Sep 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers batting coach Mark McGwire (12) claps during the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back at the season that saved baseball

His goatee now silver, Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire watches as Cardinals’ rookie closer Trevor Rosenthal blows strike three past Mark Ellis, ending the Dodgers’ World Series aspirations.

The team that he led during the late 1990s has now sent his new team home. It was no doubt a bittersweet moment for ‘Big Mac’ as Game Six drew to a close and the Cardinals celebrated another trip to the Fall Classic. Love for a team he spent half a decade with, intermingled with disappointment of falling short of a new goal – win a World Series as a hitting coach.

Fifteen years ago, coaching couldn’t have been farther from McGwire’s mind. He was putting the finishing touches on a season that – to this day – is remembered by all. A head-to-head home run race with rival Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Sammy Sosa went down to the season’s final days as the two battled for baseball supremacy.

70 long balls later – including four in the season’s final series – McGwire emerged victorious. Sosa, no slouch at the art of launching balls preposterous distances, finished the year with 66.

It was the highlight of baseball in the 1990s. That season brought life back into America’s pastime, helping heal wounds left from the strike only four years prior. Sunny days, the crack of the bat and towering home runs will forever be etched in fans’ minds.

Despite what we now know concerning PEDs, steroids and the like. No one can deny that summer was a magical time for the game, for the players and for us – the fans.

Tags: Los Angeles Dodgers Mark McGwire MLB Sammy Sosa St. Louis Cardinals