ESPN recently aired a trailer for Long Gone Summer, a soon to be released documentary about the 1998 home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. As a longtime Chicago Cubs fan who loved Sosa and was 17-years-old in 1998 this documentary is right in my wheelhouse. Watching the trailer I kept thinking and hoping for one thing to happen. I desperately want a moment where Sammy tells the Ricketts Family and Cubs fans to go fuck themselves.
To be a Sammy Sosa fan in Chicago is hard to explain. During the majority of his run with the Cubs Sammy was as beloved as they come and was easily on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats of Chicago sports. The steroid and corked bat controversies weren’t really huge controversies in Chicago, or at least they weren’t in the circles I ran in. No matter what Sammy did he was still Sammy and the fans still seemed to love him. As his production started to wane some fans turned fickle, but it wasn’t until he was outed as a bad clubhouse presence and a media narrative took hold that he was a bad teammate that the fans turned on him.
Years later we have been led to believe that the fans turned on Sosa because of the steroid allegations. That’s not true, we know it isn’t true, but one entity needs it to be true, the Ricketts family. For some reason, they have decided, led mainly by Tom Ricketts, that in order for Sammy to ever be allowed back into the good graces of Cubs fandom he needs to apologize to Cubs fans for his steroid misgivings. This is an idea that has taken hold in the media and among many fans. Every year at the Cubs Convention someone inevitably asks about Sammy and Tom Ricketts routinely replies with some variation of, “Sammy’s place with the Cubs is all dependent on Sammy being willing to come clean and apologize to the fans and the organization for what he did.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I think the Ricketts family are despicable individuals and Tom Ricketts is an asshole. It is galling to me that they think Sammy owes them any sort of apology. I find it especially troubling that they have managed to convince the media and fans that their version of Sammy’s Cubs history is true. Those fans and media were around in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they know what the Ricketts’ are peddling isn’t true yet they are all too willing to buy the product. I’m not sure why that is, just like I’m not sure why the Ricketts’ have decided to wage a one-family war on Sammy Sosa.
What I do know is that for all his faults Sammy Sosa brought untold joy to Cubs fans for many years. When he left the city his legacy was tainted, but not by any cheating or steroid accusations. Rather, Sammy left with his head held low because of the allegations that he was a bad teammate. If someone were to approach Sammy and ask him honestly about all of this I’m not sure what answer he would provide. The one thing I would hope he wouldn’t supply is an apology. Sammy doesn’t owe the Ricketts’ a thing, nor does he owe any Cubs fan or member of the media.
I know it won’t happen, but I still dream that at some point during Long Gone Summer Sammy will look right at the camera and tell Tom Ricketts specifically to go fuck himself. The truth is while Sammy may be smart enough and prideful enough to refuse to proffer an apology he’s savvy enough to know he can’t just tell a member of the Cubs ownership to rightfully go fuck himself and expect to ever be back in the teams’ good graces. In lieu of what I want, I’m more hopeful than anything that perhaps Long Gone Summer will put enough public pressure on the Ricketts’ to bring Sammy back into the fold. Sammy belongs with the rest of the Cubs greats and let’s hope he manages to find his way there sometime soon.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – NBC Sports