Sammy Sosa Ejected for Corked Bat

An embarrassed Sammy Sosa (search) apologized for using a corked bat (search), admitting he let down many of his fans with what he claimed was an honest mistake.

But how can the Chicago Cubs slugger, one of the game's foremost power hitters, repair his reputation or silence the doubters?

"It's going to be tough. Some fans are probably not too happy about it," Sosa said. "I've got to deal with that. ... I know that I lost the fans and they have been great to me. It's a mistake, and I take the blame for it."

Sosa's stunning ejection came early in Tuesday night's 3-2 win over Tampa Bay at Wrigley Field. His bat sheared in half when he hit a ground ball to second in the first inning.

Umpire crew chief Tim McClelland, who was working the plate, said he spotted the cork after Tampa Bay catcher Toby Hall flipped the part containing the handle at his feet.

Sosa claimed the bat that shattered and contained cork was one he uses to put on home run displays in batting practice.

"Just to put on a show for the fans. I like to make people happy and I do that in batting practice," he said.

"I was just trying to get ready and go out there and get ready for the game, and I just picked the wrong bat. I feel sorry. I just apologize to everybody."

Sosa, who gained national prominence in 1998 during his home-run race with Mark McGwire (search), apologized to fans, teammates and commissioner Bud Selig. Sosa's other bats were confiscated by security personnel and turned over to major league baseball.

But how much will this tarnish his accomplishments?

He is No. 17 on the all-time list with 505 homers. And in a five-year stretch from 1998-2002, Sosa hit an almost mind-boggling 292 home runs.

Sosa has the most 60-homer seasons in major league history, hitting 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001.

"Deep down in my heart, I truly believe Sammy didn't know that was in there," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "But I just hope that this event, whatever it was, doesn't tarnish his career or take away all that Sammy Sosa's done. For baseball and for Chicago."

Cork inside a wooden bat is thought to help players hit the ball farther and is against baseball rules.

Several players have been caught using altered bats in the past, including Albert Belle, Wilton Guerrero, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher and Graig Nettles. All were suspended, but none had Sosa's credentials.

Sosa's bat immediately became a big topic around the major leagues.

"Unfortunately, it's a dirty mark, when you consider all he's accomplished," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It's really unfortunate for the game. Everybody's scratching their heads right now. ... It's embarrassing. He's too good of a player. It's too bad."