Sammy Sosa Says 'God Picked Me' over Ken Griffey Jr. for 1998 MLB HR Chase

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 15, 2020

Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa of the National League (R) and Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners of the American League (L) talk to reporters during batting practice before the start of the Home-Run derby during the 70th All-Star Game Weekend at Fenway Park 12 July, 1999, in Boston. The All-Star Game will be played 13 July between the American and National Leagues. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE)  AFP PHOTO   Timothy Clary (Photo by - / AFP)        (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
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The summer of 1998 was set up to be a home run race between St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire and Seattle Mariners All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. as they both chased the record of 61 long balls in a season.

After all, McGwire hit 58 homers the year before, while Griffey drilled 56.

Instead, Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa was the one who battled McGwire all year. McGwire set the record with 70, while Sosa, who hit 36 home runs in 1997, finished with 66 as the National League MVP.

"What is meant to be is meant to be," Sosa said in ESPN's documentary Long Gone Summer (h/t Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago). "If it were meant to be Griffey, it would have been Griffey. But God picked me."

ESPN's documentary largely chronicled the joy that summer brought as fans flocked back to baseball after the work stoppage of 1994 soured the game for a number of people. That it was the leaders of the Cubs and Cardinals, two archrivals in the National League Central, only added to the drama as they both pursued Roger Maris' record.

While McGwire ended up with the most home runs, Sosa led the Cubs to the franchise's first postseason appearance in nine years.

McGwire's record didn't last long as San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs three years later in 2001.

That it was Bonds was notable because he, along with Sosa and McGwire, was linked to performance-enhancing drugs. While the trio largely defined baseball in that era, none of them are in the Hall of Fame because of those suspicions or connections.

ESPN's documentary also explored the PED side of the summer of 1998.

Unlike Sosa, McGwire and Bonds, Griffey, who hit 56 homers in 1998, avoided such connections throughout his playing career and in the aftermath.

Sosa may have been divinely chosen to compete with McGwire, but it is Griffey who is in baseball's Hall of Fame.