Sosa suspended for eight games

Friday, June 6th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) -- Sammy Sosa was suspended for eight games by major league baseball Friday for using a corked bat, and he immediately appealed the decision.

The appeal had to be filed before Friday's game -- the first of a three-game series against the New York Yankees -- to make Sosa available to play.

"We support him in his appeal," Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "We have no reason to believe it was anything more than a one-time incident."

A piece of cork was found just above the handle in Sosa's bat Tuesday night when it shattered after he grounded out in the first inning of the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 victory. Sosa didn't deny the corked bat was his, but he said it was a batting practice bat that he had grabbed by accident.

"Some punishment is in order. Hopefully, it can be reduced," Hendry said.

He noted that Sosa "has been shattering bats his whole career" and no other corked bats had been found.

"I think he feels badly that he's going to be sitting out some games," Hendry added.

Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, met with Cubs manager Dusty Baker and Hendry at Wrigley Field on Thursday, but did not talk to Sosa.

Other players who have used corked bats have been suspended for up to 10 games. The Cubs had hoped that Sosa's cooperation, as well as the fact that no cork was found in any of his 81 bats that were checked, would work in his favor.

The Hall of Fame said Thursday that X-rays or CT scans of its five Sosa bats showed no cork or anything else that would violate baseball rules. Baseball officials didn't find anything in 76 bats confiscated from Sosa's locker after he was ejected from Tuesday night's game, either.

"The sad part about the whole thing is that he had 70-some bats and it's like you still don't believe it. That's what's unfair," Baker said. "He was wrong with that one bat. It was a bad decision."

Boston Red Sox ace Boston pitching ace Pedro Martinez came to his Dominican countryman's defense, saying the incident was being blown out of proportion because of racial bias by the media.

"If it was (Mark) McGwire, it would still be a big deal, but not like this," Martinez said. "We might be Latin and minorities, but we're not dumb. We see everything that happens."

Several other players have been caught or have admitted using a corked bat. But none has had the gaudy resume of Sosa.

In a five-year stretch from 1998-02, he hit 292 home runs. He's the only player to hit 60 or more homers in three seasons, hitting 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001.

He's No. 17 on the career list with 505 homers. And at just 34, many believe he'll have a chance at Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers.

Sosa insists he's never done anything illegal.

"I feel very bad for having used that bat, but my conscience is clean," Sosa said Thursday. "I'm not a criminal nor someone who intended to deceive or take advantage of others."

Watson spent about two hours at Wrigley, meeting with Baker, Hendry, Cubs president Andy MacPhail and clubhouse manager Tom Hellmann, then went back to New York.

Baker said his meeting with Watson wasn't an interview so much as an explanation of what Watson was doing.

"I called him Judge Dread. He thought it was pretty funny," Baker said. "He just wanted to let me know that they're going to try to come up with a quick decision, a fair decision. Whatever happens after that it's up to Sammy and the organization, if we want to appeal it."

Not only is this weekend the teams' first meeting at Wrigley since the 1938 World Series, but Roger Clemens goes for his 300th career win Saturday against fellow Texan Kerry Wood. The games Saturday and Sunday will be broadcast nationally, with 90 percent of the country seeing the Clemens-Wood matchup on Fox.


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