• Mark Puskey

Long Gone Summer Review

Review of ESPN's 30 for 30 Long Gone Summer

Contains spoilers - But you probably already know what happens

When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled it out on the diamond in 1998 I hadn’t even been born yet. I have only heard stories of that summer. Legends about these two men who were literally bigger than life who together took down The Great Bambino, Babe Ruth. 

What I love about baseball is that in almost 175 years it has remained exactly the same. It has been around so long that we can just about see how far each record can get up to. Almost every statistical category has been maxed out. There are records that will never be broken like Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 strikeouts, Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games, or Charles Radbourn’s 59 wins in a season. When records are broken, they usually just squeak by like Barry Bonds only hitting 7 more career home runs than Hank Aaron. Records are never smashed in Major League Baseball. 

Before 1998 the most home runs in a regular season was 61 by Roger Maris, although the MLB tried to void it because Maris had 8 more games to break Babe Ruth’s famed 60 home runs. In that year both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa smashed that record. 

This 30 for 30 chronicles their historic race. The narrative starts at the beginning of the season when the race was between McGwire and my favorite non-Red Sox player, Ken Griffey Jr. I was disappointed they never interviewed Griffey. He did end up winning bronze. Every so often they cut to McGwire’s earlier career.

Then seemingly out of nowhere everyone is talking about Sammy Sosa which must have been what it was like in June of 1998. 

Lots of the doc was mostly highlights from that summer. They showed nearly every home run. Every single time I heard the crack of the bat I was covered in chills. I miss baseball so much. 

Once the men were on the doorstep of history everything became so much more intense. I never knew that when McGwire hit the tying 61st home run and the record breaking 62nd he was playing a St. Louis home game against Sosa’s Chicago Cubs. The stars were perfectly aligned. 

They weren’t done there. As I said before these men smashed the record. McGwire finished with 70 home runs. Nearly 15% more than Maris’s record. They raced until the very last at bat.

Looking back on that summer the story is tainted by PEDs. The 30 for 30 tried its best to tell that side of the story but it’s a hard story to tell. Sammy Sosa said something along the lines of “If a player says they didn’t take steroids, no one will believe them, and if they admit to it, they’ll be scrutinized. It’s a lose-lose situation.” McGwire admitted to using steroids while Sosa clearly asked for the question not to be asked. 

The feel good story of 1998 ends on a sour note. 

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