Sammy Sosa at peace with baseball legacy: 'My numbers can't be erased'
Sammy Sosa was once on a non-stop flight toward baseball immortality. Now, he's all but a pariah in the sport.
But many years removed from the conclusion of his career, the former Chicago Cubs superstar seems to have come to terms with his place in baseball - and the fact that his legacy likely won't include a plaque in Cooperstown.
"In a previous time of my life, I would have argued about the Hall of Fame," Sosa said Saturday during a Spanish-language interview with Tenchy Rodríguez and Hector Gomez of Z101Digital.com, as translated by Gomez. "But with my peace, I'm happy no(w). If it happens I'll be happy, if not I'll be happy too. My numbers can't be erased from the box scores."
He continued: "Some people that are in that (Hall) are my friends and I wish them nothing but the best. I want to be an immortal in heaven and not (on) the earth."
After several years as a solid outfielder for the Cubs, Sosa rocketed to superstardom in 1998 when he famously battled Mark McGwire for the single-season home run record. McGwire set the mark with 70 (it would stand for only three years), but Sosa finished with 66 and was named NL MVP.
Sosa retired in 2007 with 609 career homers and currently sits ninth on the all-time list. The seven-time All-Star is still the only player to hit 60 home runs in three different seasons.
Though he was held up as an icon of the sport during his prime, Sosa's career ended under several different clouds of controversy. He's been linked to performance-enhancing drug use - allegations he's repeatedly denied - and therefore hasn't come close to the Hall of Fame despite worthy numbers. In his eighth of 10 tries on the BBWAA ballot this past January, Sosa received a personal-best 13.9% of the vote.
His Cubs tenure also ended on a sour note when he left Wrigley Field early on the last day of the 2004 season. Chicago traded Sosa that winter, and he's never mended fences with the franchise. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said in 2018 that the club's former captain would only be welcomed back if he confessed to using PEDs.
Sosa admitted Saturday that the 2004 incident was "my mistake," and he's still holding out hope for an eventual reunion with the Cubs.
"Life (has taught) me that peace, not getting into trouble I got (into) in the past, is something I needed to learn," Sosa said. "Time (has taught) me to let go. One day, I know I'll get back to Chicago and we will leave that bad ending in the past."