Long Gone Summer Review

During the 90s, major league baseball was on life-support due to the 1994 players strike. A majority of fans have left baseball, and with the NBA (see: Michael Jordan) and NFL taking the forefront, baseball needed something big to gain the interest of fans once again. Enter Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The entertaining and historic home run race of 1998 not only garnered interest from fans, but it captured the attention of non-fans too. AJ Schnack looks to recapture the magic of the ’98 MLB season through his 30 For 30 documentary, Long Gone Summer. But is Long Gone Summer able to recapture the magic of that ’98 season?

In a way, it does. Unfortunately, not in the way that you probably wanted. Through interviews, home videos, and MLB footage Long Gone Summer can pull on the nostalgic heartstring to retell the story of that historic MLB year.

Long Gone Summer follows the historic home run chase towards Roger Maris’ home run record between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. 

Long Gone Summer - Mark McGwire
Credit: Liliana Soto

First of all, let’s get this out of the way. You must curb your expectations before watching Long Gone Summer because it doesn’t fully cover what you think it does. Yes, the film does cover the historic ’98 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The documentary does a good job detailing the home run race and the subsequent home run numbers throughout the season. 

Yet the biggest disappointment is that the film primarily focuses on Mark McGwire’s journey to 70 home runs during that ’98 season. Sure, McGwire is the one who ultimately became the home run leader in the end, but the magic of that season was seeing both McGwire and Sosa battle it out. Besides, Sammy Sosa is a very charming and charismatic guy with a ton of energy. So it’s a bit disheartening not to see him have a fair share of the spotlight in the documentary.

Also, Long Gone Summer has a difficult time juggling all of the stories that make up the ’98 MLB season. As a result, the film doesn’t flow well since the film jumps subjects quite a bit. For example, it would highlight the race for a while and then detail McGwire’s career. Afterward, it would go back to the home run race then talk about Sosa for a bit. It’s sad because it makes Sosa seem like an afterthought throughout the entire documentary.

Long Gone Summer - Sammy Sosa
Credit: Lucia Lowenthal

Regardless, hearing what happened during that season from those that experienced it is compelling to listen to. You take in all of these stories and feel nostalgic—especially if you follow baseball. The ’98 MLB season was a significant event, so of course, it’s something you remember. It was the feel-good moment of the year that eventually brought baseball back from the dead.

Of course, you can’t talk about the home run race without talking about the consequences of what happened in the years that followed—stuff such as steroids or HGH. This dark cloud still hangs over baseball to this very day. However, probably the most meaningful thing the film leaves you with comes towards the end of the film. It provides you with a philosophical morality question when it comes to juicing in baseball. Of course, if you’re in the anti-juicing camp, then this probably won’t change your mind. On the other hand, the film will also give you something to think about.

Overall, Long Gone Summer is a nostalgic ride through one of the most fun MLB seasons ever. Unfortunately, the film is a bit of a one-sided affair. Instead of focusing on the journeys of both McGwire and Sosa, Long Gone Summer focuses mostly on Mark McGwire. If you’re looking for a nostalgic trip during these difficult times, then this documentary is for you. If you’re looking for something more comprehensive, then you may have to look somewhere else.

Long Gone Summer airs on ESPN on Sunday, June 14th at 9 PM EST.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

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