Sammy Sosa: From the Sneeze to the Boombox to the Walkout, the Former MVP Had a Wild Final Season With the Chicago Cubs
2004 was certainly an interesting year for Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs. Coming within five outs of the World Series the season before, losing in seven games to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 NLCS, expectations were high in the Windy City. The team had brought back Greg Maddux, added Derrek Lee, and were going to get an entire season from All-Star third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned as the team suffered several critical injuries, including a very odd DL stint for Sosa.
However, the Cubs were still in the playoff hunt near the end of the season but played horribly down the stretch and missed out on the wild card by three games, leading to frustration that ended with Sosa walking out on the team during the final game of the year, thus ending his run with the North Siders.
Sammy Sosa missed 30 games after a sneeze put him on the disabled list
Ahead of a May 2004 game against the San Diego Padres, Sammy Sosa was scratched from the lineup with back spasms, which didn’t immediately seem like a big deal. But just a couple of days later, ahead of a matchup with fellow slugger Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants, it was revealed that Sosa had actually sprained a ligament in his back. The cause? Two violent sneezes. Yes, Sammy Sosa once went on the disabled list because he sneezed too hard.
What’s funny is that he wasn’t the first person to whom this happened. The year before, two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez had hurt his back the same way. In 1985, Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage did the same. Naturally embarrassed by the situation, Sosa told reporters that he wishes he would have just run into a wall or gotten into a fight to explain the injury. Sosa would miss 30 games. The Cubs went 16-14 in his absence.
He had his worst season in years
Sammy Sosa certainly didn’t have the type of season he’d become accustomed to in 2004. While it would have been almost impossible to keep duplicating the years he had from 1998-2003, it was clear that he simply wasn’t the same player and wasn’t displaying the same type of desire he had in years past.
In 126 games in 2004, Sosa had a batting average of .253, his worst since 1997. He hit 35 home runs, his lowest total since that same ’97 season, and he failed to hit triple digits in runs batted in (80) for the first time since 1994. After returning from the DL following the sneeze heard ’round the world, he had a dismal slash line of .238/.311/.438 and struck out 98 times.
Sammy Sosa walked out on the Cubs on the final day of the season, so his teammates smashed his boombox
The Chicago Cubs lost seven of their final nine games in 2004, essentially eliminating themselves from the playoffs with abysmal play. Highly frustrated, Sammy Sosa was given the last game of the season off but didn’t even stick around to watch the game.
Sosa has long claimed that Cubs manager Dusty Baker permitted him to bolt, but regardless of whether that’s true, he ditched his teammates. But that did give at least one teammate the chance to do something that apparently everyone wanted to do during that crazy season: smash Sammy Sosa’s boombox.
Apparently, before every single game in which he was involved that season, Sammy Sosa played the same salsa CD, annoying the rest of his Cubs teammates. After Sosa took off on that last day, somebody (nobody knows exactly who did it) took a bat to the boombox on which he played said CD, completely destroying it.
Sammy Sosa never played for the Chicago Cubs again.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference