The 10 Best Moments In Home Run Derby History

  • 10. Yoenis Cespedes

    Last year’s winner Yoenis Cespedes will be back tonight to defend his Home Run Derby title. Yet no matter what he does, there’s probably no way he can live up to this.

    Oakland’s right-handed left fielder has 14 home runs through 84 games this year and amazingly had more than that in one round in last year’s contest.

    At Citi Field, he hit 17 homers in the first round. Unbelievable. Amazingly, Cespedes was not only the first winner to not make the All-Star Game, he was also a last-minute replacement before the event started.

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  • 9. Prince Fielder

    The Prince has the right bloodlines to dominate in this event. He’s the son of former home run monster Cecil Fielder, and the two of them are the only father-son combination to each hit 50 home runs in a season.

    In 2012, the son hit a ridiculous 23 home runs in the last two rounds of the Derby, becoming only the second guy to win the contest multiple times.

    Times goes fast, however. Somehow Prince is now a 30-year-old who won’t play the rest of the year because of a herniated disk in his neck. Texas built him up this offseason as their featured acquisition. He hasn’t delivered, but he’ll always have his Home Run Derby moments.

     

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  • 8. Bobby Abreu

    Talk about the best Home Run Derby performances and you’ll likely guess names like Griffey, Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire will come up. That’s partly true…but they are all looking up at the man who hit a total of 41 home runs in 2005, a record that still stands.

    At Comerica Park in 2005, in the midst of a season where he’d hit for 24 home runs and 102 RBIs for the Phillies, Abreu went into the stratosphere. He hit 24 homers in one round, and even got the Venezuelan flag wrapped around him by his fellow countrymen. This was a career highlight.

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  • 7. Ken Griffey Jr.

    You know I couldn’t complete this list without at least one Griffey spot, right? Sure, he played a big role in the 1993 contest but 1998 at Coors Field might’ve been his crowning achievement in the Home Run Derby.

    Griffey beat out Jim Thome in this contest, smashing 19 homers total. It was fitting that he’d win this contest because the Mariners best player had said for weeks that he wasn’t interested in competing. He might’ve been coming off an MVP season, on his way to 56 home runs in ’98, and leading the league in All-Star votes, but the fans still booed him when he came out for Workout Day. Griffey Jr. was always an observant and sensitive guy, and in one of the few times in sports, the boos made him change his mind.

    In the end, this event is all about what the fans want. Griffey was one of the few guys who listened to them, and gave them what they came to see. The most beautiful swing I’ve ever seen, and one of the best moments in Derby history.

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  • 6. Cal Ripken Jr.

    Cal Ripken Jr. hit 12 home runs in the 1991 Home Run Derby, which is completely crazy when you think about his history. Before that year, he had never once hit 30 homers in a single season. This performance was the tipping point, however. In ’91, Ripken would go on to hit 34 home runs, lead the league in total bases, and win the AL MVP award, as well as a Golden Glove.

    It was an unbelievable All-Star week all-around for Mr. 2,632. Not only did he surprisingly win the Derby, he also homered and won the MVP award during the All-Star Game.

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  • 5. 1993 Home Run Derby

    Okay, so maybe this contest didn’t have quite the fireworks of previous years. But the setting and star power was unparalleled. At the time, Baltimore’s Camden Yards was barely a year old and considered the cream of the crop when it came to baseball stadiums. Even 20 years later, it still is. Then on the field, you had a lineup with jaw-dropping superstar talent: Juan Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr. Cecil Fielder, Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, David Justice, and Mike Piazza.

    Gonzalez won it all after two playoffs with Griffey, but it was their tape measures shots that won the day. Griffey smashed a home run so far that it hit the warehouse deep out in right field — there still a plaque on the spot — and Gonzalez hit one farther than anyone ever had.

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  • 4. Bonds Vs. McGwire

    In 1996, a few seasons before the both of them would set home run records, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire put on the best duel ever in a Home Run Derby. They littered Veterans Stadium with bombs, with the two of them going back-and-forth for 19 combined homers in the second round. McGwire hit two into the stadium’s upper deck.

    In the finals, Bonds hit three straight to edge out Big Mac by one at the end. That’s clutch. Bonds gets extra points for that bat flip, too.

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  • 3. Sammy Sosa

    It’s funny how there are so many of these instances that occur from players who don’t actually win the thing. Some of it is luck. But I’d argue most of it is just conditioning. As Ripken once said, it’s hard to hit home runs… it’s even harder to hit them when you’re trying to hit them.

    During the 2002 contest in Milwaukee, long-ball legend Sammy Sosa was definitely trying to hit them and he connected enough in the first round to give us something we’ll never forget.

    His 12 homers in that round wasn’t quite as impressive as the distance; those dozen averaged 477 feet. He hit seven at least 500 feet. He hit one over the center field scoreboard. And he hit three out of the entire ballpark.

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  • 2. Mark McGwire's Fenway Park Moonshot

    During the 1999 contest at Fenway Parker in Boston, Mark McGwire put on one of the best shows ever. Coming off his 70 home runs in ’98, Big Mac was putting dents in the Monster, and hitting balls to places in Beantown that had never been hit before. In the first round, the first baseman unleashed 13 homers accounting for 5,692 feet.

    His crowning moment was a nearly 500-foot bomb that hit a billboard all the way out next to the Massachusetts Turnpike. Then-Padres coach Tim Flannery, who was on the mound that night, describing pitching to the St. Louis legend as “feeding the great white shark.”

    McGwire wore himself out though, eventually losing this contest to Griffey, who won it for the third time in his career.

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  • 1. Josh Hamilton

    A Hollywood script if ever there was one. A No. 1 overall pick in 1999, Hamilton succumbed to injuries and drugs before eventually righting his career and latching on with the Rangers. From 2008 on, he made five straight All-Star appearances as a center fielder, and won a batting title in 2010. (He also led the league with 130 RBIs in 2008).

    But Hamilton’s crowning moment came in the ’08 Home Run Derby. He smashed 28 home runs in one round, and was so good that one point, he hit it out of the park on 13 swings in a row. Five balls reached the upper deck, three traveled at least 500 feet, 22 out of 25 swings netted him homers at one point. It was absurd and awesome and inspiring and amazing and unforgettable all at once. And he did it all in the old Yankee Stadium.

    You want to know something else? The dude didn’t even win the Derby. Justin Morneau did. No one cared, either.

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  • Yoenis Cespedes
  • Prince Fielder
  • Bobby Abreu
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Cal Ripken Jr.
  • 1993 Home Run Derby
  • Barry Bonds
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Mark McGwire
  • Josh Hamilton

The Home Run Derby takes center stage tonight at Target Field in Minnesota.

Always a premier event during Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities, this year will feature a new format. While Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies are this year’s AL and NL captains — they’ll personally extend invitations to four other players for each team — the new look consists of seven outs per round and bracketed play after the first round.

The player with the most home runs in the first round will get a bye to the third round, watching as the next two best from each league will face one another in head-to-head matches in the second round. The finals will then feature the winners in each league going head-to-head, with the top seeds working after a bit of a breather (always a big factor in this).

Complicated, right?

For most of us, it’s not about byes or semifinals or seven outs. It’s only about watching really talented hitters smash balls all over the stadium. That’s what brings us back; that’s what’ll make us watch tonight.

To prepare, take a look at some of the greatest and most memorable moments in Home Run Derby history.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney