CHICAGO -- As the Chicago Cubs took their places in the field for the seventh inning yesterday afternoon at Wrigley Field, they were a one-man team. When Sammy Sosa jogged out to right field, his teammates stayed in the dugout, allowing him the entire spotlight as the fans chanted, "Sammy! Sammy!"
Sosa had just become the first player in major-league history to hit 60 home runs twice, leading off the bottom of the sixth with a blast to center field. He hit 66 last season. Only three other major-league players have ever reached 60: Mark McGwire, who hit 70 last year; Roger Maris, who hit 61 in 1961; and Babe Ruth, who hit 60 in 1927.
And now Sosa has done it twice.
"Nobody was thinking I would have an opportunity, Mark and I, to do this again," Sosa said after the Cubs' 7-4 loss in 14 innings.
He added, "It made me proud of myself; of all the players to play this game, I'm the first to do it."
McGwire may yet get to 60 home runs again this season; he has 56 with 13 games to play. The feat was nearly accomplished another time by Ruth (59 in 1921) and by McGwire (58 in 1997).
Sosa's 60th came after he had gone seven games and 33 at-bats without a homer. He hit it on a 2-2 pitch, a split-finger fastball on the outside corner from Jason Bere, a 28-year-old right-hander for the Milwaukee Brewers. It landed an estimated 400 feet away, a line drive into the wire basket just beyond the brick and ivy in center field.
Sosa hopped in exultation as soon as he hit the ball and as he rounded first base he pointed to the heavens "because I believe in God and He gave an opportunity to come to this country." His mother, brothers, wife and children -- including his son Michael, celebrating his second birthday -- exulted in the stands.
Sosa was hugged by his teammates. He doused himself with water in the dugout, held up a sign that said, "I love you Dominican Republic," and smiled as though the weight of McGwire and Ruth had been removed from his shoulders.
The crowd of 39,304 demanded a curtain call, and Sosa obliged by blowing kisses and doffing his blue cap. "Play it again, Sammy," said one sign.
No one caught the ball, which landed just short of the juniper bushes in dead center field. A Cubs employee retrieved the ball for Sosa, who said he would keep it for his trophy room and not send it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. "I gave them everything I had last year," he said.
Sosa has picked on Brewers pitchers the past two seasons, hitting 17 of his 126 home runs against them.