Mr. Cub to Sosa: Come clean

By Fred Mitchell
Updated: January 26, 2010

Sammy Sosa (left) and Ernie Banks during an appearance on Opening Day in 2003.

Sammy Sosa (left) and Ernie Banks during an appearance on Opening Day in 2003.

CHICAGO — Ernie Banks celebrates a birthday this Sunday, and Mr. Cub insists “at 79, everything is fine.” But another task remains on his to-do list.

In light of Mark McGwire’s admission that he took steroids during his record-breaking home run season of 1998, Banks says he would like to assist Sammy Sosa if he wants to address allegations that he used steroids.

“If he wanted to do that, knowing that people were leaning toward thinking he was involved with steroids, I would say just what Mark McGwire did,” Banks told me. “You know, come clean with it. Explain it to them. You know he will have fans in the Dominican. Just say: ‘This is what happened.’ “Just admit it and live with it and understand it. I am sure a lot of people will forgive him.”

According to a report in the New York Times, Sosa failed a league steroid test in 2003. Sosa insisted he never has taken steroids when I questioned him about three years ago. But Sosa has yet to respond to the report that he failed the 2003 test.

The ever-optimistic Banks says he would like to see Sosa embraced by new Cubs ownership.

“I would like to see Sammy come back. Throw out the first pitch, sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game,’ you know, meet some of the players and all of that. I was dreaming about it. I always thought that the way he left here and went to his demise here was quick. The lesson from that is that fame is fleeting.”

Banks traveled to the Dominican Republic last year on behalf of the Cubs. While there, Banks tried to contact Sosa, but he was in Brazil at the time. Now Banks wants to meet with Sosa to have a heart-to-heart talk.

“That’s what my lifelong dream is,” Banks said. “Just to sit down with him and listen to him. … I know he has advisers around him and all that. But with all my experience and (over) 50 years with this team and in this city … I will just explain it to him and how the people are …

people are for you; they want to see you do well. They are forgiving people.

“We haven’t won in over 100 years, so this audience here is pretty special.”

Unlike Carlton Fisk, who blasted McGwire and others who took performance-enhancing drugs, Banks insists he has no contempt for players who cheated. Alex Rodriguez, for instance, hit 52 homers for the Rangers in 2001, breaking Banks’ major league record for a shortstop of 47 in 1958. Rodriguez admitted he was taking steroids during that period.

On Saturday, Rodriguez was honored at the New York baseball writers’ dinner.

“Postseason MVP… Wow!” Rodriguez said upon accepting the award. “What’s next, the good guy award?”

The magnanimous Banks insists A-Rod is a good guy.

“They invited me to come down there to (Arlington) Texas, and that’s my hometown (Dallas),” said Banks of the experience of seeing his record broken in 2001. “I was with A-Rod, went by his house, had lunch with him. He was very nice and I like him.”

“I was down there when the kid from Texas — Rafael Palmeiro (also a steroid user) — hit his 500th home run. I am saying this with love. I just care a lot about