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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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).
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