Samuel Peralta Sosa
Sosa joins the 500 home run club; becomes the first Latino on the elite list.
Written by Ozzie González, Latinosportslegends.com
© 2003. All Rights Reserved.
Consulo, Dominican Republic - A small town on the outskirts of San Pedro de Macorís stands the house where Samuel Peralta Sosa was born. That small pink house is now occupied by another family, but down the block is Rosa Julia Sosa, 87 - Sammy Sosa's grandmother. She says he doesn't visit frequently, but when he does come around, the entire family meets in Sosa's mother's estate in San Pedro surrounded by bodyguards. Sammy Sosa is building a house for her, she says, but she hasn't seen it because "It's a surprise".
Sammy is the fifth of seven children born to parents, Lucrecia and Bautista Montero. His father passed away when he was only seven, so he had to spend a lot of time selling orange juice and shining shoes for cents in the streets to help his mother maintain the family.
In San Pedro de Macorís, Sosa couldn't afford a bat and a glove, so like many kids in Latin American countries he made a glove out of milk cartons, a bat out of a tree branch and a ball made of a rolled up sock with tape around it. Anything was done to play baseball or pelota like it's called in Spanish.
Sosa was said to look very skinny and "malnourished". In fact, when the Texas Rangers discovered him in the early '80's, it was those descriptive terms listed on Sosa's scouting report.
Sosa didn't pick up a real bat until he was 14 and played for several small leagues in Santo Domingo for fun. At 16, scout Omar Minaya signed the skinny kid with a live bat to a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers and gave him a signing bonus of $3,500. The first thing Sosa did was send $3,300 back to his mother to support the family and treated himself for the first time ever - he bought himself a used bike.
In 1989, Sosa's first year in the Major Leagues, he had a tough season. He batted .238 and hit only 1 home run in 84 at bats. During that season, Sosa was sent to the minor leagues several times and finally traded to the Chicago White Sox (AL) later on that same season. Marty Scott (former general manager of the Texas Rangers) now says "That's my only regret" referring to the trade of Sosa.
Sosa's development was a slow process. He struggled during his three-year stay with the Chicago White Sox, averaging .240 in batting along with 9 home runs per season and many strike outs. The White Sox sent Sosa back to the minor leagues for a short stay, then traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 1992.
Sosa was determined to prove everyone wrong. He wants to provided for his family and he knew that the only way he was going to do that was to stay in the Major Leagues and get a big multi-million dollar contract. Baseball was all that Sammy knew and he worked extremely hard on perfecting his game and his swing to assure himself no more trips to the minor leagues.
Almost instantly thereafter Sosa's baseball career turned around.
In his first full year (1993) as a Cub, Sosa slammed 33 home runs, knocked in 93 RBI's and was on his way to becoming an All-Star. Sosa continued to become much more selective at the plate and started to go to right field.
The results: Hitting over 35 home runs the next six seasons with over 100 RBI's.
In 1997, Sammy Sosa signed a four year, $42 million dollar contract. Sosa treated himself to a 60-foot yacht which he called "Sammy Junior".
For 37 years, no one in the Major Leagues hit more home runs in a single season than Roger Maris when he hit 61 homers in 1961.
In 1998, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals made history.
When Sammy tied McGwire by hitting his 62nd home run in Wrigley Field against the Milwaukee Brewers, a wild-cheering crowd of 40,846 gave him a six-minute standing ovation and three curtain calls before the game continued. Sosa waved to the crowd, through kisses, and tears started to streamed down his face. "I've never been so emotional." said Sosa after the game. "When I got 62. I have to say it was unbelievable, It was something (pause) that I couldn't believe what I was doing." His eyes got watery for a moment and it seemed like he was going to lose the battle with his emotions. Especially when he got a call from Randy Maris, son of Roger Maris.
Sammy Sosa became a household name in 1998 by hitting 66 home runs, which is by far the most by any Latin American baseball player ever in a single season and lead the Major Leagues in RBIs with 158. "It's a beautiful year... Whatever happens in 1998, this is going to be the year that nobody is going to forget what Mark and I have done." Sosa said with a broad smile. That '98 season will be a year every baseball fan will never forget.
Sosa became an instant superstar all over the world, especially in the Dominican Republic, "Sosa has no idea what he is doing for our country" said fellow countryman, pitcher Jose Rijo. "He has come a long way from a big struggle in his life". Sosa is a legend and an idol in the Dominican Republic.
After that memorable and historical 1998 season, Sammy Sosa was named National League's Most Valuable Player (MVP) on 11/20/98 in a one-sided vote. Seven of the 32 members of the Baseball Writers Association committee did not even include McGwire among the top three on their 10-player ballot. Sosa received 30 first-place votes out of 32 possible votes. A great way to cap off his incredible season.
Despite his great accomplishments during the 1998 season, Sosa was suddenly faced with a severe crisis in his country. Hurricane George ravaged the island and left over 100,000 homeless, without food and shelter. Sammy Sosa played a major role in providing relief aid to the victims of the natural disaster. Via the Red Cross, he sent 30,000 pounds of rice, 30,000 pounds of beans, and barrels of pure water to the Dominican Republic, and helped in the rebuilding of homes.
In June of that year, Sosa launched The Sammy Sosa Charitable Foundation (SSCF) to further the education and health standards of children in the United States & the Dominican Republic area.
Sosa's foundation raised $700,000 for his country and helped several other Latin American countries with food and money through their moments of crisis.
In 1999, after a great spring training, Sosa was determined to duplicate his exciting and momentous 1998 season. He starting slamming home runs again, but this time Mark McGwire was the one chasing Sosa who maintained a lead in the home run race throughout the year.
On September 18th, 1999, Sammy Sosa made history again by becoming the only player to hit 60 home runs in two different Major League seasons. "I have to say that what I've done today is actually more special than what happened last year," Sosa said. "Mark did everything first last year. He was the man. This year, this record is mine. It's something no one else ever has done. I'm extremely proud of that." Sosa's historic homer came on a 2-2 pitch in the sixth, a drive that just went over the wall in center field and produced an ovation that lasted several minutes. Included in the crowd were his wife, his mother and his son, Michael.
Before 1998, Babe Ruth came closest to accomplishing the feat, hitting 59 homers in 1921 and 60 in 1927.
During the 2000 season, Sammy Sosa once again proved that he is one of the top sluggers in baseball and is joining the ranks of the all-time greatest players.
Sosa hit 50 homers for the third straight season. A feat that has only been accomplished by Babe Ruth and "Big Mac" Mark McGwire. (Both have done it four times). The 50 home runs Sosa hit in 2000 was also good enough to lead the Major Leagues - the first time Sosa has won a home run crown. (Click here for more on this story).
On April 6, 2003, Sammy Sosa reached another milestone when he became the 18th player to hit 500 career homers. The momentous home run came on a 1-2 pitch off Reds' reliever Scott Sullivan in the seventh inning. The line drive home run into the right field seats touched off a standing ovation from the crowd and his family members as he rounded the bases. Sosa then came out for a curtain call as the 29,048 fans kept on cheering.
"When I got to home plate I thanked God," Sosa said in an interview after the game. "This was very special for me, especially since my family was here watching. That's something that I never will forget."
The home run also places him in history as the first Latino to ever hit 500 career home runs.
Soon thereafter, Sammy’s entire career as a home run hitter came into question, when umpires found cork in his shattered bat during a game. Sammy was immediately ejected and served a seven-game suspension.
Sosa said it was all an honest mistake.
"I use that bat for batting practice," he said. "It's something that I take the blame for. It's a mistake and I feel bad about it."
Seventy-six of Sammy's other bats were scanned for foreign substances and were all clear. Also, all five of his bats at the National Baseball Hall of Fame showed no signs of cork or anything else that would violate baseball rules.
Sammy Sosa is often compared to his childhood hero Roberto Clementé (the first Latino to enter the Hall of Fame) and wears number 21 on his jersey in honor of him. Sosa will one day join Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Tony Perez and other great Latino baseball players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Sosa is happily married to his wife, Sonia and has four kids, Keysha, Kenia, Sammy Jr. and Michael.
The Legends: Roberto Clemente | Lefty Gomez | Martin Dihigo | Wilfred Benitez | Sammy Sosa
Chi-Chi Rodriguez | Orlando Cepeda | Eusebio Pedroza | Anthony Muñoz | Adrian Fernandez
Tony Perez | Juan Marichal | Pele | Luis Tiant
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