|First appearance||"Ebb Tide" (episode 2.01)|
|Last appearance||"Port in a Storm" (episode 2.12)|
|Created by||David Simon|
|Portrayed by||James Ransone|
|Family||Frank Sobotka (father)|
|Relatives||Nick Sobotka (cousin)|
Chester Karol "Ziggy" Sobotka is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor James Ransone. Though his father Frank Sobotka was a well-respected stevedore union leader, Ziggy's often reckless and juvenile behavior gained him little respect among other members of the union and The Greek's crime organization.
Ziggy is Frank Sobotka's son and Nick's cousin. Ziggy was a dock worker in his father's stevedores union, but he was also involved in criminal activity. Like most of the port workers, Ziggy frequented Delores' bar, where he amused the other customers with his drunken antics. He was known for publicly exposing himself. His work on the docks was often poor and his father would regularly fire him and then reinstate him. Due to his lack of seniority, Ziggy received little work. He is often portrayed as a clumsy and inept beneficiary of his father's hard work and stewardship of the union who is more interested in goofing off than working hard. He is close to his older cousin Nick, who often bails him out when his various money-making schemes backfire. Despite his shortcomings, however, he has a better understanding of technology than many of his colleagues. He uses his computer research skills to assist Nick in his dealings with the Greeks.
Ziggy had been dealing drugs supplied by "White" Mike McArdle for some time. He sold them at street level using an East side dealer known as Frog. Ziggy had trouble intimidating Frog and often came up short with the money from his packages. Frog would keep the money and tell Ziggy he had been robbed. Eventually, White Mike refused to supply Ziggy with further drugs because he knew that he was not a sound investment.
Ziggy often tried to convince his more streetwise cousin Nick Sobotka into joining him in his drug dealing enterprise but Nick refused. When Ziggy suggested that they steal a container of digital cameras from the docks, Nick was more accepting. They worked alongside their friend Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto, a checker, to move the container through the port. Ziggy and Nick visited George "Double G" Glekas, a front man for an international smuggling operation that the Sobotka family had been working with, to offer him the container. Ziggy's research about the street value of the cameras allowed Nick to negotiate a better deal with Glekas. Ziggy upset Glekas by taking his photo with one of the cameras during the meeting and Glekas angrily snatched it from Ziggy and smashed it on the floor.
Ziggy also accompanied Nick to a meeting to discuss Frank's smuggling of containers through the docks. Ziggy's chatter embarrassed Nick and he vowed not to take him again. The Greeks asked Nick to obtain shipments of chemicals through his work at the port. Unsure what the chemicals would be used for, fearing they may be used for terrorism, Nick was reluctant to get involved. Ziggy used his share of the money from the stolen cameras to buy a new leather coat and Nick chastised him for flashing his newfound wealth. Nick also chastised him for talking to everyone about being paid and flashing his money around the bar.
Ziggy turned to a drug dealer named Cheese for a fresh supply. Cheese was a lieutenant in "Proposition" Joe Stewart's network of drug dealers, and in later seasons was shown to be Prop Joe's nephew. Ziggy continued to use Frog and again came up short on his profits (Frog deliberately shorts him) and found himself unable to pay Cheese back. Cheese was more brutal than White Mike and delivered a swift beating to Ziggy and stole his prized car (a Camaro which Ziggy called "Princess"). Cheese threatened to kill Ziggy if he was not able to pay by the end of the week. Nick and La La, a friend from the union, visited Cheese on Ziggy's behalf hoping to bargain the value of the car that Cheese had taken against Ziggy's debt. They found that Cheese had burned the car and was now asking for more money but willing to give Ziggy a little more time. Ziggy was distraught when he heard this news.
Nick went to the Greeks to ask for help with the problem. He found that they were the suppliers of Proposition Joe's entire operation and were able to negotiate with him directly. Nick attended a sit-down with Joe on Ziggy's behalf. Because of their association with the Greeks, Joe agreed to give Ziggy compensation for the car minus the original debt he owed.
Ziggy helped Nick to research the chemicals the Greeks were looking for and found that they were used in the processing of cocaine. Reassured with this knowledge, Nick decided to go ahead and steal them as asked. After Nick and Ziggy delivered the chemicals they were offered payment in either narcotics or cash. Knowing the street value of the narcotics was greater, Ziggy pushed for drugs. Nick opted to receive half in cash and half in heroin. Nick kept Ziggy out of dealing the drugs due to his previous ineptitude, taking them to Frog himself. He faithfully delivered a share of the profits to Ziggy each week, but Ziggy's pride was hurt by Nick sidelining him and his inability to match his cousin's success. Ziggy dramatically refused his share of the money, tossing it onto the street from Nick's newly purchased truck (bought with his share of the drug profits).
Ziggy had a long running feud with a dock worker named Maui. Maui took issue with Ziggy stealing from the docks and confronted him, intentionally spilling coffee on the coat that Ziggy had purchased with the money from the stolen cameras. Ziggy responded by replacing Maui's desktop image with pictures of his genitalia. In retaliation Maui faked a paternity lawsuit against Ziggy, which drove him to a drinking binge. Nick realized that the letter Ziggy had received from a law firm was false and identified Maui as the culprit. Urged on by La La and other stevedores, Ziggy attacked Maui while working at the docks. He was easily overcome by his much larger opponent, and as a result of the fight, Ziggy was forced to endure another indignity: Maui used a fork lift truck to strand Ziggy on top of a stack of containers.
Ziggy purchased a pet duck and bought it a diamond necklace (again showing that he is making money). He took it to Delores' bar pretending it was a seeing eye fowl. He was compelled to provide the duck with saucers of liquor, claiming that it "Could drink like a stevedore." The duck died at the bar, driving Ziggy into another depressive episode. When Nick approached Ziggy outside the bar, Ziggy attacked his cousin.
Ziggy began smuggling cars with Johnny Fifty. He offered to supply them to Glekas, who reluctantly agreed to participate. Ziggy faked the theft of their cars to look like an outside job by cutting a hole in the port fence, and making a track across a grassy area. Rather than using these constructions, he drove the cars into containers to be delivered to Glekas's customers overseas. When Ziggy delivered the cars, Glekas refused to pay him the agreed sum and Ziggy flew into a rage. Glekas beat Ziggy and threw him out of his warehouse. This was the last indignity Ziggy could endure; he took a gun from his car and shot Glekas and a boy working at Glekas's electronics store, killing Glekas and badly wounding the boy. Horrified at his own actions, Ziggy was unable to drive away and broke down in tears.
He was picked up by Sergeant Landsman of the homicide unit and gave a full confession to the murder. Frank visited Ziggy in prison and apologized for not doing more to help his son. Ziggy told Frank that the union had always come before him, harkening back towards the memories they had shared previously on the docks. Ziggy was convicted of the murder and was last seen serving out his sentence.
The actor who portrays Ziggy, James Ransone, is a Baltimore native and has described the character as representative of the difficulties people face just trying to get by in Baltimore. The character's creators have deemed him "the angry prince of goofs."
In an online interview, David Simon stated that Ziggy is loosely based on a real stevedore named Pinkie Bannion whose antics have become a local legend around the docks. According to Simon, Bannion "used to take his duck to the bar and repeatedly expose 'pretty boy' and all else. As they said in Bawlmer about Pinkie: 'That boy ain't right.'"