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Tuesday, June 3
Updated: June 4, 9:07 PM ET
Torre says Sosa incident is 'unfortunate for the game'

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were quick to rally around Sammy Sosa, saying one unfortunate incident shouldn't tarnish his spectacular career.

But others around the major leagues weren't so charitable, saying the slugger's use of a corked bat Tuesday night will taint the entire game.

"Sammy's sad about it. He came in here and thought he let everybody down,'' said Lenny Harris, one of Sosa's closest friends on the Cubs.

"The guy's got like four, 500 bats in his locker. So he pulls one out and, unfortunately, it was that one,'' Harris added. "He admitted he made a mistake, and he's going to have to put up with what needs to be done.''

Cork was discovered in the handle of Sosa's bat when it shattered in the first inning Tuesday night. The bat was confiscated, and Sosa was immediately ejected.

Cork inside a wooden bat is thought to help players hit the ball farther and is against baseball rules. Several players have been caught using altered bats in the past, including Albert Belle, Wilton Guerrero, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher and Graig Nettles. All were suspended.

But Sosa is a far bigger star, 17th on the career list with 505 homers, and he gained international prominence in 1998 during his home-run battle with Mark McGwire.

Sosa admitted his bat was corked, but said it was mistake. He accidentally pulled out a bat he uses for batting practice -- a bat he says is corked so he can put on a show for fans.

"Deep down in my heart I truly believe Sammy didn't know that was in there,'' Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "But I just hope that this event, whatever it was, doesn't tarnish his career or take away all that Sammy Sosa's done. For baseball and for Chicago.''

Sosa met with the media immediately after the game, and many of his teammates watched his news conference to hear his explanation. He then came into the clubhouse to apologize, Harris said.

"Yeah, I believe him. You can only believe a man until he's proven wrong,'' Baker said. "In our society, you're supposed to be innocent until you're proven guilty. But things have gone the other way. You've got to prove your own innocence, it seems like. Seems like guys are guilty no matter what.''

Security confiscated the corked bat so it could be turned over to major league baseball. Sosa said security officials also took the rest of his bats -- filling two boxes and a canvas bat bag.

But they won't find anything illegal, he said.

"I don't really need to use that,'' he said.

But there will always be people who doubt him -- and other players -- from now on.

"Had I known there were corked bats in the bat rack, I certainly would have been using them, too. I'd have probably hit 25 home runs,'' said Arizona's Mark Grace, a former Cubs' star. "It's weird. Instead of hitting them 500 feet, he wants to hit them 550, I guess.''

And it's not just Sosa who may suffer from the fallout.

"Everyone who hits a home run now, they're going to think you're using a corked bat,'' said Atlanta's Andruw Jones, who hit a game-winning, two-run homer against Texas. "It just makes home-run hitters look bad.''

Especially Sosa.

"Unfortunately, it's a dirty mark, when you consider all he's accomplished,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It's really unfortunate for the game. Everybody's scratching their heads right now. ... It's embarrassing. He's too good of a player. It's too bad.''

But Seattle second baseman Bret Boone said Sosa's career shouldn't be judged on this one incident.

"I just hope it doesn't taint what he's done,'' Boone said. "Corked, not corked, he's got as much power as anyone in baseball. He's probably got as much power, outside Mark McGwire, as anyone in history. It's probably embarrassing for him.

"Pitchers cheat all the time. They scuff balls, use pine tar. I've never used a corked bat, not even in batting practice. If I was guaranteed I wouldn't get caught, I probably would.''

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GameNight: Former Tigers great Willie Horton recalls the humorous treatment teammates offered when Norm Cash and Gates Brown were caught corking.

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