90's Nostalgia

“Wait! What do you mean they were on steroids?!”: The Sosa/McGwire “Home Run Chase” of 1998.

“Um, hello? The ball is obviously wound tighter, and the new ballparks are smaller. Educate yourself!”

“I Plead the Fifth”

I wasn’t doing a whole lot in the summer of 2005 in yet another one home from college, however, I do remember watching a bunch of famous retired baseball players being called in to testify in Congress about their alleged steroid use.  Could you imagine that, Congress spending “my hard earned tax dollars!” on this!? So anyway, everyone was there. Sammy Sosa feigned speaking English. McGwire almost started sobbing. Palmeiro used what’s now known as the “Karen index finger” to denounce he had done steroids. (but then he actually had.) And Roger Clemens was being an asshole, because well, when wasn’t he?

I tried to find the picture where Palmeiro is pointing his finger like a Karen, but all the man Karen’s already that for themselves.

** I’m not going to open a can of worms on this, but the evidence is pretty self-sufficient. I already see enough claptrap on social media about conspiracy theories, so if something that happened hurt your feelings, then it was a legit event. Basically, homers per year soared, and from 95 to ’05**

Pre Strike and Steroids: only 10 guys surpassed 35 homers.
23 guys that year cracked 35 homers. Palmeiro got a little boost apparently. As for Bonds and Sosa…..

The Big Mac Attack

Mark McGwire was hammering homers in the late 80’s and early 90’s for the Oakland A’s in his prime at nearly 30 years old, and looked like an NFL Tight End while doing it. Along with his “bash brothers” buddy Jose Canseco, who also happened to write a book on all the people he injected with steroids, the two players helped bring the A’s multiple World Series appearances about 30 years ago. However, once the post strike era hit, and McGwire was into his 30’s, he looked….stockier.  Also, he missed most of 93-94 with injuries, so I wonder if his late career comeback had anything to do with his “recovery”. I have a friend from college, who some Delts might remember as “Cheese”, who vehemently denied McGwire ever touched steroids on that very premise. Like, he would die on that hill. Since I am open to logic, I was a firm believer that Sosa was on them at the time and freely admitted it.

Nothing to see here, just some tighter wound baseballs and pitching staffs diluted via expansion. That’s all.

My fading memories

How well do you remember the chase? I remember Sosa going off in June by clubbing 20 homers, and the fact that the Cubs were competitive playoff wise for the first time I could remember, albeit with an old as balls roster. (Being almost 7 in 1989 when they won the NL East doesn’t count). I also recall the night McGwire broke the record, on the weirdest home run he had hit all year, a short shot yanked down the left field line off of all people, the Cubs’ Steve Trachsel. Arguably baseballs’ slowest working pitcher for the time, it was only fitting that it happened to him. (I went to a Brewers/Cubs game in 1999 featuring Trachsel and fricin’ Hideo Nomo. We are finally getting to the car in the parking lot right now. )

The Actual Chase

***Here is the part where I paraphrase an ESPN article from last week, because much of this I don’t recall, so I am…..get this, using and citing valid sources for my evidence.***

Going into 1998, it was supposed to be between Griffey and McGwire, who the previous two seasons were knocking homers out of the park at clip into the mid-50’s. Griffey started hot and then trailed off, and even though Sosa had put up real solid power numbers in years previous, he was considered an afterthought.  However, he had somewhat altered his approach at the plate and started hacking less as the year began, and he would proceed to explode in June, hitting 20 home runs. He weould spend the rest of the year narrowly trailing McGwire in the race. (totally not steroids though).  

Sosa hit a home run over the bleachers, over Waveland avenue, and it hit the second story of the house. I shit you not.

The Cards and Cubs were a travelling road circus, especially once the summer hit, coming in first and second in road attendance.  Ratings for sports networks both locally and on cable were sky high as well. Granted this is a time before social media, but it was such a summer event that it filled up media publications. Average fans/moms who think home runs are touchdowns even knew who at least one of the guys we’re.  The old theory too is that the chase “Saved Baseball” when it came to attendance. According to the ESPN article, you know, because it has accurate stats and not information that helps validate my irrational emotions, it said that attendance jumped 20% in ’95 the first year back, but only about 5% every year after that. Cool. I did not know that.

Did it help or hurt baseball?

That’s a question that can be debated somewhat, but through the long scope it hurt baseball. It’s kind of like Eastern Europe jumping right into communism as a quick fix for their economy after WWII, instead of grinding it out like the West did with capitalism and rebuilding slowly. Another analogy would be me flex taping and flexsealing the crap out of my gutters that are attached to a rubber roof, instead of having a gutter person do it. Basically, it was what they needed, but then players thought they needed to do it ever year, and it turned into who had bigger truck nuts on the back of their shitty diesel. Not every player was on roid’s, but high level guys who thought they might be losing money etc. certainly were on board.Meanwhile MLB looked the other way when it came to testing, because why would you want to rat people out, right?

As we ventured into 1999 and 2000, etc home run numbers exploded, as did pitchers E.R.A.’s, but no one really said anything because sitting through nearly 4 hour 13-11 games is fun! I mean, who goes to a game now, because if they do, they are on their phone anyway. Barry Bonds and his ginormous skull would breaks McGwire’s record of 70 in 2001, but no one cared it seemed like. Baseball had become a caricature of itself.

Barry Bonds won 3 NL MVP’s (90, 92, 93) before the strike, two of which when he was on the Pirates on the left. Shit coulda had the 91 one and had 4 in a row, but came in second to Terry Pendleton, barely. That’s some Mike Trout shit right there. However, the guy on the right won 4 in a row at age 36, 37, 38, 39. I wonder how he garnered those at such an old age? Also, it didn’t help that he was a massive prick in those later years.

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