The ESPN documentary “Long Gone Summer” revisited the 1998 MLB season, where Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both passed single-season home run leader Roger Maris before battling each other to once unimaginable numbers throughout the summer.
At the film’s conclusion, it was clear McGwire is beloved today in St. Louis while Sosa isn’t welcome by the Chicago Cubs organization and hasn’t been back in years. Sosa is estranged from the city where he was once hailed a hero. Will Sammy Sosa ever return to Chicago?
Sammy Sosa’s career in Chicago
Sammy Sosa will go down in the history books as one of the greatest sluggers in Chicago Cubs history. With an asterisk. Like so many players during the “Steroids Era,” Sosa was using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). With that as the baseline, there’s no denying Sosa’s accomplishments in the Windy City were still quite impressive.
While Sosa didn’t outperform McGwire for the home run record during the 1998 season, he did in every other category. Sosa had a better batting average at .308 compared to McGwire’s .299. He finished with more RBIs at 158 to 147. Sosa also scored the NL MVP, and his team made the playoffs. McGwire’s Cardinals did not.
In hindsight, Sosa’s legacy in Chicago is much bigger than the 1998 season. In his 13 seasons with the Cubs, he led the NL in home runs and RBIs two different seasons. He also became the only player in MLB history to surpass the 60 home run mark in a single season three different times. In 1998 and 2003, Sosa helped push the team to the playoffs.
The accusations and Sosa’s denials
But as the history books accurately reflect, Sosa, McGwire, and many of the players during the 1990s and into the 2000s were using PEDs. They cheated.
In 2003 Sosa was caught blatantly cheating on June 3 when his bat broke during his swing, and umpires discovered it was corked. He was ejected from the game. During that same year, Sosa was one of 104 players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in baseball’s anonymous survey. The New York Times reported findings of the survey results in 2009 but didn’t identify the substance.
While Sosa couldn’t deny the corked bat incident, he has never admitted to using PEDs. Sosa, instead, always denies and deflects and talks about how he and McGwire were so good for baseball and he has no regrets. It’s that type of attitude that has apparently rubbed those in the Chicago front office the wrong way.
On the other hand, there are McGwire and numerous other former players who have admitted to their involvement with PEDs. They showed signs of remorse. For his actions both on and off the field, McGwire was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2017.
Sammy Sosa sees a return to Chicago in the future
Based on “Long Gone Summer,” Sammy Sosa’s relationship with the Cubs is still very strained. When asked about answering for past sins in an interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt after the documentary, Sosa reverted to some of the same non-answers he’s relied on in the past.
“That year, 1998, we had a plan, and we put everything together. That was a year that we had to do what we had to do. I feel great. The Chicago Cubs gave me the opportunity. After 23 years, it’s been great.”
Sosa, however, did admit he has hope for the future and expects a return to Chicago.
“Of course, I’d want that to happen. Chicago was my house. 1998. I played every day. I played hard. I ran hard out to right field every day. I have a lot of joy and memories of Chicago. I expect in the near future to come back to Chicago, and they can welcome me back, and we can continue living our life… I believe time will heal everything. Somebody is going to bring me back. I believe so.”
For many Chicagoans, Sammy Sosa is still beloved. For those outside of Chicago, his feats are admired even though they come with an asterisk. At some point, it would be nice to see Sosa back in the Cubs family because for so many, he is synonymous with Cubs baseball and that’s where he belongs.