10th anniversary: Sosa’s corked bat

Ten years ago today, one of the more notorious at-bats of the 21st century took place. It was one of those rare occasions when a player was caught cheating red-handed. On June 3, 2003, Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa had his bat shatter, revealing that he’d loaded it with cork, which is illegal.

June 3, 2003, was the first game in an inter-league series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Of course, heading into the game, no one knew Sosa would get busted. But he was still the main focus heading in, and not just because he was the big name on the Cubs. No, he’d had a very unusual last four weeks.

This contest was just Sosa’s third game since May 9. On that day, he took a fastball to the face that shattered his sunglasses, and he missed the next three weeks recovering.

In his return on May 30, Sosa went 0-for-4 with a trio of strikeouts. The next day, he was 1-for-7 with five whiffs. Even for Sosa, a man who led the league in strikeouts three straight seasons, that was bad. Clearly, he wasn’t himself. Sosa finally had a moderately decent day on June 1, 1-for-4 with a double, but people wanted to see him have another few games to make sure he was back.

So when Sosa came to the plate in the bottom of the first, there was plenty of curiosity about what he’d do. Well, no one expected what happened. Swinging at a pitch he would ground out on, Sosa’s bat erupted, spilling its secret of cork. The umpire immediately ejected him, and the league later gave Sosa a seven-game suspension.

The league also confiscated all 76 of his bats to test them for cork, but they all came back clean. The five bats he’d previously donated to Cooperstown also were tested and came back clean. Sosa said corking was something he’d just done recently in an attempt to get out of his post-HBP slump, and the evidence backs him up. Despite that, some wondered if Sosa had done this before anyway and if could’ve helped him amass his big homer totals.

However, there’s a dirty little secret about bat corking. Of all the methods to cheat, it’s by far the least effective. It’s the placebo pill of the under-handed world. The effects of corking a bat have been studied several times by scientists. It’s even been on an episode of Myth Busters. The results always come back the same: it doesn’t help the ball move forward. If anything, it actually hurts efforts to make a ball go a greater distance.

It’s not that Sosa is necessarily above engaging in effective cheating measures to hit home runs—but that’s a whole other issue. For now, the issue is Sosa corking his bat, something the entire world found out he did a decade ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.


1,000 days since Trevor Hoffman becomes the first player ever with 600 saves.

2,000 days since Baltimore trades Miguel Tejada to Houston for five players.

3,000 days since Congress holds steroids hearings. The star witnesses include Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa.

4,000 days since a 38-year-old woman runs on the field to argue an umpire’s call in a New York-Pennsylvania League game. She’s there with her eight-year-old daughter’s Brownie troop.

7,000 days since the first game at Jacobs Field, as it was called back then, in Cleveland.

7,000 days since Tuffy Rhodes hits three home runs on Opening Day for the 1994 Cubs.

9,000 days since Orel Hershiser throws a complete-game shutout in Game Seven of the 1988 NLCS to clinch a pennant for the Dodgers.

20,000 days since Sal Maglie appears in his last game.

20,000 days since Von Hayes is born.

25,000 days since Steve Carlton is born.

30,000 days since Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi makes his big league debut.

30,000 days since Hal Schumacher, Giants pitcher, makes his big league game.


1876 For the first time in National League history, two brothers play alongside each other, Art and Doug Allison.

1884 Pud Galvin, the game’s first 300-game winner, allows his only walk-off home run. Silver Flint, Cubs catcher, hits it for a 4-3 win over Buffalo.

1888 The first national publication of Casey at the Bat occurs. It had been published earlier, on May 18, 1888 in the San Francisco Examiner.

1895 Washington signs former star middle infielder Jack Glasscock.

1897 Boston sells first baseman Tommy Tucker to Washington for $2,000. Tucker is the game’s first notable switch-hitter, though he’s well past his prime by 1897.

1902 Mike O’Neill of the Cardinals becomes the first pitcher to smash a grand slam.

1907 Cardinals pitcher Stoney McGlynn pitches both ends of a double-header. He wins the first game against the Reds, 1-0, in a five-hitter but loses the second contest, 5-1.

1909 Star shortstop Honus Wagner hits an inside-the-park grand slam. It’s the first of four times he does so.

1918 Red Sox pitcher Dutch Leonard throws his second career no-hitter with a 5-0 win versus Detroit.

1923 The Braves lose, dropping their all-time franchise regular-season record to 3,084-3,084. They’ll stay under .500 for nearly 90 years.

1927 Harry Heilmann, Hall of Fame outfielder, gets his 2,000th hit.

1928 George Earnshaw, quality AL pitcher, makes his big league debut.

1929 Lefty Grove posts his career-best Game Score, 93. His line: 13 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, and 7 K in a complete-game victory.

1930 The Phillies release Pete Alexander, ending his wonderful career.

1932 Giants manager John McGraw announces his retirement.

1932 Lou Gehrig hits four home runs in one game. He narrowly misses a fifth, hitting one to the deepest part of Shibe Park in Philadelphia. In that same game, Tony Lazzeri hits for the cycle. The Yankees get a record 50 total bases in a 20-13 beating of the A’s.

1933 Jumbo Brown sets a record that lasts 28 years, fanning 12 in a relief appearance. He throws 6.1 innings in a 17-11 Yankees win over the A’s. Both teams score 10 in an inning. The A’s tally 11 in the top of the third, and the Yankees plate 10 in the bottom of the fifth.

1934 Hall of Fame second baseman Billy Herman’s longest hitting streak maxes at 20 games.

1934 Jim Gentile, first baseman, is born.

1937 Hall of Fame Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez has his 10th straight Quality Start, his longest such streak. He’s 6-4 with a 1.48 ERA in that span.

1938 Hall of Fame Yankee pitcher Red Ruffing has his seventh consecutive Quality Start, his longest streak. He’s 7-0 with an ERA of 1.00 in that period.

1939 Steve Dalkowski, reputedly the fastest pitcher of all time, but a man who never got out of the minors, is born.

1944 9,171 fans at the Polo Grounds at a Giants-Pirates game gets word that the invasion of Europe had begun. This is incorrect.

1945 Browns pitcher Tex Shirley throws 13 innings, but the game ends in a tie, so he doesn’t get the win.

1945 Stan Hack is hit by a pitch for the first time in four years and two days. That’s 531 games and 2,409 plate appearances without a hit-by-pitch.

1946 The A’s release veteran pitcher Bobo Newsom.

1952 The Red Sox trade Walt Dropo, Johnny Pesky, and Bill Wight to the Tigers for four players, most notably Dizzy Trout and Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell.

1953 Mickey Mantle draws a pair of bases-loaded walks, both coming from the same pitcher, Joe Dobson, in the second and the fourth innings.

1954 Giants hitter Hank Thompson has a great day, belting three home runs and driving in eight runs.

1954 Red Schoendienst legs out two triples in one game.

1956 Hall of Fame center fielder Richie Ashburn has his only five-hit game.

1958 The Giants sign amateur free agent Gaylord Perry.

1958 Los Angeles voters approve the purchase of Chavez Ravine by the Dodgers by a vote of 345,345 to 321,142.

1960 Steve Lyons, utility player, is born.

1964 Shortstop Luis Aparicio steals a base in a fifth straight game, his longest streak.

1964 The Dodgers top the Phillies, 1-0 in 11 innings, with the only run coming on a walk-off error.

1965 Bill Hands, pitcher, makes his big league debut.

1966 Gene Mauch manages his 1,000th game. His career record is 476-522.

1966 Star first baseman Orlando Cepeda hits into three double plays in one game in maybe the worst game of his career.

1967 Juan Marichal surrenders 13 hits, but they’re all singles, so he wins easily, 11-2 over the Mets.

1968 Diminutive shortstop Freddie Patek is born.

1969 The Expos trades Mudcat Grant to the Cardinals.

1970 Jakie May, 1920s NL swingman pitcher, dies at age 74.

1971 Carl Everett, slugger and dinosaur denier, is born.

1971 Ken Holtzman no-hits the Reds, 1-0. It’s his second no-hitter.

1972 Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk hits two triples in one game.

1972 Johnny Bench homers in his fifth straight game. He is 11-for-24 with a double in that stretch.

1973 Chan Ho Park, pitcher, is born.

1975 It’s draft day in the majors. Among the prominent players selected today are Lee Smith (Cubs), Bruce Bochy (Astros), Carney Lansford (Angels), Andre Dawson (Expos), Willie Upshaw (Yankees), Glenn Hubbard (Braves), Dodgers (Dave Stewart), Lou Whitaker (Tigers), and Keith Moreland (Phillies). Those guys all sign, but some guys picked today won’t sign at this time, including Braves pick Bob Horner and Mets picks John Tudor and Charlie Lea.

1975 Hank Aaron gets his 3,631st career hit, passing up Stan Musial for second place all time.

1977 Royals catcher John Wathan hits into a walk-off triple play versus Tippy Martinez of the Orioles.

1977 Travis Hafner, slugger, is born.

1978 Davey Johnson smacks his second pinch-hit grand slam of the year. No one had ever done that before.

1980 Draft day highlights include Tom Henke (Blue Jays), Joe Orsulak (Pirates), Eric Davis (Reds), Oil Can Boyd (Red Sox), Darren Daulton (Phillies), Rick Aguilera (Cardinals), Darryl Strawberry (Mets), Harold Reynolds (Mariners), Kelly Gruber (Indians), Dennis Rasmussen (Angels), Terry Francona (Expos), Billy Beane (Mets), and Danny Tartabull (Reds). The most notable players taken who won’t sign at this time include Dan Plesac (Cardinals), Calvin Schiraldi (White Sox), Danny Jackson (A’s), Chris Sabo (Expos), Walt Terrell (Rangers), and Doug Drabek and Terry Steinbach (both Indians).

1981 Graig Nettles hits his seventh and final career walk-off home run.

1982 Ken Reitz, infielder, appears in his final game.

1985 Draft day highlights include Mark Grace and Rafael Palmeiro (Cubs), B.J. Surhoff (Brewers), Will Clark (Giants), Todd Stottlemyre (Blue Jays), Bobby Witt (Rangers), Reds (Barry Larkin), Pete Incaviglia and Randy Johnson (Expos), Walt Weiss (A’s), Brian McRae (Royals), Craig Jeffreies (Mets), David Justice (Braves), Bobby Thigpen (White Sox), Brady Anderson (Red Sox), and John Smoltz (Tigers). Among those who wouldn’t sign are Tino Martinez (Red Sox), Kevin Brown (Phillies), Greg Vaughn (Angels), Deion Sanders (Royals), Kevin Tapani (Cubs), and Bo Jackson (Angels).

1988 The Indians trade Pat Tabler to the Royals for Bud Black.

1988 The Dodgers get 22 hits, but none for extra bases, in a 15-3 win over the Reds. That’s the highest number of hits that are only singles in a game since the deadball era.

1989 Harold Reynolds gets a leadoff single in the first against Nolan Ryan, and that’s the only hit Ryan gives up all day. He walks two and fans 11 in a complete-game one-hitter.

1989 Houston tops the Dodgers, 5-4, in a 22-innning marathon. Houston throws 218 strikes, the most known strikes in one game by a team. The Astros throw 335 pitches in all. Orel Hershiser tosses seven innings in relief, the 14th through 20th innings, without allowing a run.

1991 Once again, it’s draft day. Here are the guys drafted who would sign: Scott Hatteberg and Aaron Sele (Red Sox), Todd Hollandsworth (Dodgers), Terry Adams and Steve Trachsel (Cubs), Paul Byrd (Indians), LaTroy Hawkins, Matt Lawton and Brad Radke (Twins), Tony Womack (Pirates), Derek Lowe and Sean Estes (Mariners), Mark Grudzielanek, Cliff Floyd and Kirk Reuter (Expos), Joe Randa and Mike Sweeney (Royals), Jeff Cirillo and Mike Matheny (Brewers), Dmitri Young (Cardinals), Jason Schmidt (Braves), Jason Isringhausen (Mets), Sean Green (Blue Jays), Pokey Reese (Reds), and Mike Cameron (White Sox). Guys drafted who didn’t sign at this time include Nomar Garciaparra (Brewers), Jon Lieber (Cubs), Bobby Higginson (Phillies), Ryan Franklin (Blue Jays), Aaron Boone (Angels), and Todd Walker (Rangers).

1993 The Angels release third baseman Gary Gaetti, who will last several more years anyway.

1993 Draft day! These guys signed with the teams who drafted them today: John Rocker and Jermaine Dye (Braves), Richie Sexson (Indians), Bill Mueller (Giants), Derrek Lee, Matt Clement and Gary Mathews Jr. (Padres), Kevin Millwood (Braves), Mark Loretta (Brewers), Scott Spiezio (A’s), Paul Lo Duca (Dodgers), Alex Rodriguez (Mariners), Billy Wagner (Astros), Chris Carpenter (Blue Jays), Torii Hunter (Twins), Scott Rolen (Phillies), and Jeff Suppan (Red Sox). Those who don’t sign include Jason Varitek (Twins), Keith Foulke (Tigers), Jacque Jones (Royals), Bob Howry (Marlins) and Placido Polanco (White Sox).

1995 Pedro Martinez pitches a perfect game through nine innings, but it goes into extra frames tied, 0-0. The first batter in the 10th hits a leadoff double against him.

1996 Houston releases Greg Swindell, marking an effective end to his days as a starting pitcher.

1997 Draft day highlights include Troy Glaus (Angels), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays), Jon Garland (Cubs), Lance Berkman (Astros), Adam Kennedy (Cardinals), Randy Wolf (Phillies), Chone Figgins (Rockies), Tim Hudson (A’s), Joel Pineiro (Mariners), and Orlando Hudson (Blue Jays). The big news is that the Phillies select J.D. Drew with the No. 1 pick overall, but he refuses to sign unless he gets a record payday. He’ll sign with the Cardinals next year. The Dodgers draft Chase Utley and are unable to sign him, as well.

1998 Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez makes his big league debut.

2002 For the second time in three days, Sammy Sosa strikes out to end a Cubs game.

2003 The Yankees name Derek Jeter the 11th team captain in franchise history.

2003 Another year, another draft day. Highlights include Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Sean Marshall (Cubs), Brian Bannister (Mets), Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley (Dodgers), Andre Ethier (A’s), Nick Markakis (Orioles), John Danks (Rangers), Carlos Quentin (Diamondbacks), Delmon Young (Rays), and Rickie Weeks (Brewers).

2004 45-year-old Julio Franco becomes the oldest player to hit a grand slam.

2004 Yadier Molina makes his big league debut.

2004 Tampa selects Jose Bautista off waivers from the Orioles. Neither squad will have him for his surprising prime.

2006 Damion Easley of Arizona hits three home runs in one game.

2006 Terry Mulholland appears in his last game.

2007 The Tigers release what’s left of Jose Lima.

2007 Steve Finley aged better than anyone ever expected, but today marks the end. It’s his last game.

2007 The Mets release Chan Ho Park.

2008 Randy Johnson passes Roger Clemens for second place on the all-time strikeout list with 4,673.

2009 The Braves release longtime ace Tom Glavine.

2009 The Pirates trade Nate McLouth to the Braves for prospects.

2009 Ichiro Suzuki’s longest hitting streak reaches 27 games. He’s 47-for-118 with eight doubles and three homers (and just six walks).

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9 years ago

I thought he used the corked bat only for BP, but picked up the wrong one for the game.  You have a different slant.  I would have thought a corked bat would allow you to swing harder/faster, not necessarily hit the ball further.  Thanks for all the scientific information.  Appreciate it.

Jerry Esses
9 years ago

I believe today was Fred Patek’s first game, not his birthday. You guys really need a proofreader