Cubs' Sosa touches all the bases in series of New York tributes Honored slugger 'thought I was in the Dominican'

Ledee adds punch to left


October 18, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Throwing out the first pitch before Game 1 of the World Series last night was just the latest in a series of memorable events that took place for Sammy Sosa during a weekend of tributes that began Friday night with a special Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

City streets were blocked off yesterday afternoon for a parade in Sosa's honor, and the Chicago Cubs outfielder was given the Roberto Clemente humanitarian award after arriving at Yankee Stadium.

"Everywhere I go, people in America show their appreciation. It's been unbelievable," said Sosa, who captivated fans by joining Mark McGwire on a record-setting home run binge.

"It's a very, very nice country."

Friday, at a Spanish-language Mass, Cardinal John O'Connor awarded the Medal of John Paul II to Sosa and four others who have been active in the Roman Catholic Church.

Sosa said he was made to feel right at home. "New York is the second Dominican Republic," he said. "People today supported me and that's unbelievable. I thought I was in the Dominican the way they cheered for me. It made me a very happy person."

The same charm that endeared Sosa to fans this season as he hit 66 homers again came to the surface. Asked if he had spoken to McGwire by phone, as he promised to do once the playoffs began, Sosa flashed a grin and said, "I've tried to reach him, but every time I call, I call collect and he doesn't accept the charges."

The Roberto Clemente award came to Sosa at a time when he has been busy raising money through his foundation to help the victims of Hurricane Georges in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris. The storm left thousands homeless, and Sosa said he'll return there later this week.

Pettitte rejoins team

New York left-hander Andy Pettitte returned to the team after spending the last two days in Texas with his father, Tom, who had triple-bypass heart surgery.

"His dad came through the surgery fine and we're just keeping our fingers crossed," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I know Andy hasn't had much sleep here in the last couple of days, but everything seems to be going well right now."

Pettitte is scheduled to pitch Game 4 in San Diego. He'll try to rebound from a miserable outing against Cleveland in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, when he allowed four homers in 4 2/3 innings.

Ledee gets chance, key hit

Left field has been a revolving door for the Yankees throughout the postseason. Tim Raines, Chad Curtis, Shane Spencer. They've all been there, and they were all on the bench for Game 1 last night, watching rookie Ricky Ledee start his second straight game.

Ledee went 0-for-4 in Game 6 of the ALCS. He got the nod again last night, with much different results, going 2-for-3 with a two-run double.

Torre's reasons for starting Ledee weren't complicated. "Left-handed hitter, good defensive left fielder," he said.

And it's not as if Torre was removing a hot bat from the lineup to make room for Ledee, who is on the roster only because of Darryl Strawberry's colon-cancer surgery. Raines and Spencer, who hit .373 with 10 homers in 27 regular-season games, each were 1-for-10 in the ALCS, and Curtis was 0-for-4.

"If there was someone who was swinging the bat really well, I may forgo the defensive end of it. But as long as we're all trying to find the one left fielder, I might as well go with defense and a left-handed hitter against Kevin [Brown]."

Ledee's reaction to starting? "I just thought 'wow' when I heard," he said. "It's a chance of a lifetime."

Gwynn, Vaughn respond

Padres manager Bruce Bochy decided to use former Yankee Jim Leyritz as his designated hitter last night only after being convinced that hobbled outfielders Tony Gwynn and Greg Vaughn could cover enough ground.

Gwynn is bothered by a sore Achilles' tendon and Vaughn isn't at full speed because of a tender left quadriceps. But Bochy reported that "they're doing great."

They hit that way, too, combining for three home runs (two by Vaughn) in the first five innings against David Wells.

When Gwynn heard he could wind up as the DH, he said, "If I've got some pull, I'm sure I'm going to be in right field. I've earned the right to be there."

Yankees DH Chili Davis used the same tough talk when addressing the possibility of replacing Tino Martinez at first base when the series shifts to San Diego. "I am not looking forward to it right now," he said. "I am looking forward to Tino Martinez doing what he does."

The slumping first baseman did just that, with a game-winning grand slam in the Yankees' seven-run seventh inning.

In his career, Martinez was 1-for-13 in the World Series, 4-for-57 (.070) in the LCS and Series combined and 0-for-2 with a walk last night until redemption came with one swing against Padres reliever Mark Langston.

"I wanted to get a big hit eventually," Martinez said. "I knew I'd get it eventually."

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