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Baseball says Sosa's bats are legal

  |   June 4, 2003 at 7:13 PM
CHICAGO, June 4 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball announced Wednesday no evidence had been found to suggest Chicago Cubs superstar Sammy Sosa had a collection of corked bats at his disposal, thus reducing the liklihood he would face major punishment for using an illegal bat Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, Sosa likely faces some length of suspension for making what he admitted was a mistake during an interleague game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The only player to hit 60 or more homers in a season three times, Sosa was ejected by home plate umpire and crew chief Tim McClelland in the first inning Tuesday night when his run-scoring groundout to second resulted in a broken bat. Cork was found inside the bat.

McClelland ruled Sosa out on the play, costing the Cubs a run, and Sosa was immediately ejected.

"I want to apologize first to my teammates, the fans, the commissioner of baseball and major league baseball," Sosa said after the game. "I just took the wrong bat and went up there. I used the bat for batting practice. I never used the bat in the game."

Major League Baseball officials collected 76 of Sosa's bats and tested them Wednesday.

Following those tests, executive vice president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson said none of the bats were found to be illegal.

"The X-rays came up negative and we're very confident that all of the bats were clean and had no foreign substances," Alderson said.

It is now up to Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president for on-field discipline, to determine the number of games Sosa must sit out.

Wilton Guerrero received an eight-game suspension for a corked-bat incident in 1997 and was fined $1,000. Billy Hatcher also was suspended eight games and Albert Belle and Chris Sabo each served seven-game bans for similar violations.

Among the greatest power hitters ever with 505 career homers, Sosa has been dogged by questions regarding steroids and performance enhancers. He has vehemently denied those accusations.

Sosa, 34, hit the 500th homer of his career on April 4. The third-youngest player in history to reach the plateau, behind only Jimmie Foxx and Willie Mays, Sosa is the first Latin player to accomplish the feat.

Sosa said he only uses a corked bat in batting practice to entertain the fans.

"Batting practice is a show for the fans and I like to put on a show," Sosa said. "I just picked the wrong bat heading to the plate.

"People right now will think what they want. I have broken a lot of bats in my life and never had anything like this happen."

After Tuesday night's game, infielder Lenny Harris tried to be optimistic.

"We lost our best player, and hopefully he's not gone too long," Harris told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I hope (the penalty) is light and not too heavy because we need him. (Corked bats for batting practice) are everywhere, to be honest. I told him to just deal with it and get your life back together."

McClelland admitted he was concerned about lasting fallout.

"With all the great things that Sammy has done for baseball, that ran through my mind," McClelland told the newspaper. "I said that to the crew, the ramifications of what is going to happen. I didn't want to do it, but there are rules. He had to be ejected."

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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