Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sosa, the New Sandberg?

Believe me, I mean no disrespect to Hall of Fame baseball player Ryne Sandberg, I just couldn’t help myself. You see, I have this friend who seriously dislikes Sandberg. He refers to Sandberg as a “cuckold loser.” He considers Sandberg a quitter due to his initial, mid-year retirement. He correctly states that Ryno quit on his teammates and he believes that Ryno should be scorned for that. My friend is persuasive enough on this issue (and others) that I once witnessed him convince a large section of the center-field bleachers to boo Ryno during his at bats, on opening day! My friend is also a Sox fan so he relished the moment like a maniacal Dr. Evil character, right there in the bleachers. The unwritten theory on Rynos’ initial retirement was that he was in the midst of a divorce from his first wife. Rumors alleged that his first wife was a baseball Trixie and was sleeping with other major league ball players, including a number of his teammates. The teammates most often rumored to have been associated with her were Rafael Palmero and Thad Bosley. The rumors alleged that they were both traded soon after the incidents became known within the team. The theory back when Ryno first retired was that he wanted to avoid any claim on future baseball earnings and the fact that Ryno was suddenly a retired ball player likely affected any negotiations between the parties to that divorce. He came back to Wrigley and the center field bleachers booed him. Sammy Sosa’s agent said today that Sosa will hang it up and no longer play professional baseball at age 37. This follows a pathetic ’05 with the Orioles (.221, 14 HR, 45 RBI) that was marred by injury and an injury plagued ‘04 with the Cubs (a still respectable but deceiving .253, 80 RBI, 35 HR) that featured a back injury caused by a sneeze. Ironically, the baseball steroid crackdown started to become more serious before the ’04 season.
I was lucky enough to closely witness both of their careers and I have to say that Ryno deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Sammy on the other hand… Sometimes, okay quite often, watching Sammy in right field was like going to a NASCAR race; you knew that there was going to be a crackup, it was just a matter of whether or not somebody would get hurt. Ryno on the other hand was a smooth and productive player throughout his entire career, excepting my friends’ concerns. Ryno probably cemented his Hall election by having a game named after him, “the Ryne Sandberg Game” on June 23, 1984. In that game Ryno hit two runs, one in the ninth and one in the tenth, both of them game tying home runs against his soon to be fellow Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter. This feat, that spurred Whitey Herzog to describe Ryno as “Little Babe Ruth”, helped the Cubs defeat the hated St. Louis Cardinals 12 to 11 in Wrigley Field. The fact that Sutter, the leagues premier reliever, had once pitched for the Cubs just added to the perceived importance of that game. That game made that team realize that they could play together against the big boys and was seen as the turn around game for that Division winning team. It was a wonderful game. Sammy Sosa had some wonderful games but there has been no “Sammy Sosa” game, and there won’t be. When Ryno was inducted into the Hall last summer he delivered one of the truly great induction speeches in which he chastised current players in the same way that he was said to have criticized Sammy Sosa when they played together. I guess that in the end, Sosa is not the next Sandberg.


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