Sammy Sosa no longer looks like he did during the 1990s when he battled Mark McGwire for home run supremacy. His change in appearance has been the subject of questions for a while, and the scrutiny has increased this weekend in response to ESPN releasing a documentary about his prolific 1998 summer on the baseball diamond.
Sosa, born in the Dominican Republic, has a much whiter complexion than he did during his MLB career. He’s said in the past that his skin carries a different appearance now because of a cream he uses that includes bleach, a practice that has garnered criticism and jokes on social media.
Sammy Sosa then, and Sammy Sosa now, don’t look like the same human being. They don’t even look related to each other. pic.twitter.com/bp9QxysV3y
— L E F T, PhD ⚫️ (@LeftSentThis) July 13, 2017
“It’s a bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin some,” Sosa said in a 2009 interview with Univision after a photo was taken at the Grammy Latino Awards, a first look at Sosa’s lighter complexion.
“What happened was that I had been using the cream for a long time and that, combined with the bright TV lights, made my face look whiter than it really is. I don’t think I look like Michael Jackson,” he said then.
Sosa, now 51, has given only a handful of interviews since his retirement from MLB in 2004. In a 2018 interview with NBC Sports Chicago , he said he is healthy and denounced the criticism he’s received amid rumors of skin bleaching.
“Those people they sometimes criticize me, they don’t know me, they don’t put food on my table and they don’t pay my bills,” he said.
Sosa has maintained his lightened skin tone was an unintended side effect of using the cream and unrelated to race: “I’m not a racist, I live my life happily.”
Sosa hit 66 home runs in 1998 and then 63 in 1999 — more in a two-year stretch than Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds or Hank Aaron ever managed.
His fall from grace in subsequent years — related to allegations he used performance enhancing drugs — has kept him separated from the Cubs and mostly out of the public eye.
Sosa is back in the spotlight this weekend, though, as ESPN relives the peak of his career Sunday night in “Long Gone Summer.”