The 10 Most Memorable Home Run Derby Performances of All Time
In many ways, MLB's Home Run Derby is the premier competition at All-Star Weekend.
While the All-Star Game is the more traditional format of the two events, the derby distills baseball down to its most exciting product: home runs.
There is nothing quite like witnessing the game’s finest sluggers launch towering shot after towering shot.
But the mystique of the underdog is not lost either. In 2005, Bobby Abreu bested superior home run hitters like David Ortiz and Mark Teixeira. Abreu not only won the derby, but also set new all-time records.
In celebration of the 2013 Home Run Derby commencing on Monday, July 15, following are 10 of the most memorable Home Run Derby performances of all time.
All statistics are sourced from Baseball Reference.
10. 1986: It’s a Tie
The 1986 Home Run Derby quickly became the “Darryl Strawberry vs. Wally Joyner Show.” At the time, Strawberry and Joyner were two of the game’s most exciting, young sluggers.
However, both players hit the same amount of home runs (4). Without clear rules in place, the 1986 Home Run Derby was officially called a tie.
It is still the only tie in derby history.
9. 1991: Cal Ripken Jr. Dominates All-Star Weekend
Cal Ripken Jr. had a fantastic 1991 season. The Baltimore Orioles’ infielder posted a .323 batting average with a park-adjusted 162 OPS-plus and 34 home runs. He would eventually win the American League MVP Award for his production.
But Ripken also dominated the All-Star Weekend. In the Home Run Derby, the slugger hit 12 home runs, which was seven more than runner-up Paul O'Neill who had five homers.
Ripken additionally captured the All-Star Game MVP Award after smacking a pivotal three-run home run.
8. 1996: Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire Face off
When you mention Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, it conjures memories of towering home run shots. From 1996-99, McGwire averaged an incredible 61 home runs, including a then-record 70 home runs in 1998.
But Bonds quickly supplanted McGwire's total, hitting 73 home runs in 2001. Bonds is the all-time home run leader with 726 career dingers.
The two modern day home run kings faced off in the 1996 Home Run Derby and, as expected, didn't disappoint.
Bonds edged McGwire by two home runs, giving him an impressive 17 for the contest.
7. 1985: Dave Parker Wins First Home Run Derby
In his 19-year career, Dave Parker hit 339 home runs, but six important home runs are absent from that tally.
In the inaugural 1985 Home Run Derby, Parker bested nine other contestants with six dingers and was crowned as the first derby king.
The achievement was particularly impressive as future Hall of Famers Jim Rice, Eddie Murray, Carlton Fisk, Ryne Sandberg and Cal Ripken Jr. lost out to Parker.
6. 2005: The “Gold Ball” Debut
In 2005, Major League Baseball partnered with Century 21 Real Estate and introduced the “gold ball.” For every gold ball home run, Century 21 Real Estate pledged to donate $21,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of America.
In its inaugural season, Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Andruw Jones combined for 14 gold ball home runs, amounting to $294,000 worth of donations.
5. 2009 and 2012: Champ in Both Leagues
Just two players have ever won more than one Home Run Derby. But only Prince Fielder has won the Home Run Derby in both the National League (as a Milwaukee Brewer) and American League (as a Detroit Tiger).
Fielder swatted 23 and 28 home runs in 2009 and 2012, respectively, to take home the NL and AL crowns.
4. 2008: Josh Hamilton Sets Record…But Still Loses
Sometimes setting a new record doesn’t translate to winning. At least that was the case for Josh Hamilton in the 2008 Home Run Derby.
Hamilton swatted 28 home runs in one round, which ousted Bobby Abreu’s previous record of 24. Minnesota Twins slugger Justin Morneau, however, defeated Hamilton in the final found and was subsequently crowned as the derby champion.
It's also worth noting that the 2008 Home Run Derby took place at the original Yankee Stadium in its final season of existence.
3. 1998 and 1999: Back-to-Back Titles
Before injuries hindered his career, Ken Griffey Jr. was considered to be the premier home run hitter in baseball.
In fact, many fans and critics felt that Griffey Jr., and not Barry Bonds, would eventually break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. Griffey’s 630 career home runs now pale in comparison to Bonds’ 762.
Griffey, however, is perhaps the greatest Home Run Derby king. The slugger not only won the Home Run Derby a record three times, but was also the only player to win back-to-back titles.
Griffey’s 19 and 16 home runs in 1998 and 1999, respectively, clinched consecutive titles for him. He also won the 1994 Home Run Derby.
2. 2011: A Little Help from Dad
The 2011 Home Run Derby was one of the most exciting matchups in derby history.
Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez were tied at 40 home runs apiece before heading into the final round, but with Cano’s father feeding him pitches, Cano edged Gonzalez in the finals.
The shot of father and son Cano embracing also went down as a great derby moment within itself.
1. 2005: Bobby Abreu Sets Impressive Derby Record
Bobby Abreu was enjoying one of his finest first halves before entering the 2005 Home Run Derby. The left-handed Phillies' slugger at the time was hitting .307 with a 16.8 percent walk rate, park-adjusted 154 OPS-plus and 18 home runs.
Abreu edged his stiff competition with a record 41 home runs and a then-record 24 dingers in the first round. In fact, Abreu smacked 21 more home runs than both Ivan Rodriguez and David Ortiz combined.
The outfielder only hit six home runs after the All-Star break, however, prompting critics to wonder if Abreu’s participation in the derby hindered his swing mechanics. Regardless, Abreu's performance in the 2005 Home Run Derby was legendary.
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