Scandal, shame and the roller coaster ride that followed Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's magical summer
It made sense that the lives of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa would never be the same after the fall of Major League Baseball's famous home race record in 1998. But instead of becoming icons, they became two of the polarizing faces of baseball's steroid era.
They were world leaders for a short time, but what quickly followed for everyone was public unrest, scandals, steroid allegations, and a confession. The magic of summer 1998 was over and one of MLB's long-lasting shame was taking place - as fans couldn't believe what they saw with their own eyes.
Sosa has never yet admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. This is one of the reasons why his relationship with the Cubs has deteriorated. McGwire eventually admitted to using PEDs and was brought back to the MLB as a trainer. But none of the thugs are treated as ambassadors by MLB or their previous teams.
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With ESPN as a debut for "Long Gone Summer", his 30-to-30 documentary about the 1998 chase on Sunday evening, here's a look at the roller coaster ride that McGwire and Sosa followed, surpassing 61 Homer in one season and as two Larger-than-life rackets have become two of MLB's most shameful stars.
September 8, 1998: McGwire hits home run # 62 against the Cubs and pitcher Steve Trachsel. McGwire ends the season with a total of 70 homers.
September 13, 1998: Sosa hits home runs # 61 and 62 against the Brewers, surpassing Roger Maris' record. Sosa ended the season with 66 home runs.
November 19, 1998: Sosa is crowned the NL MVP and receives all but two votes in first place. They went to McGwire. While McGwire won the home run race, Sosa led the league with 158 RBIs and helped the Cubs into the postseason. McGwire and Sosa would eventually be named Sports Players of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
1999 season: Although it wasn't the same exciting race and doesn't deserve the same amount of nostalgia today, both McGwire and Sosa cross 61 home races in the following season. Sosa reached 63 in 1999, McGwire 65.
Season 2000: As 36-year-old McGwire begins to show his age, Sosa continues a tear that history has apparently largely forgotten. He completed another 50 home runs in 2000, then 64 in 2001 and 49 in 2002.
Season 2001: McGwires and Sosa’s run in history does not last that long. Barry Bonds beats 73 Homer in the 2001 season to break McGwire's record and set a home run mark that has not been exceeded since.
November 11, 2001: McGwire says he's "worn out" and retires from MLB after hitting .189 with 29 homers. He was 38 years old.
June 3, 2003: Sosa is banned from a game after a referee discovers that he is using a corked racket. Sosa says he accidentally used a corked punch club. None of his other bats have corks, but he's still banned from MLB eight games.
October 3, 2004: Sosa's tenure at the Cubs ends in controversy. After a disappointing season, he asks to skip the last game of the season and leaves early. Years later, he said he had received manager Dusty Baker's permission to leave prematurely, but it is the beginning of a feud with the Cubs that has not yet been resolved.
February 2, 2005: Sosa is sold to the Orioles and plays one season in Baltimore. He only hit 14 Homer. He will leave the game after this season but will not retire.
February 21, 2005: Jose Canseco publishes his book Juiced, in which he gives his personal account of steroid use in Major League Baseball. In the book, Canseco says he introduced McGwire to steroids and they injected each other.
March 17, 2005: McGwire and Sosa are asked to testify before the House Government Reform Committee about the use of steroids in baseball. A total of 11 players testify. Sosa denies the use of steroids and McGwire's toes. He says, "My lawyers advised me that I cannot answer these questions without endangering my friends, family, and myself."
June 20, 2007: Sosa, who returned to MLB for the 2007 season after not playing in 2006, hits his 600th home run for the Texas Rangers. At 38, he beats a total of 21 homers this season and ends his career with 609 homers.
December 13, 2007: The Mitchell Report is released - a one-year investigation into baseball's steroid use by former prosecutor and politician George Mitchell. While McGwire and Sosa aren't the main headline of The Mitchell Report like Bonds and Roger Clemens, this is still a crucial moment in the public unveiling of baseball's steroid era.
June 3, 2009: Sosa officially withdraws from the MLB after not playing in 2008 and 2009.
June 16, 2009: The New York Times reports that Sosa is one of 104 players who tested positive for steroids in an anonymous 2003 survey of MLB players whose results were sealed by the court. At the time, there was no penalty for a positive test in MLB.
October 26, 2009: McGwire is hired by the Cardinals as a hit trainer.
January 11, 2010: McGwire publicly admits that he uses steroids for the first time. He says he has used it for a decade, even during the 1998 chase. McGwire claims that he used steroids for health reasons and not to build strength. His statement at the time was:
“I used steroids during my active career and apologized. I remember that I tried steroids very briefly in the low season 1989/1990. After being injured in 1993, I started using steroids again. I used it occasionally in the 1990s, even during the 1998 season. I wish I had never touched steroids. It was stupid and it was a mistake. I really apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played in the steroid era.
"I'm sure people will wonder if I could have hit all these home runs if I had never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn't take them and I had bad years when I didn't take them. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what happens, I shouldn't have done it and I'm really sorry. Baseball is really different now - it has been cleaned up. The Commissioner and the Players Association did tests and they cracked down, and I'm glad they did. "
November 7, 2012: McGwire is hired as a hit coach for the Dodgers, a position in which he will be active for the next three seasons.
December 2, 2015: McGwire joins the San Diego Padres as a bank coach, essentially the second commander alongside manager Andy Green.
November 2, 2016: The Cubs finally win a World Series. It's a great opportunity for anyone close to the cubs, but Sosa, one of the organization's biggest stars, doesn't appear during or after the World Series. It illuminates the silent feud that has been going on between the Cubs and Sosa since the end of his time in Chicago.
January 18, 2017: McGwire misses the election to Cooperstown on his last ballot. He is part of today's Game Era Committee vote and receives less than five votes from the 16-member jury. Twelve votes are required for the election.
January 13, 2018: Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is asked if Sosa will soon be welcomed by the Cubs again - almost an annual event at this time. He doesn't mention Sosa by name, but says this about players from the PED era:
"I also think players from that time owe us a little honesty, and I think the only way to turn this page is to put everything on the table."
May 2, 2018: Sosa says he would like to go back to Wrigley to remedy the situation with the Cubs, but says he'll be "at peace" if it doesn't happen. He says: “If I were to return to Chicago one day, I would be back for the fans. I owe something to these people. "
May 2, 2018: In the same interview with NBC Sports, Sosa also addresses his skin tone, which has become a hot topic on the Internet. Sosa had been seen with much lighter skin than his day of play in recent years.
A Sammy Sosa 30 For 30 has a lot to explain.
2:30 a.m. - November 7, 2017
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Sosa previously said he used a skin cream that bleached his skin. But in this interview, he also says this to the people who made memes and jokes about him online:
"These people sometimes criticize me, they don't know me, they don't put food on my table and they don't pay my bills."
October 24, 2018: McGwire steps down as Padres bank coach and says he wants to spend more time with his family.
January 21, 2020: Sosa receives 13.9 percent of the vote in the last BBWAA Hall of Fame election. He remains far from the 75 percent needed for Cooperstown.
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