Players hope Sosa not tainted

Billy Hatcher has been there before.

Now the first base coach for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he was playing for the Houston Astros in 1987 when his own bat shattered. The Cubs saw cork on the field, and Hatcher was suspended for 10 games.

But he would not revisit the incident on Tuesday night, after watching the Cubs' Sammy Sosa be ejected from the game for the same offense.

"It's not my night—it's Sammy's night," he said. "You'll have to talk with Sammy."

At the time, Hatcher explained that he had borrowed the corked model from pitcher Dave Smith.

"Dave used the same model bat I did, a C243," he told reporters at the time. "I ran out of my bats and Dave said, 'Billy, you can use one of mine.' He told me to take it out of the bat rack instead of the bat bag. I looked in the bat bag and noticed that he had some C243s with some wide grain so I grabbed one of those."

The incident generated headlines, even though Hatcher was not a slugging superstar like Sosa.

"I care about the great players of the game (and) Sammy is certainly in that category," Devils Ray manager Lou Piniella said. "I hope he has a good explanation for it.

"You just don't like to see those things associated with the icons of the game."

Around the majors, the talk was similar. Players worried that the incident would haunt Sosa.

"I just hope it doesn't taint what he's done," Seattle second baseman Bret Boone said. "Corked, not corked, he's got as much power as anyone in baseball. He's probably got as much power, outside Mark McGwire, as anyone in history. It's probably embarrassing for him.

"Pitchers cheat all the time. They scuff balls, use pine tar. I've never used a corked bat, not even in batting practice. If I was guaranteed I wouldn't get caught, I probably would."

Tribune news services contributed to this report.