1998 is one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. Following the 1994 MLB Strike, fans lost a lot of faith in the game of baseball. They were looking for a feel-good story. They certainly got that in 1998. The 30 for 30: Long Gone Summer episode is about Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s battle for Roger Maris home run chase record, 61.
At the beginning of the 1998 season, the battled began with McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr. When June arrived, Sammy Sosa caught fire. From June to September, it was a show between Sosa and McGwire.
One of the things I didn’t know about Mark is that he was a pitcher in High School. Well, it turned out to be for the better because Mark succeeded as a hitter. During his rookie season, he hit 47 homers, a record he held for 30 years until Aaron Judge surpasses him.
The home run chase between Sosa and McGwire is called “the summer that saved baseball.” Ratings went through the roof. McGwire and Sosa were getting a lot of press and invited all over the place. McGwire didn’t like all the attention from the media, but Sammy was embracing. He was enjoying every minute of it. This is the year that Sammy became a mega superstar. I’ll say that from 1998 to 2002, Sammy carried the Cubs on their back. It’s just unfortunate that after 13 seasons with the Cubs, he hasn’t been invited back to Wrigley Field.
On September 8, 1998, Mark McGwire hit No. 62 against the Chicago Cubs. The Maris family was there. Cubs showed tremendous sportsmanship to McGwire. Steve Trachsel, the pitcher who gave up the home run to McGwire, he didn’t appreciate his teammates doing that. I felt that was a great moment in baseball.
After McGwire surpassed Roger Maris, it became a slugfest between him and Sammy in who will come out the most with home runs. Mark finished with 70, Sammy with 66.
Sammy didn’t win the battle, but he helped the Cubs to reach the playoffs and won the National League MVP.
Years after the home run chase, testing began for steroids. The Golden Era of the Steroid Era happened from 1994 to 2004. McGwire admitted in 2010 that he did use steroids. Sosa, on the other hand, still denies that he never used steroids. He continues to say that he wasn’t tested positive. I believe that former Commissioner Bud Selig and the union knew that these guys were up to something, but they pretended like it’s nothing because it was bringing a lot of money and ratings. MLB threw these guys under the bus.
McGwire and Sosa were the reason why fans began to start loving baseball all over again. I don’t condone what they did, but the show they put on that season is something we will never see again.