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Eight-game suspension for Sosa was excessive!

BOB'N'ALONG by Bob Stealey

EDITOR

Several years back, it was George Brett of the Kansas City Royals who was tossed from a ball game by umpires who found an abundance of pine tar applied to his bat.

In 2003, it's the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa -- he's the only Major League Baseball player in history to hit 60 or more homers in three seasons -- who is hearing it from big league baseball officials, other players and fans about his using a "corked" bat in a game last Tuesday night.

On Friday, Sosa was suspended for eight games by the majors for using the corked bat, and immediately, he appealed the decision. To my way of thinking, in sports events, participants are supposed to follow the rules, but eight games just seems too harsh for a good-natured player like Sammy. Certainly I don't blame him for appealing the ruling.

The circumstances, I feel, had pointed in Sosa's favor. Sure, there likely wouldn't have been a to-do over it at all if the bat he'd been using hadn't shattered, baring a piece of cork just above the handle ... or if he'd picked a cork-free bat. To me, it was an honest mistake on the slugger's part; he actually did come up with the wrong bat and his apology for it was genuine.

Now I don't know Sammy Sosa personally, only through having seen him on TV games and reading about him on the sports pages of the newspaper. He seems to fit the mold of a decent human being -- a rich one, but a down-to-earth guy who always gives 110 percent on the field.

At this writing, the "jury was still out" on whether he'd get to play against the New York Yankees over this weekend. He'd admitted he had a bat that was corked that he'd used often in batting practice, but didn't intend to use it in a game. Suspending him two or three games to help remind him to be extra careful with his choice of "weaponry" would have been more appropriate, I believe. But eight games? I heartily disagree.

To be sure, there are ballplayers who, from the profiles that have been "painted" of them, couldn't be trusted as far as they could be kicked. I think the big league officials should have taken the individual himself into consideration. No cork could be found in any of the other 70-some bats in Sosa's artillery. As fate would have it, he just selected the wrong bat.

n n n

Robert I. "Bob" Aaron of Cross Lanes, a good friend whom I haven't seen for several years, has received a very prestigious honor in his field, broadcast journalism, I've learned from his father, Robert S. Aaron of Bridgeport.

The National Associated Press Award for Lifetime Achievement was bestowed upon Bob recently out of quite a number contending for it. He has been employed by WCHS-TV, Channel 8, in Charleston for the past 20 years. He currently holds the position of senior reporter.

He attended Rochester University in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Before going to Charleston, he also held broadcasting jobs in Minneapolis and Cincinnati. And, according to his dad, he turned down an offer as a news producer for CNN to stay in West Virginia and work among the people.

My most sincere congratulations to Bob for his well-deserved honor.