Sammy Sosa spent most of the summer of 1998 telling everyone Mark McGwire was "the man." And when it came to breaking Roger Maris' single-season home run record and finishing first in the home run race, it was true.
But Sosa's numbers from that season could also earn him that distinction as. His 66 homers were second most in MLB history in a single-season, 10 more than Ken Griffey, Jr., who finished third in the ‘98 home run race.
Sosa finished that season with 158 RBIs and 134 runs scored, leading baseball in both categories. He hit .308, his highest average in 10 years in the majors. And for his efforts, he received 30 of 32 first-place votes for National League Most Valuable Player.
"That was the level I was looking at for myself for many years," Sosa told NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan in 2018. "I have to put all those pieces together, and when I really have it, I can go to right field, I can go to center field and I can go to left field. So, as a hitter when you have that control, you're never going to struggle. You're always going to find a way."
Sosa had been working with Cubs hitting coach Jeff Pentland on trying to keep his hands further back during the pitcher's delivery, giving him more time to see the ball. His approach helped him reach base - he had at least one hit in 10 of his first 11 games, and his average never fell below .300 after April 8.
But his power numbers were down early in the year; he hit just six home runs in April and seven in May. He quickly turned things around in June, when he hit a record-setting 20 that month.
Perhaps most importantly, Sosa helped break a nine-year postseason drought on the North Side, as the Cubs won Game 163 against the Giants to claim the NL wild-card spot. 1998 was the year Sosa became known worldwide. How would he like to be rememebred years from now?
"A kid coming from Dominican Republic, hungry, makes it to the major leagues," he said. "Be here on the big stage and perform the way I was performing in 1998. That year, nobody's going to scratch it from the board, we brought baseball back. We shocked the world."
More on Sammy Sosa and 1998 MLB season:
-Why Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire 1998 home run race was bad for baseball
-How Cubs came to acquire Sammy Sosa from White Sox ahead of 1992 season
-How Sammy Sosa came out of nowhere to jump into 1998 home run race
-Why Sammy Sosa celebrated Mark McGwire's record-breaking home run with him
How Sammy Sosa remembers historic 1998 MLB season: 'We brought baseball back' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago