From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Sosa surpasses Maris

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the seventh part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

9/13/98 — Sosa hits home runs No. 61 and 62

Fans around the country were riveted all season long as two NL Central foes, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, engaged in an epic (though now tainted) home run battle for the ages. For decades, 61 had been the magic number.

McGwire was the first to reach 62, hitting his historic blast on Sept. 8 off the Cubs’ Trachsel. Then, on Saturday, Sept. 13, a sunny afternoon at the Friendly Confines, Sosa ripped a pair of homers that also tied and surpassed the hallowed total compiled by Roger Maris in the summer of 1961.

The first was a fifth-inning blast off Brewers righty Bronswell Patrick. Then, with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Sosa took a 2-1 pitch off right-hander Eric Plunk deep to left field that put him in a temporary tie with McGwire for the all-time mark.

“I said to McGwire, ‘Wait for me,’” said Sosa at the time. “He listened to me. Now we’re together. We’ll see where we go.”

As it turned out, McGwire didn’t wait long. Sosa would eventually fall four short of the St. Louis slugger in the home run chase (70-66), but just being part of the race made the 1998 campaign all the more special.

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