Albert Belle had himself a heck of a year in 1998.
You might not know that, though, as history has somewhat forgotten his record-setting season with the White Sox, which was overshadowed by the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Both eclipsed the long-standing single-season home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. McGwire finished with 70. Sosa hit 66.
Belle finished that campaign with 49 home runs - fifth in the league in 1998 and still the single-season White Sox record - but he thinks he could have hit many more had he done the same thing of some of the era's more famous, or perhaps infamous, sluggers.
Today, the 1998 home run race is additionally remembered as a symbol of baseball's steroid era. McGwire has since admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, while Sosa remains steadfast that he did not. Others, including Barry Bonds, who broke McGwire's record not long after with 73 home runs in 2001, were involved in various scandals as part of the overarching steroid scandal baseball went through at the turn of the century.
Belle told Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast that he never used performance-enhancing drugs, saying that if he had, his home run total could have been even more massive than it was in 1998.
"If you're playing over the course of 162 games, you're probably hitting anywhere from like 12 to 24 balls that are popups and outs that could theoretically go in the first or second row for a home run," Belle said in the interview. "I would probably say you could add from 12 (home runs), worst-case scenario, 24, best-case scenario."
So, if you add 12 to 24 to Belle's 49, that's a range of 61, which would have matched Maris), to 73, which would have matched Bonds' current record.
That's a lot of dingers.
Certainly Belle's 1998 campaign was no aberration. He hit a career-high 50 homers three years earlier, playing for the Cleveland Indians in 1995. The following season, he hit another 48. He hit at least 30 homers in eight of his 12 big league seasons.
And according to him, had he been doing what a lot of other sluggers were doing, he could have hit a lot more.
Listen to the entire interview with Albert Belle on the White Sox Talk Podcast.
Albert Belle: I could have hit as many as 73 home runs with PEDs in 1998 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago