With Mom and Dad still fighting, the baseball world was once again looking for something to fill the void. On Sunday, ESPN aired another in their fantastic ‘30 for 30′ series, entitled ‘Long Gone Summer‘.
This documentary focuses on a fascinating chapter in baseball history: the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. While it was a fun nostalgia trip, it really neglected to tell the more interesting story.
By choosing to dedicate the majority of the film to the highest of highs surrounding the medically enhanced assault on the records books, and relegating the fall out of the steroid scandal to only the final 15 minutes or so, Director A. J. Schnack’s documentary feels incomplete. The most riveting part of the story is just tacked on at the end, and we’re left feeling only half full from the meal.
I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t enthralled by what Big Mac and Sosa were doing that summer. I was 14 years old and living in that weird transitional time between middle and high school. Three years prior, I had moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, I was always a south sider, but without access to the games locally and with MLB Extra Innings unavailable to me, my White Sox fandom kind of fell by the wayside.
When the home run chase got hot in June and the Cubs were getting coverage, it was nice to see my hometown nationally, even if it wasn’t my team in particular. (But let’s be honest, other than Frank Thomas and Albert Belle’s BONKERS second half in 1998, those White Sox weren’t much to write home about.)
Like everyone, I remained blissfully ignorant as to what was really happening. I can remember the Andro in McGwire’s locker back in 1998. We all looked the other way and the news cycle on it lasted about 30 seconds. Unlike Sosa who remains frustratingly evasive and cagey about the whole thing, McGwire actually came clean years later, but in the film brings up the same line of “defense” that every player from the steroid era brings up: that they didn’t test for it, and that everyone was doing it. All of this is boilerplate and known by even the most casual baseball fan. A great documentary teaches you something new.
To just blow past the 2005 Congressional Hearings to serve the feel-good story was a travesty. This hearing had everything: McGwire’s statement, the heretofore effervescent “Mr. Personality” Sosa having his lawyer do the talking for him, Rafael Palmeiro’s finger point. I could watch an entire documentary series about just that hearing and to just gloss over the entire thing was disappointing.
We know that baseball needed the kick in the butt that chasing Roger Maris’ home run record provided after the 1994 strike. Lord knows we will probably need something similar here in a few years if the labor Titanic keeps heading for the iceberg. But, I had really hoped this documentary would have dug deeper into just how much of a price we paid for digging the long ball.
- Nice to start the doc with a shout out to ’90s comic book fans and have Todd MacFarlane talking about the ABSURD amount of money he paid for a No. 70.
- We’ve all seen the change Barry Bonds went though in retirement. McGwire looks pretty much the same, just now he’s like, your friends swole older Dad.
- Footage from 1998, which really isn’t that long ago, looks like footage from 1968 when comparing Standard Def to 4K ultra HD.
- Man those there were some weird helmet cuts of the late ’80s. Feel like I only saw those on the A’s and the Twins, and NO ONE else.
- Ken Griffey Jr.s swing is the best swing in major league history. I don’t think anyone will top it. I also maintain that if he could have stayed healthy, he would have easily broken 61 and 755. No doubt in my mind.
- Draft Grade: Cubs Believe their Gamble on Character and Upside will Pay DividendsThe Cubs opted to focus on character and upside in the 2020 draft, believing they’ve found long-term solutions in a variety of places — rather than bulking up on their starting pitching need.
- Cubs Rookie Skipper David Ross Facing a Unique SituationIn a season of change and uncertainty there are a number of questions facing Cubs rookie manager, David Ross.
- Sox Six-Pack: The Case for Nick MadrigalIn a bizarre 2020 season, Nick Madrigal should get a crack at the second-baseman’s job from the start.
- White Sox Should be Thinking Playoffs in 2020If the players are thinking playoffs in 2020, then why shouldn’t we be?
- Uncharted Territory: Assessing the Cubs Options at DHAmong the uncharted waters that rookie skipper David Ross will have to navigate in a unique season, will be the implementation of the universal DH. Luckily for David Ross, the Cubs have a few strong candidates.