Cubs: American Dream

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Cubs: American Dream

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American Dream 
Sammy Sosa

It was indeed the stuff that dreams are made of. The story centers around a young man from the Dominican Republic -- his background hopeless, his life impoverished. If the story doesn’t take a sharp detour, he is destined to find himself in some menial job for the rest of his life. But there is a place called America, the land of opportunity. And, after all, this guy can play baseball. He is even good enough to play in the majors where he is seen by some as the most over-rated and over paid player ever to don a pair of cleats.

But all that was before the amazing year, 1998. The year the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa went head- to-head with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McGwire in the greatest race for Homerun King that baseball fans had ever seen.

It was the year that “Slammin’ Sammy” won the hearts of fans everywhere with his dazzling smile, charm, and role model ways, as Sosa and McGwire chased Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers in a season. And though his friend and foe, Mark McGwire, eventually won the battle of these two titans, Sosa won the National League’s MVP by a landslide, capturing 30 of 32 first place votes and becoming the ninth Cubs player to win the MVP award.

And now, America’s Sports Artist, Rick Rush, has recorded this epic period of Sosa’s “American Dream” through masterful splashes of color in his inimitable style. The backdrop for this remarkable painting is venerable Wrigley Field, the essence of baseball nostalgia with its ivy-covered brick walls, original scoreboard, and “roof-top fans.” Truly, Wrigley Field stands today as a monument to a bygone era that poignantly links its glorious past with its current contemporary setting. Intimate details adorn the painting including the banners on the wall acknowledging the Cubs’ first play-off appearance in several years; the logo (circle) behind Sosa’s head (normally where the clock would be reminds us of the “timeless” Cubs’ announcer, Harry Carey, who died in 1997; the banner behind the marquee, which marks the entrance to Wrigley Field, reads, “Sammy, You’re the Man,” a tribute from his adoring “Bleacher Bums” who reside above the right field wall and the 368-foot marker; and the flags marking the left and right field foul lines bear the names and numbers of former greats, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, who together represent the power and finesse of Sosa and his ability to hammer a baseball in either direction.

The centerpiece of “American Dream” is the magnificent Sosa, frozen in time, as he became the second man to shatter Maris’ record. That feat came in the 9th inning September 9, 1998, just one day after McGwire did the same. Sosa had tied Maris’ record in the 5th inning, to set the stage for his record-breaking shot. For the day, he had chosen a natural wood-colored bat over his usual black one. Not that it would have mattered because the young man from the Dominican Republic had set his sights on what many felt was an unattainable goal. But, then again, this was no ordinary place or person. This was America, this was Wrigley Field, and this was Sammy Sosa. Together they would realize the “American Dream.”