Don’t Discredit 1998’s Home Run Race For What It Was

Now that the skeletons are all out of the proverbial closet, people are saying things like ‘the last real home run race was between Maris and Mantle’. You have every right to feel that way but we’re here to tell you that simply isn’t true.

I remember the summer of 1998 very vividly. If you’re telling me that looking back now and knowing that both Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were dirty changes the awesomeness of those couple of months, you’re simply full of shit and not being honest with yourself.

That was the summer that in a lot of ways saved the game. It was two storied franchises that played eachother about a dozen times down the stretch with both guys matching eachother with one herculian blast after another. It was simply incredible to watch.

Those guys were both doing things that were humanly impossible. You had to know then that something strange was in the water, even if we didn’t really know. But looking back, didn’t you have a feeling that something was just a little bit strange? We did, we just couldn’t put our finger on it.

That didn’t diminish the fact that as a fan it was cool to watch.

I guess we’re somewhat of the fence-sitter variety on the issue. We’ve played the game, so we know how damn difficult it is to hit a ball out of the ballpark in the first place. Then add in doing it some 70 times in a given season when you get one or two pitches in a game to do it. Sure Mark McGwire was hitting some fly balls that left the park that season; but the bottom line is that sport is meant for our entertainment. In our lifetime, I look back and still can’t think of a more fun summer as a baseball fan. Every night regardless of which buddy’s house I was staying at, I had to try and find out what Big Mac was up to, and Slammin‘ Sammy as well.

Then you fast forward to when Bonds hit the 73 a few summers later. To me, that lacked the luster. Bonds was a prick, far from the upstanding guys that Sosa and McGwire seemed to be. And they really liked one another. They were a perfect vaudeville complimenting each other going head to head and in the media. Plus it was history! They were chasing the pace of a man who was no longer living (Roger Maris). Every day your local newspaper would update you on if they were staying on this man who was now a ghost of the game’s pace or not. By the time Bonds rolled around, we still hadn’t recovered enough to get our sea legs under us to prepare for another home run chase. And that year, Bonds had no partner in his act. It just felt more fraudulent, did it not?

We’re not condoning what McGwire did. We’re simply recognizing the moment as special just like you did back when it took place over a decade ago. Now that we know what we know, we’re sure we will not see anything like it again.