It was the best summer of baseball I ever witnessed. A spectacle every night. And the competition between these two guys in the heat of the dog days was like no other. They both had 65 HR heading into the final weekend of the season. It was unbelievable. Every night you had to tune in to see who hit one and who had the lead. They single handedly brought the game back from the basement after the strike of 1994 really turned fans off.
As a baseball guy, I was really excited for this episode of 30 for 30. With no games yet this summer due to the pandemic, and now with the stupid rift between players and owners, this was going to be the perfect time to get this episode.
The first thing about this production that I really want to point out is about how big of a grind a baseball season is. 162 games in 185 days. It’s a marathon. And these two carried it for all 162 games. I think what made it even better was that they were division rivals and both were in the chase for the fairly new Wild Card spot. The Astros (in the NL Central at the time) were running away with the division, but the Cubs and Cardinals were still above .500 clubs.
These guys went back and forth for 5 months exchanging the HR lead, meanwhile Ken Griffey and Barry Bonds were having equally great seasons. Eventually they would fade, as McGwire and Sosa kept pace. It was said that if anyone could catch Maris’ 61 they would need to have at least 50 by September, and these guys had 55 and 54 on September 1. While the Cubs would eventually pull away in the Wild Card race, and both would eclipse Maris, it was Mac who would win the HR race and hit 70 while Sosa finished with 66.
The last thing I want to touch on in this episode is the HGH, and Steroid talk. I will never for the life of me understand the way fans talk about the steroid era. I, myself, am not a very big Sammy Sosa fan. I know my friends reading this who are Cubs fans may explode at me for this, but I think he was a highly overrated ball player in the grand scheme of things, but that’s another story for another time.
Major League baseball was well aware that this was going on well before they put any testing in place. They had zero rules against it, and zero punishments for it. So why is this era of players looked so down upon? Why do guys like Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, and the rest of them have such a bad taste in the mouths of all these baseball fans, and writers, and front office members. They made billions of dollars off the chicks dig the long ball era. These guys brought fans back to the stadium, they epitomized what makes this game great. Stadiums full of cheering fans, announcers crying in booths because they are seeing things in this game that they never thought that they would witness. All the emotions and the different personalities. This is the most beautiful game in every sense of the word, and baseball needs to recognize that these guys did so much in bringing fans back to it and give them the respect that they earned. Not just Sosa and McGwire but every player of this era that has been held out of the hall of fame due to the use of HGH and steroids. I will say guys like Bonds and Sosa certainly should come clean and admit to their usage because its painfully obvious that they did use, but I still think that Bonds is the 1A to Babe Ruth on the all-time list, and Sosa and McGwire still had the best summer of all time.
I appreciate the grind of every player every year, but after watching this episode of 30 for 30, I have a new admiration and respect for what these guys go through. Not just the season and the toll on the body, but the mental aspects of it all as well.