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updated: 8/13/2014 5:32 AM

Cubs' 1990s celebration awkward with or without Sosa

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  • If Sammy Sosa didn't define the 1990s for the Cubs, who did?

      If Sammy Sosa didn't define the 1990s for the Cubs, who did?
    Mark Black/Daily Herald, May 1998

 
 

Man, time really flies when you're celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.

Before you know it the 1990s will show up at the reputed "party of the century."

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The Cubs are commemorating every decade of the old ballpark and came upon the '80s during the current homestand that included Tuesday night's 3-0 victory over the Brewers.

Featured at various times have been throwback music, throwback uniforms and stray throwback players from the period.

Next up will be the '90s, which is when the cute little marketing campaign gets a little sticky.

Like, what about the Samminator's immense presence during that decade? Or is merely raising the question awkward?

If past sentiments are any indication, the Cubs will continue to deny the existence of Sammy Sosa.

I sat in Wrigley for the Cubs' victory over Milwaukee and listened to Sting soccer players from the '80s sing the seventh-inning stretch … yet the Cubs still might view Sosa as unworthy of representing the following decade?

How many home runs did those guys boot out of Wrigley?

Snubbing Sosa would be like inviting the Rolling Stones to a "party of any decade" and leaving out Mick Jagger.

The '90s belonged to Sosa, and he belonged to the '90s. He filled Wrigley. He filled media notebooks. He filled fans' hearts.

Maybe Cubs management will surprise us and have Sosa return to Wrigley, throw out a first pitch and sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in his language of choice.

Or more likely not.

Yes, I'm going to invoke the name of Manny Ramirez, who is a player-coach in the Cubs' farm system.

Sammy walked out on the Cubs? Manny did on the Red Sox. Sammy used a corked bat? Albert Belle couldn't have been the only Indians player who used a corked bat when Manny was his teammate. Sammy used performance enhancers? Manny was suspended for doing so.

Any time I support Sosa in any way -- especially for the Hall of Fame -- the response is nasty.

But it still seems to me that if it's all right for the Cubs to welcome Manny into the family, it couldn't be all wrong to welcome Sammy back in.

Yet the Ricketts ownership hasn't deemed it in the franchise's best interests to even invite Sosa to the Cubs Convention.

Hypocrisy aside, the salute to the 1990s in Wrigley Field will be awkward either way.

It will be if the Cubs include Sosa nostalgia, and it will be if they exclude Sosa nostalgia.

If the Cubs want to pretend Sosa never happened they might as well skip the '90s altogether and proceed into the 21st century.

Fantasy: Sammy Who?

Reality: Where's Sammy?

Seriously, I was there as a journalist when Sosa chased the single-season home run record in 1998. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was there, too, as a fan at the time.

Both of us saw Sosa hit those homers, heard the Wrigley Field crowd cheering and felt the excitement that almost shook the ballpark to the ground.

Today, Ricketts and I both are aware of what occurred after the 1994 World Series was canceled due to a labor dispute.

Sosa's home runs -- PED-fueled as they were -- helped save baseball and generate revenue streams for the Cubs.

The game's culture in the 1990s included steroids. Countless hitters and pitchers alike used them. Some still are despite a testing program that wasn't in effect two decades ago.

Cubs fans have been booing Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun this week because of his involvement with and suspension for PED use.

OK, do that. Bring back Sammy Sosa so fans in Wrigley Field can boo him if they want.

If the Cubs exclude him, they'll have to hope the 1990s fly by without anyone noticing.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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