Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs celebrated all things Kerry Wood, for the third tie this season. I honestly can not blame them, as at this point in the season the Cubs need to give their fans something to be excited about; especially with as poorly as they have played all season long. Included in all the pomp and circumstance that went along with his day of celebration, Wood’s son threw out the first pitch, with Kerry playing the role of catcher. Great moment for all his fans to see. The entire Wood family also went through the process of singing the stretch, which includes the typical interviews. That is where things got interesting.
As expected, he was asked about life after baseball and what his plans were, and he was very open about wanting to return to the team in some aspect, but did not expand on what role he wanted to play. He also mentioned a few former Cubs who he would like to see the team bring back, two legendary Cubs to be exact.
The first name Wood brought up, is no surprise. Ryne Sandberg is one of the greatest Cubs in recent memory, and spent several years managing their minor league teams until recently when he departed for a similar job in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Personally, I do not buy that there are any bridges burned between Sandberg and the Cubs. If he got a call at the end of the season from Cubs President Theo Epstein saying they had fired Dale Sveum and would like him to manage the big league team, he would take the job in a heartbeat, even over the Phillies job if he was offered both.
However, the next name he brought up was one that I was sure would send shockwaves through all of Cubs Nation. Wood brought up a name that has generated much discussion amongst Cub fans since his departure at the end of the 2004 season. Wood declared “Actually, it wouldn’t be bad thing to see Sammy (Sosa) come around too. He did a lot for this organization and a lot for this city. It’d be a shame for him not to come back.”
After Sosa was made the scapegoat for a 2004 season that soured at the end, Cub fans turned on him when a video from a Cubs parking lot security camera was “leaked” to the media showing him leaving the park early on fan appreciation day. Let’s not pretend that this was the first time he has left a game early, and let’s also not pretend that he ever did so without being given permission to do so. The Cubs wanted to get rid of Sosa, and they needed to make him look like a bad guy in order to get the fans to support their decision to trade him. Imagine the backlash of trading one of their best players if that video was never made public and fans had no idea he left early? That would have been an epic explosion of fan revolt.
Surprisingly though, I have not heard much backlash against Wood’s desire to see Sosa come back; in fact I have not heard any. Perhaps all the angst against Sosa was sucked out of the Cub fans the moment one of their local heroes stood up and defended him and hoped he would come home to Chicago. Or perhaps fans just chose to tune that comment out and pretend the comment was never made.
Either way, I agree completely with Wood and his desire to see both Sandberg and Sosa come back to the Cubs organization. The way things ended for him as a member of the Cubs was indeed ugly, but he was too big a part of this franchises history, and meant to much to the team and their fans for things to end the way they did. Alongside Mark McGwire, Sosa helped get fans interested in baseball again after the Major League Baseball strike in 1994 which saw the cancellation of the World Series. Sure, baseball would have eventually captured the attention of the fans again, but these two men brought the game back into the National spotlight. A member of the Cubs, a team filled with such history and heartbreak, finally gave their fans something to get excited about and to cheer about.
Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying that Sosa was the just about the only reason to be excited about the Cubs for nearly a decade, outside of the two playoff teams he played on. Sosa put up monster numbers (whether or not they were steroid influenced or not) year after year that made fans cheer day in and day out. The pop, the hop and the trot kept fans happy and cheering all over the ballpark, and Sosa gave them several moments to cheer during the three seasons where he put on at least 60 home runs.
Sosa should be given the chance to redeem himself with Cub fans, and should be welcomed back into the family where he saw his meteoric rise to legendary status. Have a day honoring all things Sosa, and who knows, maybe even retire his jersey while you are at it. Sosa’s numbers and resume are just as good, if not better, than the other five men who already have their numbers flying up those poles, and his resume.
The only surprising about this hopeful first step in bringing Sosa home, is the source that started the discussion. After all, Wood is the one who has been long rumored to have been the culprit who smashed Sosa’s boom box on that fateful day when he left early.
If Wood’s heart and attitude can change about Sosa, why not the Cub fans as well?