Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Post: Marc McGwire/Sammy Sosa Home Run Race

Welcome to a new installment of Children of the 90s guest blogs! We have several pieces in the works and we are still reviewing applications, so if you are interested in contributing to Children of the 90s, shoot us an email at!

...And we're back with another spectacular guest post drawn from our fabulous pool of blogger applicants. I've gotten so many emails and comments about how the blog tends to be one-sided--that is, female sided. Thankfully, we've got guest blogger Russ to infuse some much-needed testosterone into your weekly dose of 90s. So, thanks, Russ. I have no aptitude for 90s sports trivia, so I completely appreciate your knowledge and expertise on an area that so eludes me.

You can find Russ in his regular blogging gig reviewing the goodies at Trader Joe's as a contributor to the
What's Good at Trader Joe's? blog. It's also worth mentioning that today is his birthday, so leave him the requisite good wishes in the comments section. A little about Russ, from the birthday boy himself:

It's tough to not like most Trader Joe's chow. It's almost as tough to not poke some light fun at my lovely wife, Sandy. So the blog I co-author, What's Good at Trader Joe's?, gives an honest review of TJ fare while I make fun of her and occasionally get myself in trouble while detailing little bits of our life in Pittsburgh. The other guy who writes reviews, Nathan, is pretty entertaining, too. You can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter if you like that kinda stuff.

Go check out Russ's blog for more tasty Trader Joe tidbits, and of course, enjoy his distinctly male musings on late 90s home run madness below:

1998 Marc McGwire/Sammy Sosa Home Run Race

The summer of 1998 was simply a magical time to be not only a baseball fan, but any kid who ever dreamed of making the big leagues. With Little League and the time-honored tradition of hot dogs, popcorn, and soda while attending a major or minor league game, baseball has long been a sport that’s held an undeniable special place in the hearts of our youth. And there’s few more things about baseball that capture more imagination and dreams than the home run, the long ball, the deep fly, the dinger. The homer. Practically no one has grown up without dreaming of swatting one. That spectacle of power and precision is undeniably entrenched in our American psyche, especially as kids, and it’s tough to not admire any athlete who can swat one so routinely and seemingly effortlessly.

No, the homer. Not The Homer.

1998 gave us not one but two men, of different colors, backgrounds and teams, on a collision course of history, destiny, and our imagination. Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs spent all summer slugging ball after ball over the walls and notching their names in the history books. By August, despite the constant glare of media attention, it became apparent that it wasn’t a question any longer that the single season record of 61 home runs, set by New York Yankee Roger Maris in 1961, would be shattered. It simply it was a question of by whom, and when.

It was that question that enraptured baseballs fans the nation over all summer. I remember so clearly, actually. All the SportsCenter highlights, the magazine articles, the excitement of whenever one of those teams was coming to town (back then, most Phillies games weren’t worth watching without someone or something exciting coming to town). I remember having a TV in my room (a luxury for my 15-16 year old self) and waking up early every morning to catch highlights from the night before to just see if either managed to smack one out of the yard the night before.

You know, back when ESPN was is that on your lip, Olbermann?

September, the home stretch of the season, finally came. Both McGwire and Sosa were close to the record, and as fate and broadcasters would have it, Sosa’s Cubs came to Busch Stadium for a three game set starting September 6 against McGwire’s Cardinals. Entering that series, McGwire had 60 and Sosa had 58. All summer, with homer after homer being hit by both, nothing seemed impossible. McGwre and Sosa seemed to swap hot homer streaks all summer so there there was the legitimate question lingering of which one would hit the magical No. 62 first despite McGwire’s lead. Fans either identified with McGwire’s raging biceps, his fair complexion and red hair, and his businessman-like handling of himself, or Sosa’s Dominican upbringing, goofy smile, and way he charged into the field every inning. Both guys were easy to cheer for, easy to love, easy to root for. It wasn’t a question if you liked them, it was a question of who you liked more.

Steroids? What steroids? You mean Flintstone vitamins, right, Sammy?

Ultimately, only one of them could be the first to 62. On September 8, 1998, with two outs and no one on in the bottom in the fourth inning, in the very first pitch off the at-bat against the immortal Steve Trachsel at 8:18 CDT, the time came with a long swoop of McGwire’s bat. Ironically, at 314 feet and just barely over the left field wall, it was easily McGwire’s shortest home run of the season, but by far it was the one that resonated most deeply and struck a chord most soundly and changed the record books most irrevocably. It didn’t need to be one of McGwire usual tape measure jobs to fill us with awe and wonder. It was No. 62, and that was enough.


It also filled me with thankfulness that I don’t have epilepsy.

What transpired next was one of the most awkward, impromptu celebrations in sports history. First, McGwire nearly forgot to step on first base (which would have negated his home run) and had to be pointed back by the first base coach. Then, all sorts of shoulder slaps and high fives from Cubs players as McGwire rounded the bases (usually a rather large baseball taboo) before, as he stepped on home plate, McGwire lifted his chubby young son high in the air to celebrate. Sosa, in right field, and bested, ran in to offer his congrats and atta-boys before McGwire took a microphone to address the crowd. In all, a night unlike any other in baseball history, and it certainly made my vocab homework seem pretty anti-climatic.

Mark and Sammy’s man hug was both singular and uncouth.

It’s tough to ultimately place this in the proper historical context. McGwire ended the year with 70 homers, Sosa with 66. Some credit the home run derby between the two between helping “save” baseball after the 1994 strike that wiped out the World Series for the only time in its history; others don’t. The Cardinals didn’t even make the playoffs, while the Cubs did, only to be swept out in the first round by the Atlanta Braves. Three short years later, Barry Bonds of the San Fransisco Giants smacked 73 homers to place his name on top the single season list. And in the years after that, there have been whispers of steroid use by McGwire, Sosa and Bonds that only McGwire has copped to. For some, that cheapens the memories of the summer of ‘98 and the back-and forth struggle of these two men against each other and against history. However 1998 is ultimately remembered, there’s no denying the magnetic appeal, the magical whispers, the epic long flies, and the shattering of baseball history that transpired.

And the biceps. Lots and lots of biceps.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guest blog: Umbro Shorts

Welcome back to our exciting series of Children of the 90s guest blogs! We have several pieces in the works and we are still reviewing applications, so if you are interested in contributing to Children of the 90s, shoot us an email to!

I was so excited when one of my very favorite bloggers contacted me wanting to write a guest post for Children of the 90s. For those of you who don't know Sha
nnon, she is an extremely dedicated fellow 90s enthusiast whose primary focus is a laserlike focus on the Sweet Valley series in her Sweet Valley High blog.

Long-time readers may also recognize Shannon from her contr
ibution to last year's Glamour Shot Challenge. In case you missed it, here's one of her awesome airbrushed photos from her mall session circa mid-90s:

A little about Shannon, from the SVH guru herself:

When I’m not sitting around feeling regretful about my childhood fashion choices and my forays into Glamour Shots modeling, I spend entirely too much of my free time reading and blogging about Sweet Valley books. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

Be sure to check out Shannon's blog and to follow her for tons of 90s goodness. Shannon chose to wrote about a subject near and dear to many of our nostalgic hearts: Umbro shorts. Oh, the shininess.


Long ago and far away (the 1920s in England), Harold and Wallace Humphreys decided they were sick and tired of their football (and by that I mean soccer) teams looking so shabby on the field. They wanted to dress the sporting world in shiny nylon, so they started Humphreys Brothers Clothing, a name that later got shortened to Umbro. Many years passed during which Umbro outfitted England’s soccer teams, but the rest of the world didn’t care much about it. Then Americans started to play soccer, and we were delighted to learn there was already a clothing line dedicated to our favorite new pastime. In 1992, Umbro was acquired by a South Carolina company called Stone Manufacturing, and we quickly Americanized everything about it.

Umbros were super boring when we got hold of them, but we had a fierce love of neon back in the 90s – probably the last death throes of the 80s getting out of our system. So it was no surprise that those unassuming soccer shorts were soon being produced in all manner of fantastic colors. Even the logo got a splashy new look. Suddenly, Umbros were the Next Big Thing and every school age kid had to have a pair. Finally, I had something to wear with my oversized neon t-shirts!

I don’t know why my friend is holding me like a baby, but check out our Umbros!

Over the next few years, one couldn’t swing a dead cat in a school hallway without hitting at least five kids wearing Umbros. The more athletic kids – the ones who actually played soccer and had probably been wearing Umbro-like shorts for years – generally stuck to the checkerboard/solid color style. The rest of us felt no such compunction and we wore all the new and exciting designs available to us. As long as our shorts had that double diamond logo on them somewhere, we could be confident in our coolness. As has been pointed out before on this blog, there has never been a more brand-name conscious decade than the 90s. Of course, as with any other fashion trend, there were generic knockoffs to be had. These impostor Umbros were easier on our parents’ wallets, but we were pretty sure nobody would like us if we wore them.

A popular design for the serious athlete.

There were a couple of problems Umbro-wearers faced. One was that if it rained, your super awesome hot pink Umbros had a tendency to become transparent and give everyone a good look at your Power Rangers underwear. A bigger problem was that if you did anything athletic, or even if you sat down wrong, you ran the risk of showing off your undies in a more direct way. Umbros, being rather loose and made of a lightweight material, tended to ride up and give the world a pretty good view of things best left unseen. It was for this reason that some of us, myself included, took to wearing biker shorts under our Umbros.

This fellow could use some biker shorts.

These problems aside, the Umbro brand enjoyed a good few years of popularity here in the States. However, we have awfully short attention spans, and Umbro shorts soon gave way to No Fear and flannel shirts. Umbro didn’t care, though. They just went back to doing what they’d always done: creating sportswear for soccer teams. Umbro became part of the Nike family in 2008, and they’re more financially stable than ever. You can still find 90s style Umbros if you’re feeling nostalgic, and you might even be able to make some money if you happen to have any still taking up space in your closet. For instance, the gentleman below sold his pair on Etsy last June.

Don’t you want to be that cool again?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Guest Post: 90s TV BFFs

Welcome to yet another installment in this series of Children of the 90s guest blogs! We have several pieces in the works and we are still reviewing applications, so if you are interested in contributing to Children of the 90s, shoot us an email to!

Guest blogger Lauren of The Unprofessional Critic has put together a great list of 90s TV BFFs for your reading enjoyment. You can check out her blog at, on Facebook at The Unprofessional Critic, and on Twitter at @unprocritic.

90s TV BFFs

Ah, BFF's. They may not get along 100% of the time, but they're bonded for life (or at least until cancellation). And in the 1990's, best friends were dominating the airwaves. Behold, five of my favorite dynamic duos:

1. Wayne and Garth ("Wayne's World," Saturday Night Live)

As a kid I totally wanted Wayne and Garth's lifestyle: how cool would it be to co-host a TV show with your best friend? Needless to say, I didn't understand until much later that they lived in a suburb. With their parents. Still, whether they were shouting out their theme song, freaking out over Aerosmith, or spouting impromptu haikus, these two always had fun together. Excellent!

2. Felicity and Sally (Felicity)

Felicity premiered my freshman year of college and my roommates and I were obsessed. We were also college freshmen in a big city! And we also wore dorky sweaters! True, Felicity and her chief confidante Sally weren't traditional BFF's - their audio letters to each other meant Sally (voiced by 90's icon Janeane Garofolo) was only heard, never seen. Plus, as Felicity's former French tutor, Sally was considerably older. But Felicity was guarded that first year of university, just coming into her own and learning to trust classmates and friends in a completely new environment. It was Sally who heard her innermost thoughts, her struggles with relationships, classes and career paths. And once in a while, Sally would offer some sage advice that brought tears to my naive 18-year-old eyes (shut up).

3. DJ and Kimmy (Full House)

My sister and I, die-hard Full House fans even when it descended into the madness of poop jokes and way too many twins, each had our own Tanner family counterpart. As the "neglected middle child" (her words), she identified with Stephanie. As the bossy (also her words) eldest of three, I was Team DJ all the way. And wherever Deej was, her buddy/neighbor Kimmy Gibbler was never far behind. Kimmy started out as a normal (if slightly annoying) little girl and ended the series as a brightly-clothed borderline superfreak with a boyfriend who could only say one word. (My sister claims my high school boyfriend looked exactly like Dwayne. Whatever.) But how can you not love a best friend who buys you a rad lavender sequined baseball cap? If I were Kimmy, however, I would have been thrilled with that impromptu hash-brown birthday cake. Pass the ketchup!

4. Beavis and Butt-head (Beavis and Butt-head)

As a 14-year-old misanthrope without a driver's license, in a decade where ironic snark was the name of the game, my late nights were spent in front of our ancient basement TV, hand poised over the Off button in case my mom caught me watching my two favorite shows: The State and Beavis and Butt-head. (Will Smith said it best: parents just don't understand.) The latter spent their evenings in front of a TV, making fun of stupid music videos. Sure, they smacked each other around and claimed the Beatles ruined music, but I understood them. We were in the same awkward, bored boat. (And because Mike Judge is awesome, these guys are about to get a revival. Long live the 90's!)

5. Clarissa and Sam (Clarissa Explains It All)

Come on: who DIDN'T want a Sam? Unlike the mouth-breathing philistines who populated my sixth-grade classroom, Sam was one righteous dude. He wore baggy clothes. He gamely went along with whatever offbeat scheme or fantasy Clarissa was digging into that week. For God's sake, he had a ladder and his very own guitar twang! Plus, he and Clarissa survived one very awkward date and snapped right back into the best friendship that was their destiny. I fully blame Sam for my string of cool guy pals with single-syllable names and awesome T-shirts, which began when I was twelve and continues to this day. (When are you gonna climb into my second-story apartment window, ROB?)

Like what you read? Check out Lauren on Facebook and Twitter!

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