'This is my new house'

Love the one you're with

February 03, 2005|By Laura Vecsey

OH, THAT Sammy Sosa! He's just a love machine. He don't wanna work for nobody but ... Peter Angelos.

For nobody but the Orioles.

For nobody but you, the fan, whose love and cheers Sosa so missed in his death spiral from the lofty perch of Mr. Cub Part II to Hindenburg!

"I'm here in Baltimore, and I'm going to win the crowd," Sosa promised.

Kiss, kiss. Blow, blow. Thump, thump.

And when he smiles for the camera, he knows they're going to love him.

Or so Sosa promises. Hopes. As do the Orioles, whose season-ticket sales have already experienced the kind of bounce that Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers could not deliver.

"He casts a long shadow, so playing in the same place the past 13 years and been so popular, to have spent a long time in one place and been a star 99.9 percent of the time, that says something," Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan said.

"We've done our homework. He's a hungry person, out to prove something. We're very happy to have the deal complete," Flanagan said.

It was a night the world bid sayonara to Slammin' Sammy and said hello to Camden Sammy.

Camden Sammy because Sosa, officially gone from the ivy-covered brick of Wrigleyville, now calls Camden Yards "My House."

And he marked the occasion last night in his Baltimore inaugural like a politician delivering a State of the Sosa speech - equal parts subterfuge and good-natured grandiosity, delivered in the concise, simple language of a man whose image requires no degree in psychology to understand.

Fresh start. What's done is done. I love the Chicago fans. Time to move on. Here to be a teammate. There's no "I" in Sammy. Lots of baseball left. Best is yet to come. Just want to be happy.

It was a good day for speeches that outlined career achievements, ideals, goals.

Oddly, George W. Bush is the former Texas Rangers owner who traded Sosa to the Chicago White Sox 15 1/2 years ago. Two hours later and 40 miles down the road in D.C. last night, the president gave his State of the Union address.

Talk about Sammy and the Orioles having to compete against D.C.

No word from Sosa last night on Social Security, although the slugger seemed far more sociable and a heck of a lot more secure than he did the last time he was on American soil - which clubhouse cameras at Wrigley reveal wasn't for as long as Sosa said.

"All my problems I had in Chicago, it's in the past. What happened, happened. I don't regret it," he said.

"I just say to myself I'm a pride person. I believe it was best for me to leave."

The Chicago media kept trying to dig, but what was the point? Sosa issued no apology.

The beauty of this being Baltimore and not Chicago is that we don't have to sit around and rehash what exactly did go so rotten for Sosa, ever since the corked bat and the dust-ups with Cubs manager Dusty Baker and why it is he left the ballpark before the season finale was complete.

"We are all smart guys. We know it was time to move on," said Sosa, adamant about keeping it simple, light, on point.

"Thirteen years, day after day, I was working hard," he said.

"Like [ESPN baseball analyst] Tim Kurkjian said: I'm not going to be happy if I go back," he said.

"It's going to be a beautiful year. I'm happy. I'm hungry. It's going to be a good year."

One in which Sosa needs but 26 homers to reach 600 - a plateau that will put Sosa and Baltimore in the middle of baseball's never-ending home run story. So Sosa gave his props to Babe Ruth, whose statue at the gates at Eutaw Street seems an open invitation for someone else besides Barry Bonds to take aim at 700 homers.

Three good years - or three average Sosa years - could get Sosa there, maybe while he's here, because Angelos is eager to extend Sosa and Sosa let it slip that he'd like to finish his career here.

A contract extension for Sosa could be resolved as soon as Major League Baseball gives Angelos the settlement terms he seeks for having to share the region with the Nationals.

Babe Ruth, Peter Angelos and Sammy Sosa: Talk about a holy trinity of major league power if ever there was one. Sosa beamed and continued to say all the things a man must say when he has a new leaf to turn over.

"That's the Babe. He's the man, in my heart. This is his land," Sosa said.

Baltimore, the land of the Orioles, who still need a first baseman and a center fielder and a front-line pitcher but, hey, the Cubs wanted Sosa gone more than Sosa wanted to be gone.

When a baseball franchise is lucky enough to score a future Hall of Fame slugger for the price of mid-level exception (whoops, that's NBA cap talk), it's impossible not to feel the rush of, to quote the Rev. Al Green: Love and happiness.

But mostly love. And adoration. And cheers. And ovations.

Welcome to Happy City.

Birthplace of Babe Ruth. Rebirth place of Sammy Sosa.

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