Today's final athlete run-in story is about the late, great Sammy Sosa. Wait, Sammy Sosa isn't dead, you say? Well, you could of fooled us; the guy is a couple of tattoes and a miniskirt away from Rodman country. (Yesterday he begged baseball media to pay attention to him by saying he's going to sign with a "surprise team.") Anyway, this story comes to us from Charlie in Alabama, from back when Sammy was beloved, a nice fan-friendly fellow and, of course, totally not on steroids.
In 1993, I was staying at the team hotel and had a run-in with several Chicago Cubs players in San Diego. At the time, I was 8 years old. Three players stuck out on this trip: Willie Wilson, Sammy Sosa and Turk Wendell. I approached Willie Wilson and asked him for his autograph in the lobby; he stared at me for a minute and said, "Sorry kid, I don't sign autographs." My dad was pissed that a professional athelete would say that to an eight-year-old kid and mumbled something to Willie about how much he sucked.
A few feet away stood Sammy Sosa, who at the time was virtually unknown. Apparently observing what had just taken place, Sammy walked over to me and asked me for my autograph. I was sort of surprised and didn't really know what to do, so I nervously gave it to him on a piece of paper he was holding. Sammy started chuckling and said "hang on a couple of minutes kid, I will be right back - stay down here for a minute." Ten minutes later, Sammy came back down the elevator with several other Cubs players, including pitchers Jim Bullinger and Turk Wendell. These guys sat down on some couches in the lobby and proceeded to talk with my dad and me for several minutes, and of course they all gave me autographs.
The next day, my dad and I attended the Padres game, and Turk Wendell happened to pitch for the Cubs. The following morning Turk was pictured on the front of the San Diego sports page jumping over the baseline, as he was always known to do. I spotted Turk in the hotel lobby and approached him with the newspaper. Turk said to me, "Hey look at that, its me! Kid, can I keep this?" Thrilled that I could actually give something to a professional athlete, I told him yes, but before I walked away, Turk reached into his pocket and pulled out a $5 bill and told me to go buy myself a new newspaper and to come find him and he would autograph it. Long story short, I still have the autographed newspaper by Turk Wendell, and the autographed baseball by Sammy Sosa and Jim Bullinger.
A story where Sammy Sosa is a nice guy, and a Turk Wendell sighting to boot. Tough to beat that.