The summer of 1998 will go down in baseball lore as the home run chase that saved MLB in America. Facing declining attendance numbers and interest in comparison to the NFL and NBA, baseball needed a spark. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa provided just that, even if it was influenced by some performance-enhancing drugs.
McGwire set the record at the time, though that was broken by Barry Bonds just a few seasons later -- ironically McGwire's last -- and the rest if history. McGwire has since admitted to his usage of performance-enhacing drugs, unlike his peers. It's made his Hall-of-Fame case a longshot despite what his home run record chase meant for the sport itself.
“Back in those days, nobody knew how to cure plantar fasciitis," McGwire told USA Today's Bob Nightengale. “This was brought to my attention that [steroids and human growth hormone] will help heal injuries and keep you heathy, keep you on the field. That was the mindset I had. I’m like, 'OK, wow, this is something that can help me.'"
MLB Rumors: Mark McGwire talks 1998 home run race, steroid admission
McGwire says he did not take the PEDs to increase his power, but merely to extend his career, as so many did during that time period.
“I didn’t do it to hit homers. I was already hitting homers. I was a born home-run hitter. I led the nation in college in homers. I was hitting homers my whole life," McGwire added. “It was nothing to feel guilty about because I was doing it for health purposes."
McGwire's career timeline is tough to follow. With the Oakland Athletics, he led the league in home runs in 1996. Previously, he had been oft-injured. As much as we'd like to take the former home run single-season champ at his word, there will always be a cloud over this 1998 campaign.