The 10 Best Home Run Derby Moments
The NBA has the 3-Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Contest during its All-Star festivities. The NHL has a series of contests during its All-Star Skills Competition. The NFL has…it has…it still has a Pro Bowl for some reason. Do any sport’s All-Star festivities top the excitement of Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby?
Ken Griffey, Jr. has won the most Home Run Derby competitions, having won three titles. A couple others, including Yoenis Cespedes and Prince Fielder, have won it twice. Pete Alonso of the Mets currently has two titles and is going for a three-peat on Monday night. If he wins it could be one of the top moments during MLB’s Home Run Derby.
There have been some memorable moments from the Home Run Derby since the event started in 1985. There was Cal Ripken Jr’s unlikely win in 1991 at SkyDome. Ryan Howard routinely hitting dingers into the Allegheny River in 2006’s event in Pittsburgh. Robinson Cano had a pair of memorable moments! In 2011, Cano won the derby with his dad pitching to him. The former Yankees second baseman was mercilessly booed the following year by the Kansas City fans for not including Royals DH Billy Butler in the event AND not hitting a single homer. It may be the most a player has ever gotten booed during this event.
And Barry Bonds used to be in it!
Here are my Top 10 Home Run Derby moments:
#10 – Bobby Abreu surprises everyone! (2005) Abreu may be one of the most underrated players in baseball history. He made his presence known during the 2005 Home Run Derby at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Boston’s David Ortiz and Atlanta’s Andrew Jones (who hit a career-high 51 homers in 2005) were expected to be the favorites. Jones didn’t make it out of the first round. “Big Papi” didn’t make the finals. Bobby Abreu surprised everyone by catching fire in the opening round with a then-record 24 homers. He beat Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez in the final 11-5 to become one of the more unlikely derby winners in the event’s history.
#9 – Junior hit it off the warehouse! (1993) Since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992 there has only been ONE batted ball to ever hit the warehouse that sits past right field. That ball came off the bat of Hall-of-Fame outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. during the 1993 Home Run Derby. Junior went on to lose the competition to Rangers outfielder Juan Gonzalez in a playoff, but his legendary shot off the B&O Warehouse remains legendary.
#8 – Sammy hit them where??? (2002) In a field that included Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, it was former Cubs outfielder that stole the show during the 2002 at then-Miller Park in Milwaukee. Sosa didn’t even win!!! Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi beat Sosa in the final. Sammy Sosa hit 12 opening round homers, but it was where they landed that gets him on this list. Four of them traveled farther than 500 feet! He hit then high of the center field scoreboard, into Bernie’s slide, and into the upper deck over the left-field restaurant!
#7 – STANTON-ian shots in San Diego! (2016) Southern California native Giancarlo Stanton certainly put on a show during the 2016 Home Run Derby at San Diego’s Petco Park. The pitcher-friendly park didn’t even come close to holding the then-Marlins outfielder who also hit 24 first-round dingers. Stanton not only hit a then-record 61 total homers during the competition, he annihilated baseballs. His homers landed in upper-decks, over the batter’s eye, and even off the left-field scoreboard! ELEVEN of Stanton’s home runs were hit at least 440 feet. This is pure art. Enjoy!
#6 – All Rise in Miami! (2017) The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton was looking to defend his derby crown at home in Marlins park. However, it was Yankees rookie Aaron Judge who took home the trophy – but not before he and Stanton put on a show for the fans in Miami in the opening round. If you like exit velocity and tape-measure blasts, this is the clip for you. Then again, you can say that about any of these clips.
#5 – Junior changes his mind and answers the bell. (1998) Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. was not originally planning on taking part in the 1998 derby at Coors Field. He cited the M’s travel schedule and timing of the event as the reason why. After being heavily booed during batting practice that morning and speaking with Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson, Griffey changed his mind. His opponents probably wished that he didn’t. Junior gave the fans what they wanted and beat the field, including Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, for his second of three Home Run Derby titles.
#4 – Big Mac attacks Lansdowne Street (1999) Here’s a trivia question: what is the name of the street that sits behind the left-field Green Monster at Boston’s Fenway Park. The answer is Lansdowne Street and one reason that baseball fans outside of Boston know that is because Mark McGwire assaulted baseballs that landed there during the 1999 Home Run Derby. The Cardinals first basemen routinely hit balls over the Green Monster and on to Lansdowne Street. If you parked at the top of the Lansdowne parking garage that night, chances were that McGwire hit your car. Hell, drivers on I-90 just past Lansdowne Street weren’t safe on this night! He didn’t even win it! Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Mariners won it for a third time.
#3 – Josh Hamilton announces his arrival in the Bronx (2008) Josh Hamilton was a feel-good story in 2008. The former 1999 #1 overall MLB Draft Pick overcame drug addiction and injuries rise to baseball stardom. Hamilton became an All-Star in his second big-league season in 2008. His opening round performance at old Yankee Stadium was arguably the best performance in the event’s history. The Rangers outfielder hit 28 opening round homers with the man who used to throw him batting practice as a kid, Mr. Clay Council. Hamilton hit bombs all over Yankee Stadium to areas where batted balls hadn’t gone since the days of Mickey Mantle. Justin Morneau of the Twins ended up beating Hamilton in the finals, but this was one great performance!
#2 – Harper’s wild comeback at home! (2018) Who doesn’t love a come-from-behind victory? With about a minute or two left in the 2018 event, it looked like the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber was about to win the Home Run Derby in DC. Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper had other ideas. The hometown star launched, no pun intended, a furious comeback after being down by nine dingers with under two minutes remaining. Harper tied Schwarber on the last pitch of regulation time. He then hit his 19th and final homer of the final round with 16 seconds remaining to win the 2018 derby.
#1 – Vlad Jr and Pederson go to a THIRD swing-off!!! (2019) The 2019 derby at Cleveland’s Progressive Field gave us the most exciting derby event ever, in my opinion. Mets first baseman Pete Alonso won the first of his two Home Run Derby titles, but it was the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr, and the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson who stole the show. Guerrero and Pederson matched up in the semifinals with both hitting a record 29 homers. It then got so ridiculous that both players went to not one, not two, but THREE swing offs before Guerrero finally pulled ahead 40-39. Yeah, 40 homers in one round is a record. Guerrero hit 91 total dingers for the derby, also, a record, but fell to Alonso 23-22 in the final. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnVE67Ea9sk&t=1s
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