It was tough to tell who was more relieved.
Sosa hit his 500th career homer in the seventh inning Friday
night, but the Reds hit three homers of their own for their first
victory in their new ballpark, 10-9 over the Chicago Cubs.
Then, they all took a deep breath.
"It's great because I don't have to think about it anymore,"
said Sosa, who became the 18th player to reach 500. "I don't have
to go up there every at-bat thinking of hitting the ball out of the
And the Reds don't have to fret about how they can't seem to win
in Great American Ball Park, where they lost two exhibitions to
Cleveland and got swept by Pittsburgh in their opening three-game
They blew a 7-0 lead on Friday, leaving the crowd in a surly
mood after Lenny Harris' two-run homer tied it in the eighth. Barry
Larkin's RBI single off Dave Veres (0-1) in the bottom of the
inning provided the winning run.
"That was tough," said Larkin, who had three hits. "There was
a lot going on out there. Sammy got his 500th, and it didn't beat
us. He got his 500th and we got our first win here, and I played a
part in all of it, so that's huge."
Sosa provided the Reds with a housewarming gift -- the first
historic homer in the new park.
His solo shot off reliever Scott Sullivan in the seventh landed
in the right-field seats and touched off one of the loudest
ovations in the park's short history.
Sosa made his trademark home run hop as soon as the ball left
the bat, then put his head down and circled the bases to a standing
ovation. He pointed both index fingers to the sky when he stepped
on home, then came out for a curtain call as the 29,048 fans kept
"When I made contact, I knew the ball was gone and I'm like,
'Wow, I got it,'" Sosa said. "When I went to the plate, I pointed
to the sky to show my respect to God."
His wife, mother, brother and four close family friends
accompanied him from New York, where he failed to hit one in three
games against the Mets. They embraced as Sosa circled the bases.
The 34-year-old outfielder reached the mark with one of the
greatest home run surges in history. He raced Mark McGwire to the
single-season home run record in 1998, finishing second with 66
while Big Mac hit 70.
Sosa kept on going, hitting 63 homers the next year and 64 in
2001. He has 293 homers in the last six years, putting him among
the game's elite sluggers.
The sudden and sustained burst made Sosa only the fifth player
to reach 500 homers before his 35th birthday. Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron
and Willie Mays also were 34, and Jimmie Foxx was 32 years old.
"It was a special moment," Reds manager Bob Boone said. "It's
too bad he couldn't have done it in Chicago against somebody
Like Aaron, Sosa also delivered one of his milestone homers in
Cincinnati, the home of baseball's first professional team.
Aaron hit the first homer at Riverfront Stadium when it opened
in 1970. He also hit the most historic homer in the stadium's
history, tying Ruth at No. 714 in the season opener on April 4,
Exactly 29 years later, Sosa hit another record-book homer in a
new ballpark that's quickly gotten a reputation as a hitter's
haven. Eighteen homers have been hit in the first four games.
The Reds were feeling pressure to get the breakthrough win. Dunn
got them relaxed with his solo homer in the second off Shawn Estes.
Wisps of white smoke drifted from the home run smokestacks in
center, and "The Boys Are Back In Town" played over the sound
system as he circled the bases.
Before long, the tension was back as well.
Boone's two-run homer touched off a six-run third inning that
made it 7-0. Sosa's homer cut it to 8-7 in the seventh, but Kearns
added a solo shot in the bottom of the inning.
The crowd booed and jeered when Harris hit a two-run homer off
John Riedling that tied it at 9 in the eighth inning. Scott
Williamson (1-0) struck out Sosa and Choi to end the rally, then
stayed and pitched the ninth.
The Cubs now have played in 103 major league parks since
1876. They'll also make their first visits to SkyDome, Camden Yards
and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan this season. ... Cubs
reliever Juan Cruz struck out the first two batters he faced,
setting a club record. He also fanned six Mets in the opener,
giving him a streak of eight consecutive strikeouts. The previous
record was seven. ... Sosa has homered in 38 ballparks off 303