I have always been a huge fan of the Home Run Derby. It's my favorite part of the All-Star break. Whether it's Sammy Sosa taking swings on a batting tee between rounds or Lance Berkman sending balls over the train tracks in front of his hometown fans in Houston, the Derby has certainly produced some unforgettable images.
With the Derby taking place tonight, I figured it would be fun to look back at some of the recent memorable derby performances.Here's how the last 10 years played out.
Fenway Park, 1999 - Ken Griffey Jr. Defeats Jeromy Burnitz
Griffey took home his third Derby title in Boston by hitting three homers to Burnitz's two in the final round, but the most memorable performance of this contest belonged to Mark McGwire.
Just off his historic 70 home run season, McGwire put on a show in the first round. He launched ball after ball over the Green Monster in left field on his way to 13 homers, a single-round record at the time. Unfortunately, all those mighty swings tired him out for the second round. He placed third, but finished with the same home run total (16) as Griffey.
Turner Field, 2000 - Sammy Sosa Defeats Ken Griffey Jr.
After managing only a single homer in the 1999 Derby, Sosa went to Atlanta focused and prepared in 2000. And boy did he put on a show, tallying the most home runs in each of the three rounds of the contest.
Sosa finished with 26 home runs that year, seven more than anybody had ever hit in a single Derby. I can still remember him sending those balls over the row of pennants lining the upper deck. Although this would be Sosa's only Derby victory, this performance would be a sign of big things to come over the next three seasons.
Safeco Field, 2001 - Luis Gonzalez Defeats Sammy Sosa
Gonzalez took home the crown in Seattle with a consistent, but unspectacular performance. He hit five, six, and six homers over the three rounds to claim the title over Sosa.
Like 1999, the most memorable performance of the 2001 Derby came from the third place finisher. Jason Giambi blasted 14 home runs into the right field stands to break the single round record set by McGwire two years earlier. He hit 20 homers over two rounds, more than either Gonzalez (16) or Sosa (13) hit in three.
Miller Park, 2002 - Jason Giambi Defeats Sammy Sosa
Giambi finished with 24 homers and took home the title in Milwaukee. Sosa placed a distant second with 18, but his monster blasts would be the most memorable parts of this Derby.
Bernie Brewer was ducking for cover as Sosa launched several balls up to his perch above slide in deep left field. He topped it off with a 524-foot blast that smacked the scoreboard in dead center, taking a chunk of it with it.
Hometown hero Richie Sexson also sent a few way back back back in this one. He finished fourth.
U.S. Cellular Field, 2003 - Garret Anderson Defeats Albert Pujols
In one of the most nail-biting finishes in recent Derby history, Anderson snuck by Pujols 9-8 in the final round to claim the crown. Anderson didn't hit a ball over 430 feet, didn't hit more than nine homers in any round, and finished third in total homers hit behind Pujols and Giambi. He did hit them when they counted and the title was his.
The best part of this contest came courtesy of the head-to-head second round matchup between Pujols and Giambi. Giambi hitting 11, but Pujols followed with 14, tying a record and earning a spot in the final.
Minute Made Field, 2004 - Miguel Tejada Defeats Lance Berkman
Neither Berkman or Tejada entered the Derby in baseball's top 25 in home runs, but they certainly delivered in the second round of this classic at the Juice Box. Berkman hit 10 in front of the hometown crowd, while Tejada smashed a record 15 bombs over into the Crawford Boxes and beyond.
Tejada finished with a record mark of 27 homers for the contest, surpassing Sosa's 2000 and Pujols' 2003 totals, indisputably one of the best performances in Derby history. Whether he was 27 or 37 years old at that point, however, is anyone's guess.
Comerica Park, 2005 - Bobby Abreu Defeats Ivan Rodriguez
In anticipation of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, the 2005 Derby featured eight players from eight different countries. This helps explain why a dynamics star like Hee-Seop Choi participated.
No matter how the participants were picked, there were plenty of home runs hit, including a 17-homer round by DominicanDavid Ortiz. However, in a stadium with a pitcher-friendly reputation, Venezuelan Bobby Abreu showed why chicks dig, and will continue to dig, the long ball.
Leading off in the first round, Abreu sent an astounding 24 home runs over the fence, shattering Tejada's single round record. He followed that up with six in the second round and 11 in the final round to finish with an astronomical 41 home runs in the contest. It would seem this record should stand for a long time.
PNC Park, 2006 - Ryan Howard Defeats David Wright
In a battle of young phenoms, Howard beat Wright 5-4 in the final round in Pittsburgh. He finished with a total of 23, while the Mets third baseman finished with 22.
Wright's first round was perhaps the most exciting part of a rather lackluster derby. He blasted 16 into that cool Allegheny air, but he couldn't keep up that pace, costing him the contest.
AT&T Park, 2007 - Vladimir Guerrero Defeats Alex Rios
It has always been difficult to hit home runs in the ballpark by the bay in San Francisco, so it is no surprise that the Derby it hosted was one of the least exciting in recent memory.
Aside from Rios' 12 homers in the second round, no other contestant delivered a single round total over nine. Guerrero beat Rios in the final by a score of 3-2.
Hopefully this year can bring some of the fire back to a competition with such a storied history. With a couple seasoned veterans in Berkman and Justin Morneau along with a bunch of promising first-timers like Ryan Braun and Josh Hamilton, tonight could be one to remember.
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