Sosa blasts No. 600 off former team
Slugger becomes fifth player to join club, hits first off Cubs
ARLINGTON -- Sammy Sosa joined exclusive company on Wednesday night, placing himself among the Mount Rushmore of power hitters when he hit the 600th home run of his distinguished career.He also did it with a flair for the dramatic, delivering the long-anticipated home run against his former team in front of 37,564 fans in the Rangers' 7-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Sosa, with 12 on the season, joins Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays as the only players with 600 career home runs in Major League history. "Not bad for a guy from the Dominican Republic," Sosa said. "It's a great opportunity and a great feeling to be among the greats. When I leave this world, people will remember that I'm among guys like that." The home run came off of Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis, who wears No. 21. That's the number that Sosa wore for 13 years when he hit 545 home runs while wearing the Cubs uniform. "Everything clicked," Sosa said. "It was a special day. All the fans that were here behind me, that was awesome. I'll never forget this night. This night gave me a lot of joy." The Rangers led, 4-0, when Sosa came to the plate with two out and nobody on base in the bottom of the fifth inning, and flashbulbs were popping all over the ballpark on every pitch as Marquis jumped ahead, 1-2, in the count. Then he came back with a slider and Sosa went the other way with it, hitting it high and deep over the right-center-field wall. The prized baseball landed in the Rangers bullpen 395 feet away from home plate and was retrieved by reliever Akinori Otsuka. "I knew I had hit it with the good part of the bat," Sosa said. "It was a cutter, I just left it up in the zone, and he put a good swing on it," explained Marquis, who used a sinker to get Sosa to ground out in his previous at-bat. "I went away from my strength [in the fifth], and he made me pay for it." Sosa, after doing his trademark "home run hop," ran around the bases to a standing ovation, and he was mobbed at home plate by his teammates. He walked to the dugout but emerged twice for curtain calls and his other trademark: the heart-tapping salutes that he gave several times to the crowd.
It was the biggest individual moment at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington since Rafael Palmeiro hit his 500th home run on May 11, 2003. The only other comparable moment was Kenny Rogers' perfect game on July 28, 1994."To hit it at home in front of the Texas fans was great," Sosa said. "Now I can go home, relax and concentrate on baseball." One of the heart-tap salutes was directed toward the Cubs dugout. "I respect the Cubs as the other team," Sosa said. "That's how I show my respect to them." Sosa's wife Sonia, sons Sammy Jr. and Michael and daughters Keysha and Kenia, his agent Adam Katz and other family and friends, were all at the game sitting in a private box. "This one is pretty big because I didn't know if I was going to come back to baseball," Sosa said. "I took a year off and I might have been home by now. But I kept working and I kept fighting and there were a lot of people who kept supporting me. Now we get a chance to celebrate 600." Sosa, who sat out all of last season, was the oldest of the five to reach 600. He is 38 years and 222 days old, just a little older than Mays, who hit his at 38 years and 139 days. It was his first home run against the Cubs, and he has now gone deep against every Major League franchise. "It couldn't have happened to a better guy, especially when some people wrote him off," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We saw he had something left in him, and he's been a model citizen and a model teammate. He's worked his tail off, and he deserves everything that's going to come along with hitting No. 600." Sosa isn't finished. He'll likely get Thursday off to enjoy the moment. Then he'll go back to work on Friday against the Houston Astros, and he's made it clear that he won't be satisfied with 600 home runs. When asked how long he'll keep going, Sosa looked at Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and said, "It just depends on how many years that J.D. signs me." Then he smiled. "Texas is the team that has given me the opportunity, and they've treated me so great," Sosa said. "I fit perfectly here. I feel happy here. I'm doing my job and showing people I have more years left. I'm hungry, and I'm here because I want to compete. "Right now I feel great."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.