Last night on MLB Network Radio, they played a Cubs-Rangers game from 2007. Hearing Eric Nadel in January was a breath of fresh air. Rangers fans might not hear him for a long long time. (Today, both sides are meeting for the first time in nearly 40 days. Then the public ugliness resumes.)
I wasn’t sure why they would play this game. Seemed obscure. But not too long into the broadcast, I realized the significance. It was the game Sammy Sosa hit home run number 600.
If you recall, Sosa started his tainted career as a Ranger in 1989 but was traded mid-season for eventual Hall-of-Famer Harold Baines. Sosa would spend the next fifteen seasons in Chicago. A season and a half with the White Sox, thirteen with the Cubs. He was dealt to the Orioles in 2005 and was unable to find a team in 2006, so he sat out.
The Rangers, always desperate to put butts in seats, overlooked Sosa’s past indiscretions and signed him to a contract in 2007, hoping to cash in on his run to 600.
He hit that off Jason Marquis of the Cubs, who, coincidentally, took over his number 21 once he left the Cubs. (Sosa’s first major league home run was off Roger Clemens, who also wore 21.)
His first at-bat he reached on an error. His second at-bat he grounded out to short. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, with a 1-2 count, Sosa launched number 600 in front of the home crowd.
Texas went on to beat Chicago 7-3, and finish last in the A.L. West. Sosa finished the season, his last in the big leagues, with 21 home runs.
This is Sosa’s tenth and final season of eligibility on the Hall-of-Fame ballot. For some reason, he has been treated differently by the Hall voters than fellow steroid cheats Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Bond and Clemens have picked up steam in the voting every season and might even sneak in with the requisite 75 percent of the vote this year. Like with Sosa, this is their final year on the ballet as well. But while they have closed the gap year after year, Sosa remains in the steroid doghouse, being named on only 27 percent of the ballots whose votes have been released so far. Bonds and Clemens are dancing around the 75 percent number.
Why voters have more love for Bonds and Clemens than Sosa is a mystery. I hope none of the three makes it in.
But hearing Nadel’s voice on the radio last night was a welcome surprise.