Many baseball fans surely enjoyed ESPN’s latest “30 for 30” documentary, Long Gone Summer, for the nostalgia trip it provided. The film brought viewers back to a time when baseball captured the attention of the nation as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa competed for Major League Baseball’s single-season home run record.

Others may have preferred a more discerning look at the effects performance-enhancing drugs had on the game, the dark subplot which dispelled the magic of that 1998 season. But at a time when MLB is in danger of alienating fans by possibly not playing the 2020 season due to financial conflicts, it was nice to remember when watching baseball truly felt fun.

Yet Chicago Cubs fans watching Long Gone Summer Sunday night were struck by something else in AJ Schnack’s documentary and took to Twitter to voice their disbelief. Why was modern footage of Wrigley Field (and Busch Stadium) used in a film chronicling the summer of 1998?

Some of the shots of modern Wrigley Field intercut with archival footage from the 1998 season seemed particularly egregious. The Cubs’ home ballpark looks quite a bit different now than it did in 1998 after myriad renovations, including the auxiliary scoreboard in right field.

Plenty of other viewers were jolted out of their nostalgia trip with the more current footage used in the film, either because of what was shown on screen or the difference between high-definition and lower-grade video clips.

As several asked on Twitter, was there not suitable footage (“B-roll,” to those in the industry) of the crowds and ballpark settings at Wrigley and Busch from 1998? Was finding and using such video more trouble than it was worth?

The easy assumption to make is that the filmmakers might have put that footage in, thinking fans wouldn’t notice. Yet director AJ Schnack didn’t hide that he filmed at Wrigley and Busch in 2019.

In interviews to promote the documentary, Schnack revealed that he finished the film just days before Sunday’s premiere. Speaking with Wes McElroy of Richmond’s 910 The Fan on Friday (June 12), Schnack said the final product was locked last Wednesday. (Go to the 24:18 mark of the embedded audio below.)

“I’m still sort of recovering from the fact that we actually finished,” Schnack told McElroy. “This process has been upended and turned upside-down by the pandemic. Not being able to work in the same room with your creative team and trying to find all these new technologies to be able to finish the project. We actually just got the film to ESPN the day before yesterday.”

Schnack explained that his film was going to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival (originally scheduled for April 15–26 before being canceled). But before the COVID-19 shutdown and lack of live sports compelled ESPN to move all of its documentary programming up to May, Long Gone Summer was originally intended to air later in the summer.

As some critics speculated with The Last Dance, perhaps this film suffered from a rushed production process as ESPN moved its slate of event documentaries up to compensate for no available live sports programming in the spring and early summer. Judging from what fans noticed, however, the final product wasn’t seamless.

Long Gone Summer will re-air Monday (June 15) at 7 p.m. ET and is available streaming on ESPN+.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.