Chicago Cubs: Sammy Sosa will always hold a special place in my heart

(JOHN ZICH/AFP via Getty Images)
(JOHN ZICH/AFP via Getty Images) /

Regardless of how time has made our memories fade and our sentiments sour, there’s no doubt Sammy Sosa holds a special place in my heart as a Cubs fan.

In the summer of 1998, when the nation was captured by the Great Home Run Chase, I was just seven years old. I knew I liked the Cubs – because my grandmother never missed a game – and even at such a young age, that baseball was likely to be one of my great loves in life.

Growing up in the country, I would hang a piece of paper up on a tree nearby as my ‘scoreboard’ and play as the Cubs against the Cardinals from sun up till sun down on a nearly daily basis that summer. When games were on, I’d have my dad’s radio out in the yard with me, listening to Pat Hughes and Ron Santo on the call.

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Somehow, whenever I was playing and the Lovable Losers needed a big hit, I’d toss the ball up in the air as Sammy Sosa and could hear Chip Caray in my head as I made contact, “swung on, belted” – and I’d give my little Sosa hop to the cheers of an imaginary raucous crowd at Wrigley Field as I circled the bases.

It takes something special to capture a little kid’s heart in the way that summer did mine. And love him, hate him or somewhere in between, there’s no doubt that Sosa left an indelible mark on the game we love – and the Chicago Cubs – in his exploits that season.

We’re now less than a week from ESPN’s ‘Long Gone Summer’ documentary – which, in the wake of the overwhelming success of ‘The Last Dance’ seems even more exciting for sports fans, especially those of us whose hearts beat with that club on the North Side of Chicago. It allows people to step into a time machine and go back to that summer where balls rocketed out of Wrigley Field at a historic level and three sluggers did battle, vying for the record books.

Everyone remembers what Sosa and McGwire did, hitting 66 and 70 homers, respectively. But for a good chunk of the season, ‘The Kid’, Ken Griffey Jr. was in the hunt, as well – eventually settling for 56 long balls that summer en route to American League MVP honors.

With the introduction of the Marquee Network, it seems like we’ve seen more and more Sosa content this year. Of course, at least part of that is due to the fact there’s literally no baseball being played and well, outlets need content. But I think another part of the equation is that maybe, just maybe, the Cubs and their former famed slugger are inching toward a thawing of their icy relationship.

Next. Sosa's 1998 MVP performance stands the test of time. dark

We all know about the bad blood between the team’s current ownership group and Sosa. But given his legacy and contributions to the history of the organization, it’s time the Cubs open their arms and, thus, a new era in the team’s relationship with their all-time home run leader.