Mark McGwire

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 7th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 7th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa went almost a week in between longballs as the calendar flipped from April to May in 1998. When he did break through, it was in the form of a 370-foot blast at Wrigley Field off Cardinals pitcher Cliff Politte.

The Cubs wound up losing the game 8-5, but Sosa gave them an early lead with a solo shot off the St. Louis starter in the bottom of the first inning. Politte lasted just 3 innings that day as the Cubs built a 4-1 lead after 5 before the wheels came off for Kevin Tapani and Terry Mulholland.

Though Mark McGwire played in that game, he did not go deep. As Sammy hit his 7th homer, McGwire was already sitting at 12 dingers on the season after a hot April.

The Cubs had clearly taken notice of McGwire's early season prowess, walking him 9 times in the last 3 games of the series, including twice on this day.

Fun fact: Delino DeShields was the No. 2 hitter for St. Louis that day and now his son is playing in the big leagues as an outfielder for the Texas Rangers.

Fun fact 2: Gary Gaetti was the Cardinals' starting third baseman on May 3, 1998. They later released him in mid-August and he signed with the Cubs five days later before famously hitting that homer in the one-game playoff Sept. 28.

It's time for Cubs and Sammy Sosa to reunite

It's time for Cubs and Sammy Sosa to reunite

Imagine the scene:

It's a gorgeous mid-summer afternoon at the cathedral that is Wrigley Field. Fans have been packed into the bleachers for two hours already, soaking up the sun.

It's almost time for the first pitch between the Cubs and Cardinals as they continue their battle for first place in the National League Central.

The organ that had previously been humming along to joyful tunes comes to a stop and the PA system comes on.

"Now for the ceremonial first pitch: SAMMY SOSA!!"

Sosa smiles, waves and walks out to the mound. Maybe he even does a little jog out in right field to get the Bleacher Bums all riled up like the good ole days.

It's a picture perfect scene at "The Friendly Confines," at least from a fan's perspective.

Because there are very few fans who care about what actually happened between the Cubs and "Slammin' Sammy."

There would undoubtedly be fans who boo Sosa and some people will never get over the PED aspect of it all, even if Sosa one day confesses and apologizes.

But most fans will want to revel in the nostalgia of their childhood or younger days when every single Sosa at-bat was a must-watch experience. When cameras would flash at a mind-boggling pace every single time a pitcher delivered to the plate with Sosa in the right-handed batter's box.

He's the Cubs all-time leader in home runs. Second in slugging percentage. Second in OPS. Third in RBI. Third in extra-base hits. Third in intentional walks. Fourth in total bases. Sixth in runs. Sixth in walks. Ninth in hits. Tenth in games played.

No matter what way you slice it, he was one of the Top 10 players in the history of the franchise.

Daily Cubs notes and trivia are littered with Sosa stats or factoids because he's such a gigantic part of the organization's history, especially recent history.

I know all the stories about how he was a bad teammate, had attitude issues, the link to PEDs, etc. Nobody seemed to mind when he averaged 49 homers and 127 RBI a season from 1995-2003.

The Cubs maintain they want Sosa to apologize and come clean about his past transgressions

It's a crime Sosa has not been back at Cubs Convention since he left the team. The fault for that lies on both sides, but the real losers in the situation are the fans who are missing out on experiences with a guy that gave them so many great memories 15-20 years ago.

1998 changed baseball. It changed my life and how I view the game of baseball and there are millions others out there with a similar stance.

Sosa and McGwire saved baseball after the labor issues in the early '90s. McGwire's been a huge part of the game the last few years, serving as a hitting coach and instructor for multiple teams and joining fan conventions.

It's time for Sosa to follow suit and rejoin the ranks of Cubs legends paraded through Wrigley Field each summer or Convention weekend each January.

However it has to happen, it needs to happen.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 1st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 1st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that when a guy hits 66 homers in one MLB season, he must've gotten off to a heck of a hot start.

But that wasn't the case for Sammy Sosa in 1998, who didn't hit his first longball until the fifth game of the season and only had six dingers in the campaign's first month.

The first homer came courtesy of Marc Valdes and the Montreal Expos on April 4, 1998, a solo shot to the opposite field in the third inning.

That helped stake Terry Mulholland and the Cubs to a 3-1 victory. Sosa's first homer of 1998 traveled 371 feet.

Fun fact: Vladimir Guerrero was Sosa's counterpart in right field that game as the young Expos star (23 at the time) was just beginning his stretch of Hall of Fame seasons.

Fun fact Part II: Mark Grudzielanek was the Montreal leadoff hitter in that game, just a couple months before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Grudzielanek then became a member of the Cubs for the 2003-04 seasons.