Home Run Derby 2012: Ranking Josh Hamilton and 10 Most Incredible Performances

Doug MeadCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2012

Home Run Derby 2012: Ranking Josh Hamilton and 10 Most Incredible Performances

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    On Monday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the 27th edition of the the Home Run Derby will take center stage.

    In some circles, the Home Run Derby is regarded as a bigger event than the All-Star Game itself, if just for the sheer spectacle and majesty of it all.

    To be sure, there have been memorable performances recorded in the Home Run Derby since its inception in 1985.

    Let's take a look at 10 of those memories.

10. Robinson Cano, 2011

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    Looking at New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano doesn't exactly conjure up images of a pure power hitter.

    Cano has never cracked the 30-homer barrier in a single season, but that could change this year, with 20 heading into the All-Star break.

    Cano will be defending his Home Run Derby championship on Monday night, after an epic battle last year with Boston Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

    Cano nipped Gonzalez by one homer to take home the crown, ripping several balls far into the night at Chase Field in Phoenix.

    An impressive performance for a man who is seemingly dwarfed by other power hitters of the day.

9. Sammy Sosa, 2002

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    In the 2002 Home Run Derby at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Jason Giambi took home the honors, beating Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa in the finals 7-1.

    However, Sosa put on a performance for the ages, absolutely smoking at least seven balls that traveled 500 feet, including one that bounced off Bernie Brewer's slide.

    At least something good came out of the 2002 All-Star festivities.

8. Bobby Abreu, 2005

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    In 2005, MLB changed the format of the Home Run Derby, with players representing their home countries rather than their respective leagues. It was essentially a promotion for the very first World Baseball Classic, held the following spring.

    Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bobby Abreu represented the country of Venezuela quite nicely, thank you.

    Abreu slugged a record 24 home runs in the first round and followed up with 11 more in the finals to defeat Ivan Rodriguez of the Detroit Tigers. Abreu's total of 41 long balls on the night is still a Home Run Derby record.

7. David Ortiz, 2010

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    Angel Stadium in Anaheim has always been known as a pitcher-friendly park, but in July 2010, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz made it look like a Little League field.

    Ortiz crushed ball after ball far into the night, saving his best for last by hitting a finals-tying 11 home runs to easily defeat Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez and take home his first Derby crown.

    On the night, Ortiz hit 32 home runs that traveled an estimated 12,975 feet.

    That's just under 2.5 miles.

6. Ken Griffey Jr., 1999

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    In the 1999 Home Run Derby, much of the focus was on St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, and rightfully so. After all, he broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record the year before, and had 28 homers heading into the All-Star break.

    But on this night, Seattle Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. stole the spotlight.

    Griffey successfully defended his 1998 Derby crown with a 10 home run effort in the second round to steal McGwire's thunder.

5. Jason Giambi, 2003

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    In the 2003 Home Run Derby at US Cellular Field in Chicago, New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi did not win the crown—that honor went to Anaheim Angels outfielder Garrett Anderson.

    However, Giambi's performance in the first round was what everyone remembered. Giambi at one point smoked 10 home runs in just 12 swings, ending up with 12 total in the first round.

4. Mark McGwire, 1999

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    When the 1999 Home Run Derby came around, everyone was waiting with rapt anticipation to see what St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire could do with the bat at hitter-friendly Fenway Park.

    No one walked away thinking that McGwire disappointed.

    While he didn't win the event, McGwire lit up the New England sky as brightly as the Fourth of July fireworks display at the Esplanade just a week earlier.

    McGwire hit light towers, billboards and everything else in between, launching 16 home runs in all. At one point, McGwire hit four balls in succession that all traveled over 470 feet.

3. Ken Griffey Jr., 1993

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    In 1993, the All-Star Game festivities were being hosted at Camden Yards in Baltimore for the first time, and the Home Run Derby became special for one particular swing.

    Seattle Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. launched a moon shot that traveled out of Camden Yards and hit the B&O Warehouse on the fly.

    No one has done that since, some 19 years later.

2. Ken Griffey Jr., 1998

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    In 1998, All-Star vote leader Ken Griffey Jr. nearly didn't participate in the Home Run Derby. However, after listening to the outcry from fans who were livid that he decided to pass on the contest, he changed his mind.

    It was a pretty good decision.

    Griffey put on a show at Coors Field in Denver, besting an impressive field of hitters (Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Vinny Castilla) to capture the second Home Run Derby title of his career.

1. Josh Hamilton, 2008

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    In 2008, at the final All-Star Game festivities to be hosted by the old Yankee Stadium, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton put on a performance in the first round that is without question the single greatest moment in Home Run Derby history.

    Hamilton didn't just hit a record-smashing 28 homers in the first round—it was the way he hit them. At one point, Hamilton hit 13 home runs in a row.

    One ball traveled an estimated 502 feet, and several others landed in the upper deck in right field. It's probably not surprising that Hamilton didn't win the event —that honor went to Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. Hamilton had to have worn himself out after putting on a show that absolutely wowed everyone, whether in attendance or watching from afar.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.