by baseball, and he was caught with a corked bat in front of his home crowd when he played for the Cubs in 2003.
He has never been penalized for a positive steroids test, however, and was not involved in the BALCO scandal that has dogged Bonds.
Kameron Loe (3-6) allowed three runs over 6 2-3 innings for his second consecutive win after a six-game skid. Alfonso Soriano was 3-for-4 with two doubles and his 12th homer for the Cubs. Koyie Hill, the starting catcher after Michael Barrett was traded earlier Wednesday, hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
Sosa is the only player with three 60-homer seasons. He hit .308 with a career-high 66 homers and 158 RBIs in his 1998 MVP season for the Cubs - and was part of that memorable home run chase with McGwire, the first major leaguer to hit 70 homers.