On Sammy Sosa, the Hall of Fame, and steroids

Sosa’s alleged steroid use kept him from getting into the Hall of Fame. But who is voted in and who is kept out is glaringly inconsistent.

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Fans stand with their hands in the air as Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa heads toward first base after hitting his 48th home run of the season in the fifth inning, Aug. 19, 1998 against the St. Louis Cardinals in Chicago. Sosa, at the times, was right behind St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire in the chase for Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61 set in 1961.

Fans stand with their hands in the air as Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa heads toward first base after hitting his 48th home run of the season in the fifth inning, Aug. 19, 1998 against the St. Louis Cardinals in Chicago. Sosa, at the times, was right behind St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire in the chase for Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61 set in 1961.

AP

What a thrill it was to watch Sammy Sosa pound the baseball into the Wrigley Field bleachers and sometimes into the stratosphere.

The Slammin’ Sammy show got even more exciting when the then-Chicago Cubs right fielder and St. Louis Cardinal slugger Mark McGwire traded long balls during the great 1998 home run chase. That year, both men ended up beating New York Yankee Roger Maris’ 37-year-old record of 61 homers in a season.

Sosa ended his career with an impressive 609 home runs — the ninth best in major league history.

On Tuesday, nearly two decades after Sosa last played for the Cubs, he struck out on making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame, presumably for his alleged ties to performance-enhancing drugs.

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It was our fallen hero’s 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

McGwire never made it to the Hall of Fame either, also because of his reported steroid use. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other big names from the “Steroid Era” were also bypassed along with Sosa.

Sosa has continuously denied he ever took steroids, but a 2009 New York Times article named him as one of more than 100 Major League Baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during spring training in 2003.

As hard as it was for fans to see Sosa turned down again, players who “juiced” — and team executives who looked the other way — don’t deserve the prestigious Hall of Fame honor.

Bearing witness to an athlete’s prowess is exhilarating, but it is equally deflating for fans when they learn their favorites cheated. There are countless other professional players who batted, fielded and pitched without the help of illegal substances and weren’t able to produce massive stats and adulation.

With the latest Hall of Fame drama, however, it would be remiss not to point out, as Sun-Times sports columnist Steve Greenberg did, that who is voted in and who is kept out is glaringly inconsistent and suspect.

Boston Red Sox great David Ortiz was welcomed with open arms Tuesday on his first try on the ballot. Yet Ortiz was also named as testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the same New York Times article that implicated Sosa.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who helmed the Cardinals at the peak of McGwire’s career, and former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig have both been accused of looking the other way when the steroid-enhanced players were bringing in the crowds.

Both are in the Hall of Fame.

Sosa once attributed his bulging muscles to Flintstone vitamins.

The logic that goes into Baseball Hall of Fame voting might be just as laughable.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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