I've had a full day to digest 'Long Gone Summer', so it is time to share my five big takeaways from the documentary. You can certainly find a handful of reasons to criticize if you're a Chicago Cubs fan.
1. The summer of 1998 brought baseball back to prominence
We've talked about this home run chase in recent Cubs On Tap podcasts and I feel like it's turning into a lecture the more I emphasize it, but the chase created a new generation of fans that still watch today.
I was six years old in the summer of 1998. To this day, I barely remember any of it, but I recall it as my first big sports memory because everyone, and I really do mean everyone, was talking about Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire that summer.
Growing up downstate in central Illinois, the mixture of Cubs and Cardinals fans created my first ever sports debate. Who was better? Sosa or McGwire? I had to deal with annoying Cardinals fans between 7-8 years old trying to tell me McGwire was better just because he hit four more home runs than Sosa in 1998.
Baseball's 'best' fans have been getting under my skin ever since.
They emphasized in the film how attendance and overall popularity had been trending down after the 1994 strike and these guys brought it back. You cannot deny that after watching the documentary.
2. I forbid Nelly from ever wearing a Bulls jersey again
Everyone knows Nelly is from St. Louis. Everyone knows he's a St. Louis sports fan. Listening to him talk about the Cardinals while wearing a Bulls jersey in a commercial was cringe-worthy. Get out of here with that.
3. Harry Caray selling $0.45 beers during a Cubs 14-game losing streak needs to turn into an annual thing in present times
It's unfortunate I never got to listen to Harry Caray as an adult because he sounds like the kind of guy I would have loved. Selling $0.45 beers at Wrigley would be absolutely unheard of today, but unfortunately because of this current pandemic we're all in, I miss spending $12 on a Bud Light at the ballpark.
I know the Cubs claim they don't have any money, but I'm sure plenty of people would pay more for a ticket if beers were $0.45 again.
4. Sammy deserves his own documentary
Let's face the facts. This was a Mark McGwire documentary. And that's fine, I guess. He won the race. The director is from the St. Louis area. There's so much more to be told about Sosa, however.
You can completely understand why Javier Baez is arguably the most popular player on the Cubs today. He's very similar to Sosa in terms of personality and emotion on the diamond.
Sosa was happy to be in the home run race in 1998. It's stated many times. After he hit 20 home runs in June, many thought he would fall off, but he kept going, as we all know.
His smile and reactions with McGwire during press conferences made him a likable figure within sports media. His enthusiasm with the fans, whether it was literally sprinting to right field every half inning and acknowledging them or the infamous hop after he launched a homer into the Wrigley Field bleachers, is what made many love him in Chicago.
Fans would stand on Waveland Avenue patiently waiting for Sosa to hit another onto the street every time he came to the plate. I'm not sure we'll ever see chaos in the streets like that again at Wrigley.
He is what set a fire under McGwire to keep going toward the end. If Sosa doesn't keep hitting homers after McGwire passed Roger Maris at Busch Stadium, he may not have reached 70 home runs. Sosa easily could have won the race if the Cubs didn't play the 102-win Astros in the last series of the year while the Cardinals hosted the expansion Montreal Expos, who lost 97 games that season. It was a tough pill to swallow from the baseball or schedule gods if you were a Cubs fan in '98.
5. Bring Sammy Back
The end of the documentary ends sourly for Sosa and it's no one's fault other than the Cubs.
There have been issues with the Cubs and Sosa since the end of his tenure in Chicago. From the famous boombox incident and Sosa leaving early from the last game of the season in 2004, there's definitely some criticism of him to go around.
However, Sosa was undoubtedly one of the biggest stars -- not just in Chicago but in all of baseball -- and it almost seems like the Cubs have completely ignored him as part of their franchise since he departed.
It's disappointing. It's infuriating from a fan's point of view. There are plenty of arguments you can make in terms of Sosa's Hall of Fame case, but for him to not be welcomed back to Wrigley Field in over a decade is flat-out dumb. The fact that others have worn No. 21 after what Sosa did for the Cubs is nothing short of disrespectful.
Sosa is a seven-time All-Star, former NL MVP, and six-time Silver Slugger Award-winner. For his career, Sosa slashed .284/.358/.569, hit 545 homers, and posted a .928 OPS with the Cubs.
Steroids or not, Sammy deserves to be welcomed home and #21 should be flying on the foul poles at Wrigley Field.