Home Run Derby: 5 best performances of all time
Since 1985, the Home Run Derby has been a part of the Midsummer Classic, though it has evolved over time. What started as a short out-based competition, has turned into a timed bracket-style event, and it captivates baseball fans every year.
The competition received an overhaul in 2015, and the derby is now an eight-seeded tournament, with seeds based on the player's regular season home run total up to that point in the season. The players go head to head, battling it out in four, one-minute rounds.
Players can receive more time based on their distances, including an extra minute if they hit two home runs over 420 feet. If a batter crushes one over 475 feet, he can earn 30 more seconds, giving them more opportunity to collect home runs.
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If the finalists are tied, they go to a 90-second swing off, with the winner taking the crown.
Prior to 2015, the derby toyed with plenty of ideas, including players batting for their home country, a match-play format, and small two-inning events with five outs per inning.
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Last year, the crown was won by the hometown favorite, as Todd Frazier won the T-Mobile Home Run Derby in front of his home fans at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
Here are five of the best performances in the history of the Home Run Derby:
5. 1999: Mark McGwire, Fenway Park
In 1999, Mark McGwire was coming off of his historic 70-home run season for the St. Louis Cardinals. The season before, McGwire shattered the single-season home run record held by Roger Maris, who blasted 61 home runs for the New York Yankees in an MVP season.
Throughout the 1998 season, he and Sammy Sosa made the home run the most exciting feat in sports, giving the home run derby excitement heading into the event. McGwire had all eyes on him as he strode to the plate at Fenway Park, and he did not disappoint.
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His derby performance would really put the event on the map. Though televised as a same-day broadcast by ESPN from 1993-1997, the derby would become a live telecast in 1998. One year later, McGwire made sure the Home Run Derby would be must-see TV from there on out.
The slugger wasted no time, blasting 13 first round home runs, which was more than twice the amount any of his competition hit. In total, his home runs traveled an incredible 5,692 feet, including a 488-foot blast over the Green Monster.
McGwire would hit only three home runs in the second round in the event, which was won by future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., but his mark on the event stands today.
4. 2010: David Ortiz, Angel Stadium of Anaheim
David Ortiz came into the 2010 Home Run Derby a hated man by the Los Angeles Angels fan base. Ortiz had tremendous success against the Angels in the postseason, and the home faithful lets him know how they felt about him, booing him when he was introduced for the derby.
By the time the derby ended, Ortiz was beloved by the Angel faithful and received a standing ovation for his efforts.
The competition came down to the 34-year old Ortiz and the 26-year old Hanley Ramirez. In a battle of young vs. old, Ortiz and Ramirez came into the final round with 21 home runs each. When all was said and done, Big Papi blasted 11 home runs in the finals, leaving Ramirez in the dust, while capturing the title.
In total, Ortiz blasted 32 home runs, which was the third highest total in Home Run Derby history. In another typical Ortiz show of class, he dedicated his win to his friend Jose Lima, who died that May of a heart attack at only 37 years old.
Six years later, Ortiz is still mashing for the Boston Red Sox, batting .337 with 20 home runs on the season.
3. 1998: Ken Griffey Jr., Coors Field
In the history of Major League Baseball, no season was defined by the home run like 1998. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were mashing their way to Roger Maris' single-season home run record, and the Home Run Derby was played in Colorado, where balls fly out of Coors Field.
The greatest home run hitter of that generation was arguably Ken Griffey Jr., who managed to hit 630 home runs despite being bit by the injury bug throughout his career.
Prior to the home run derby, Griffey stated he would not participate, leading to hatred from the Colorado faithful. Griffey was the leading vote-getter in either league, and he was booed during batting practice because he did not want to hit in the derby.
He decided to hit minutes before showtime, and the rest is history. In total, Griffey hit 19 home runs en-route to winning the derby, and in the process, became the first two-time winner of the event.
The player known as "The Kid" beat Cleveland Indians' star Jim Thome in the finals to win his second event. The following year, Griffey would win the derby in Boston, and is still the only player to win three times.
There is little to argue about the impact Griffey has had on the derby, appearing in eight contests, which is a record.
2. 2005: Bobby Abreu, Comerica Park
The first half of the 2005 season was a great one for Bobby Abreu, who smashed 18 home runs before the All-Star Break, en-route to his appearance in the Home Run Derby. The derby had a different feel to it, as batters represented their home countries. Abreu represented Venezuela, and he did not disappoint.
The 2005 Home Run Derby was the first and last International Derby, as Major League Baseball was trying to bring attention to the World Baseball Classic, which would have it's inaugural tournament in 2006.
Coming into the derby, Abreu was not considered to be a huge power hitter. Although he had 18 dingers at the break, he had never hit more than 31 in a season, but he had the power in his bat on this night.
In the first round, Abreu mashed 24 home runs, which was a derby record up until that point. After hitting six home runs in the semifinal, Abreu blasted 11 in the finals, besting Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez for the title.
In total, Abreu hit 41 home runs, which is a record that still stands today.
The derby may have ruined his swing for the rest of the season, as Abreu would only hit six home runs after the all-star break. He would finish the season with 24 home runs, and would never hit more than that in a season for the rest of his career.
1. 2008: Josh Hamilton, Yankee Stadium
The New York Yankees hosted the 2008 All-Star festivities, an honor bestowed upon them due to the fact that they would be moving out of the old Yankee Stadium for the 2009 season. It was a stadium that housed plenty of memories, and for some fans, a couple of ghosts. However, on a hot summer night in the Bronx, it would be a Texas Ranger who would become a legend.
Josh Hamilton was a feel good story for Major League Baseball heading into the 2008 season. The one-time can't miss prospect had nearly ruined his career due to drug use and was making his first All-Star Game appearance. Blessed with a sweet left-handed power stroke, it looked as if Hamilton was made for Yankee Stadium, and on this night, he was.
All Hamilton did was put on a show for the ages, blasting a derby-record 28 home runs in the first round alone. Not only did he hit the ball out, but he crushed the baseball time and time again, bringing the Yankee Stadium crowd to its feet.
Though he would fall to Justin Morneau for the title, the night belonged to Hamilton, who retook his place as one of the top young talents in Major League Baseball.
There have been plenty of historical events in the old Yankee Stadium, and the night Josh Hamilton captivated New York City is definitely one of them.