Everyone is about to rekindle their love for the long ball on Sunday by watching Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire smash homers out of the park all over again in a new ESPN '30 for 30' titled "Long Gone Summer".

Despite the two power hitters putting baseball back on the map with their prowess in hitting dingers in 1998, it was always brought into question just how much help they were getting.

In January of 2010, McGwire sent a letter to the Associated Press admitting he used steroids not only in '98, but on and off for nearly a decade.

In 2009 The New York Times reported Sosa was one of 104 players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in baseball's anonymous 2003 survey, but didn't identify the substance. The former Cubs slugger has never admitted to taking any PEDs while playing.

"I remember these two guys going back and forth and I mean, we were talking about baseball. Nowadays, you're talking about football, you're talking about basketball all the time and baseball is almost the third or fourth best sport," said former Cubs outfielder David DeJesus, who played 13 seasons in the majors. "Back then, that was the talk: 'Are these guys going to hit 70?' Those numbers were like not even thought of before, to have that many home runs in a season."


For DeJesus, the benefits of taking steroids for a hitter are clear, but they don't single-handedly place a ball over an outfield wall for the player. 

"To me, what sets it apart is being able to feel mentally strong and physically strong every day and being able to work out as hard as they want to as well," DeJesus said. "Because these guys were probably lifting weights throughout the whole season where a regular guy without those steroids, your body is always in recovery mode. 

"They recover after that night and they're ready to go after it again. So I think the mental side of that is great as well because you're just feeling good walking up to the plate, 'If I mishit a ball, that ball could go.' But to say that for Barry Bonds, for Sosa, for McGwire, for these guys, (that) the steroids helped them hit the homers, I think that's totally untrue."

Steve Hayward, a former scout with the Philadelphia Phillies and now a hitting instructor at Strikes Baseball Academy in Broadview, Illinois, believes that without the proper swing, PEDs are useless. 

"You can be on steroids and not hit the ball past the pitcher," Hayward said. "You got to have a good swing, mechanically sound. McGwire was mechanically sound and Sosa. I think what the steroids do is you need confidence in hitting, and when you're strong and you know you don't have to muscle up to hit a ball far, the more relaxed you are, the farther the ball is going to go. 

"So they got that added, 'Man, I'm so strong I can wait longer than anybody else,' and the longer you wait, the farther the ball goes. The earlier you hit the ball out in front, you lose all your power."

The specific benefits for a hitter taking steroids can be debated, but when it comes to how popular the two sluggers made baseball in '98, it isn't up for discussion.

"So they put baseball back in people's minds, back onto their lips in talking about it," DeJesus said. "So there's credit for that. It wasn't the right way to do it, but it got people talking about it.

"I don't believe steroids needed to be a part of it, but I understand the thought behind it. It seems like nowadays a lot of Latinos and people coming from different countries have been caught or given the 80 games (suspension) or something like that. But you have to understand and step back because they're trying to feed a family. They're growing up poor, and sometimes if you can take this and you have the skill and talent to maybe push yourself above someone else . . . Sometimes you have to step back and look at the families, step back and look at the person's decisions. 


"But me, no. I had the opportunity to take steroids. It was there in front of me and I didn't take them because I wanted to do it the right way, I wanted to make the big leagues on my talent alone. 

"Not everyone has the same morals, not everyone has the same standards. But I do think there has to be a star next to their name because they didn't do it naturally. All three of them (including Bonds), they were elite hitters, then they just took their numbers to another stratosphere."

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