04/05/2003 1:35 AM ET
Reds a part of history
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- From the Reds' perspective, Friday was a perfect evening.
"We were a part of history tonight," said Barry Larkin, whose eighth-inning RBI single broke a 9-9 tie and gave the Reds a 10-9 victory over Sosa's Chicago Cubs. "Sammy hit his 500th, and he didn't beat us."
Yet Sosa commands so much respect among his peers that had the Reds lost, they probably would have lavished the Chicago slugger with the same praise that they heaped upon him after their first victory of the year.
Reds manager Bob Boone said he completely understood why the 29,048 fans at Great American Ball Park, most of whom were Cincinnati partisans, saluted Sosa with a prolonged standing ovation after he connected in the seventh inning off reliever Scott Sullivan.
"That's a special moment," Boone said. "It's too bad he couldn't have done it in Chicago ... He's a special person, too. He's really a tribute to the game, with how he works. He's a pro."
Boone expressed admiration for Sosa's steady improvement over his 14-year career.
"He really has made himself into a great player," Boone said. "This was a kid who was kind of a wild swinger, strikeout-prone."
Indeed, Sosa displayed his polish while hitting his milestone homer. Sullivan, a seven-year veteran with a deceptive sidearmed delivery, forged ahead on the count, 1-2, as he threw two fastballs and a slider.
When Sosa got another fastball, he knew what to do with it.
"Good hitters make adjustments," Sullivan said. "That's what he has done over the last couple of years and through his whole career."
Sullivan won't lose sleep over the pitch Sosa clouted.
"It wasn't a terrible pitch," he said. "The thing about it is, a hitter like Sammy can hit good pitches out. What makes Sammy unique is that most power hitters want the ball up and Sammy's a low-ball hitter. What makes him extra special is that (a pitch) doesn't have to be on the inner third or in the middle of the plate for him to hit a home run."
Having served as the stage for 18 home runs in four games, Great American Ball Park quickly has established a reputation as a power hitters' haven. Aware of this, Larkin approached Sosa before the game with some free, and perhaps obvious, advice.
"I told him the ball's been flying here," Larkin said. "I told him if he gets one in the air, it might get out of here if he hits it well enough. And he said, 'Well, I just want to scrape the back of the wall.' "
Sosa did a little better than that, clearing the right-field wall to the right of the 370-foot marker with feet to spare.
"I'm sure," said Sullivan, "that's not the last home run he's going to hit in his career."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.