|Wednesday, June 4
Updated: June 5, 12:38 PM ET
Seventy-six Sosa bats found to be clean
ESPN.com news services
CHICAGO -- No cork or other foreign material was found in any of the 76 bats confiscated from Sammy Sosa's locker and X-rayed by baseball officials.
The bats were taken from the Chicago Cubs' locker room during the game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Tuesday night. Cork was found in Sosa's bat when it shattered after he grounded out in the first inning of the Cubs' 3-2 victory.
"We believe the X-ray process was sufficient to determine the state of those bats, and we're very confident all of those bats were clean and had no foreign substances within them," Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, said Wednesday.
"We're happy with that, and that is consistent with Sammy's explanation of the incident last night."
Alderson said security personnel took Sosa's bats "several innings" after the cork was discovered. Alderson said he was confident all of Sosa's bats were impounded.
There is a possibility that Sosa's bats in the Hall of Fame could be examined, Alderson added. The Hall has five of Sosa's bats, including the one he presented in mid-April, more than a week after he hit his 500th home run.
An embarrassed Sosa apologized after Tuesday's game. Sosa admitted he let down many of his fans with what he claimed was an honest mistake. He was in the lineup for Wednesday night's game against Tampa Bay.
"I stood up yesterday like a man and took the blame," Sosa said. "But the media today, they've got me up there like I'm a criminal."
A decision on how long Sosa is suspended could come as early as Thursday. Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent says Sosa should be handed a 30-day suspension.
"Baseball needs to come down hard on Sammy," Vincent told ESPN Radio on Wednesday, appearing on GameNight with Chris Moore and Joe D'Ambrosio. "I would say an appropriate suspension is 30 days. I would hope Bud (Selig) would treat him and this incident pretty seriously, you really have to send a message here.
"You have to be pretty stupid to cork your bat in today's game, if the bat splits in two they'll see the cork and guys can't risk getting suspended, and that's exactly what happened to Sammy."
How can one of the game's foremost power hitters repair his reputation or silence the doubters?
"It's going to be tough. Some fans are probably not too happy about it," Sosa said. "I've got to deal with that. ... I know that I lost the fans and they have been great to me. It's a mistake, and I take the blame for it."
Sosa's stunning ejection came early in the Cubs' game Tuesday night. His bat sheared in half when he hit a ground ball to second in the first inning of a 3-2 interleague victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Umpire crew chief Tim McClelland, who was working the plate, said he spotted the cork after Tampa Bay catcher Toby Hall flipped the part containing the handle at his feet.
Sosa claimed the bat that shattered and contained cork was one he uses to put on home run displays in batting practice.
"Just to put on a show for the fans. I like to make people happy and I do that in batting practice," he said.
"I was just trying to get ready and go out there and get ready for the game, and I just picked the wrong bat. I feel sorry. I just apologize to everybody."
Sosa, who gained national prominence in 1998 during his home-run race with Mark McGwire, apologized to fans, teammates and commissioner Bud Selig.
But how much will this tarnish Sosa's accomplishments?
He is No. 17 on the all-time list with 505 homers. And in a five-year stretch from 1998-2002, Sosa hit an almost mind-boggling 292 home runs.
Sosa has the most 60-homer seasons in major league history, hitting 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001.
"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."
The Cubs had runners at second and third when Sosa broke his bat with a grounder that at first appeared to drive in a run.
McClelland gathered with the other three umpires to examine the handle area of the bat. Baker came out and the umpires showed what was left of the bat to him.
Mark Grudzielanek was sent back to third base, the run was wiped off the board and Sosa was ejected as he stood in the dugout.
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 none had Sosa's credentials.
Umpires initially took part of the corked bat into the Cubs' dugout and down the runway toward their clubhouse before security came and took it away about an inning later, McClelland said.
McClelland said he wasn't sure what happened to the other part of the bat that was split away and landed between third and shortstop. But he said a batboy may have picked it up and took it to the dugout, or it may have been tossed into the stands.
McClelland also was the umpire who took away a home run from Kansas City's George Brett in 1983 because of excessive pine tar, a decision later reversed by AL president Lee MacPhail.
The umpire said the cork in Sosa's was clearly visible.
"I turned it over and there was a small, probably half-dollar size piece of cork in the bat right about halfway down the barrel head, I guess," he said. "It was notched in there. I felt it, and it obviously was cork, so I called the crew together. It was reminiscent of what happened about 20 years ago with me."
Sosa's bat immediately became a big topic around the major leagues.
"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."
Sosa just came off the disabled Friday after having the nail taken off his big right toe and missing 17 games.
Entering Tuesday, he was just 2-for-15 in his three games since coming off the DL, including one five-strikeout game in which he also had the game-winning single against Houston.
"I just hope it doesn't taint what he's done," Seattle second baseman Bret 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."
Sosa, a six-time All-Star who reached 500 career homers earlier this season, hasn't homered since May 1 and his power numbers have dropped drastically since he was beaned April 20 by the Pirates' Salomon Torres. He has just six homers this season and 24 RBI, while batting .283.
Chicago won Tuesday's game in the ninth when Al Levine (2-2) threw a wild pitch that allowed Troy O'Leary, who had replaced Sosa, to score from third.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.