The Boys Of Summer In 1998: Mark McGwire And Sammy SosaBaseball, J. Tinsley — By J. Tinsley on March 15, 2013 at 10:40 am
My yard was everything to me growing up. It was my Madison Square Garden, where I dreamed of being “Like Mike” and on rare occasions nailed the game-winning bucket in games of two-on-two. My grandma would occasionally act as the human scoreboard, even counting down the waning seconds, never once giving me extra time to shoot when I’d hold the ball too long. Her response? “You don’t see Michael Jordan doing that, do you?”
It was my Texas stadium, where I’d throw touchdown passes like Troy Aikman, catch them like Michael Irvin and take interceptions to the house like Deion Sanders. My backyard was even the place where I picked up golf for all of two weeks.
Life in the late ’90s was a coming-of-age period. No other time was this more evident than 15 years ago in the summer of 1998. I was nearing my teenage years, and each day represented one day closer to adulthood (high school at that point). The Chicago Bulls had just won their sixth and final title, and any kid who grew up idolizing Mike, Scottie, Phil and the gang knew the run was over. It was somewhat of an introduction to life teaching us the lesson “nothing lasts forever.”
As kids at the time, we immediately looked for a new distraction in sports since basketball had ended and football was still a few months off. It came in the form of baseball. Everyone idolized names like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, and since the Richmond Braves played maybe 30 minutes from my house, we all sided with Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez and the Atlanta Braves as our home team. Only that summer it wasn’t the Braves that commanded our attention.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were the sports story of the summer of 1998. At 12, I’d be lying if I said I was aware who Roger Maris was, but I knew 61 home runs was the mark and Mac and Sosa were on a full-fledged assault and rewriting history. To a lesser extent, Ken Griffey and Mo Vaughan were involved, too, amassing 50+ home runs themselves. But as the summer scurried by, it was evident this was a two-man chase. We all bought in to it. Chicks dug the long ball, and so did we so.
My backyard, thanks to a closed-in fence, became our Yankee Stadium. Home run derbies followed basketball and oftentimes became our only activity. We followed the game daily just to see what McGwire or Sosa tallied, praying they launched one (or two) into orbit. The result didn’t matter. We didn’t care if Sosa went 1-for-5, as long as the one landed somewhere in the Northside of Chicago. McGwire was infamous for 1-for-4 games with three strikeouts and a home run. Those represented victories to us.