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  • What Were the Twins Up to in 1998 and How Did They Contribute to the 'Long Gone Summer'?


    Matthew Taylor

    On Sunday evening, ESPN aired its latest 30 for 30 documentary, ‘Long Gone Summer’, recapping the Summer of 1998 when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire captured the nation with their home run race. What were the Twins up to during the “Long Gone Summer”?

    Image courtesy of © Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    The 1998 season was another season filled with disappointment as the Minnesota Twins completed their 6th straight losing season, finishing 70-92, 4th in the American League Central. The season began with the Minnesota Twins trading away their disgruntled superstar, Chuck Knoblauch, and ended with the retirement of hall of famer and future manager, Paul Molitor. The 1998 season provided few moments to remember but let’s walk through them.

     

    The Knoblauch Trade

     

    After growing disgruntled with the Minnesota Twins and demanding a trade, his request was finally granted on February 6 when Chuck Knoblauch was dealt to the New York Yankees in exchange for Christian Guzmán and Eric Milton. The trade ended up being a great one for the Twins, as Knoblauch struggled in pinstripes while Guzmán and Milton went on to become all-stars.

     

    Matt Lawton’s Breakout

     

    While 1998 was not kind to many Twins hitters, Matt Lawton was able to use the season as his breakout. In his second full season with the Twins, Lawton posted a .864 OPS while slugging 21 home runs. Lawton went on to make his first all-star appearances just two years later, but 1998 might serve as the best season of the outfielder’s career.

     

    The David Wells Perfect Game

     

    Arguably the most memorable moment of the 1998 season that involved the Minnesota Twins was one that they were on the losing end of, the David Wells perfect game. On May 17, 1998, David Wells pitched 9 perfect innings with 11 strikeouts in a 4-0 win over the Twins. This was just the 13th perfect game in MLB history and the second one against the Twins.

     

    How the Minnesota Twins Contributed to the ‘Long Gone Summer’

     

    The Minnesota Twins faced the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs each three times. Both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit one of their record-breaking home runs against the Twins in 1998. Sosa’s home run represented his 20th of the ‘98 season and was hit off LaTroy Hawkins on June 8th at the Metrodome. McGwire’s home run represented his 36th and was hit off of Mike Trombley on June 27th at the Metrodome.

     

    Combined, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit 136 home runs in the 1998 season. In the same season, the entire Minnesota Twins team hit 115 home runs. It’s a good thing the Bomba Squad would be coming 20 years later..

     

    What memories do you have from the 1998 season? What did you think of ‘Long Gone Summer’? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!

     

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    Unfortunately, I was still in my recovery-phase after 1994's season-ending strike. I was aware of the homerun chase, but not a follower of the sport at the time. I wouldn't be back watching the Twins or baseball as a whole until 2001, when I was a journalism student and went to a few Twins games for our radio broadcast class. I really am afraid that - if 2020 is lost not because of a virus but because of dollars and cents - that it could take something bigger than two roided-up superstars hitting moonshots all season to win back the crowds again. 

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    98's was one of the first seasons I really started to pay attention to the Twins, or most sports generally.  I was young passive fan before it, remembering little things here and there.  It was not the HR race that brought me in, just my age.  I remember Otis Nixon playing and thinking he looks like he is 80.  He was 39, but his face looked like he was 80. 

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