Sosa on Hall of Fame ballot for second straight year
Longtime Cubs slugger to be joined by likes of Maddux, Glavine, Thomas in 2014
Sammy Sosa is a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the second year. The Class of 2014 will be announced Wednesday. You can watch the announcement live at 2 p.m. ET on an MLB Network simulcast on MLB.com as part of a three-hour live show beginning at noon. On Thursday, MLB.com and MLB Network will air the news conferences featuring the electees live from New York at 11 a.m. ET.
CHICAGO -- If anything, Sammy Sosa is patient.
After Sosa was denied entrance to baseball's Hall of Fame last January, the first time the slugger was on the ballot, he issued a statement, saying he was happy just to be included.
"It has been a moment of great honor for me to have my name on the ballot for the first time, along with some of the game's greats," Sosa said in a statement. "Even if we weren't included on our first time, we are still winners and there is always a next time. God has blessed me with a beautiful family, great career, and I know He will determine my future in the years to come.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America did not vote anyone into Cooperstown in 2013. Sosa received 71 votes, or 12.5 percent. A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from BBWAA members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. No players reached that threshold in 2013. Second baseman Craig Biggio (68.2 percent), starting pitcher Jack Morris (67.7 percent) and first baseman Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Results of the 2014 election will be announced on Wednesday.
The Hall of Fame released the 2014 ballot in November, and Sosa was on it once again. The 45-year-old will have even tougher competition, though, as the list of candidates will include Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
After hitting 609 home runs over 18 Major League seasons, including 13 with the Cubs, Sosa had the numbers that should have made it easy for him to join baseball's elite. The former shoeshine boy from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Sosa charmed fans with his dashes to right field, mammoth home runs and post-homer heart taps. He basked in the national spotlight in 1998, joining Mark McGwire in a record-setting home run race.
"It's so much fun to watch him," said Jeff Pentland, who was the Cubs' hitting coach that season. "It's not supposed to be that easy."
McGwire finished the '98 season with 70 homers; Sosa closed with 66. The Cubs slugger is the only player in Major League Baseball with three 60-homer seasons. He also belted 64 in 2001 and 63 in 1999. Think about it: Babe Ruth had one 60-homer season.
Sosa also edged McGwire in the National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting, earning the '98 honor as he led the league in RBIs (158), runs scored (134) and total bases (416).
A seven-time All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger winner, Sosa won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1998 for his humanitarian efforts in the Dominican. He's the only player in NL history to have six consecutive seasons of 40 home runs. Sosa retired as the Cubs' all-time home run leader (545) after passing Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo.
Sosa's career also had other elements for Hall of Fame voters to consider. According to a New York Times story in June 2009, he allegedly was among 104 Major League players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Sosa never was found guilty by an official MLB entity.
In 2005, he joined McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco at a hearing before Congress regarding drug use in baseball. Sosa's attorney testified on his behalf, saying the slugger never had taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
"I think you have to judge people for the era they were in," said Jim Hendry, who was the Cubs' general manager at the time. "Unless all the facts are in, speculation is a waste of time. You'll never be able to go back and figure out who did what for sure. I'm not condoning it at all. As long as there is competitive athletics and people can get away with things, they'll try to get a competitive edge."
Sosa also was involved in a scandal in 2003 when he was ejected for using a corked bat. MLB confiscated the bat and tested 76 others, and all were found to be clean. He eventually served a six-game suspension.
After playing for the Cubs from 1992-2004, Sosa spent one season with the Orioles in 2005, missed a year and ended his career in '07 with the Rangers -- the team that had originally signed him in 1985 out of the Dominican.
"I'm always happy that I could come to this country and get the opportunity to be who I am," Sosa told MLB.com in an interview in 2011. "I always appreciate what America did for my family. I never forget who took care of me in the tough moments I went through in my career.
"This is the land of dreams," he said. "The hope and accomplishments you can make here is incredible. America will always for me be No. 1."
The Hall of Fame does have several souvenirs from Sosa's career, including some of the bats he used to hit his monumental home runs, plus the jersey he wore when he hit his 400th.
However, the "Sammy Sosa Inspiration Field and Cubs Care Park," unveiled in September 2002 at the New City YMCA in Chicago, is gone -- it was demolished for a proposed retail complex -- and his No. 21 jersey has been handed out to Cubs players such as Jason Marquis, Milton Bradley, Tyler Colvin and Joe Mather.
Sosa has moved on since his last big league at-bat on Sept. 29, 2007. He was involved in business ventures, including Riverhead Homes, which provides prefabricated homes built to withstand natural disasters.
In 2011, Sosa became chief executive officer of INJEX 21, which has created a needle-free drug delivery system designed to help people afraid of needles who must subject themselves to daily self-injections, such as diabetics. His motivation was personal: Sosa worked at a hospital in the Dominican when he was young and remembers getting poked by used needles in the garbage. He knew a lot of diabetics who dreaded their daily injections. He also put off seeing a dentist because of his fear of needles. Dentists now can treat their patients and ease that fear by using the needle-free device.
Sosa always had good timing. On June 20, 2007, Sosa, then with the Rangers, faced the Cubs in an Interleague game, and he connected on his 600th career home run. He's one of eight Major League players to reach that number, joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ruth, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Thome.
"Not bad for a guy from the Dominican Republic," Sosa said after the feat. "It's a great opportunity and a great feeling to be among the greats. When I leave this world, people will remember that I'm among guys like that."
Sosa is optimistic. He believes both he and McGwire belong in the Hall of Fame.
"I think so," Sosa said in January during an online chat with fans. "I'm waiting for my time. I'm not that type of person, I don't like controversy. I'm going to wait here, but definitely, time will determine everything."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.