Derby Winners: Ranking the Home Run Derby Champions
The Home Run Derby is a yearly event that captivates the nation like few others. People are naturally attracted to the long ball, and seeing the sluggers duke it out to see who is the game's biggest bopper is a great thrill.
The first incarnation was a television show in the 1960's that showed the best hitters of the day competing for cash prizes by seeing who could hit the most big flies. Hank Aaron was the most successful, winning six straight competitions, and Mickey Mantle also won a few.
Since the most known and current competition started in Minneapolis in 1985, it has grown in popularity to the point where it is close or more important than the actual All-Star Game.
The true explosion in the event's popularity occurred when it began airing in 1993 on ESPN. Since then, it has been a who's who of sluggers that have won the event.
The cloud of the steroid era looms large over the competition because of the list of winners that have been implicated in scandals over the years.
Regardless, these players have left us in awe, admiration, shock, and amazement.
No 24, Wally Joyner 1986 (tie)
Wally Joyner ended up tying for the title of Home Run Derby King in 1986. Nonetheless, he is still one of the most beloved figures in Angels history.
That year, Wally Joyner had his most productive season of his career, in his rookie campaign. He tied for the Derby, finished second for the Rookie of The Year award, and helped the Angels come within one pitch of the World Series.
He would later travel to three other teams and had a solid career, despite never rekindling the magic that he found in his rookie season. He also was a part of the pennant-winning Padres of 1998.
1 All-Star Game
No 23, Eric Davis 1989
Eric Davis won the Home Run Derby in 1989 in Anaheim, the most recent home for the All-Star Game.
Davis was a dynamic five-tool player that came into the league in 1984 with guns blazing. He showed signs of his brilliance throughout many different periods of his career.
The unfortunate part of his career was that he was very injury-prone, and was never able to play in more than 135 games in a single season.
Many fans will remember his battle with colon cancer in 1997 when he vowed to return, and the brilliant season that he was able to have in 1998. He is still considered to be one the favorites in the coast-to-coast run that the Reds had in 1990.
2 All-Star Games
World Series Champion Reds (1990)
No 22, Tino Martinez 1997
Tino Martinez won the Home Run Derby in 1997, during the best season of his career in Jacobs Field in Cleveland.
Tino was a player that took many years to develop into the All-Star that he became in the mid-1990s. He had a very productive season in 1995 with the Mariners before being traded to the Yankees, where he was given the chance to replace legendary first baseman Don Mattingly.
Martinez did not disappoint, as he was instantly a part of the resurgence in the Yankees' dominance; he became a revered figure, finishing second in the AL MVP voting in 1997.
His heroics in many different postseasons is still remembered. He was a part of the Yankees dynasty until their loss to the D-Backs in 2001 when his close friend Luis Gonzalez, who is also on this list, got a base hit off of Mariano Rivera.
2 All-Star Games
4 World Series Championships Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000)
No 21, Bobby Abreu 2005
No one could have expected that Bobby Abreu was going to put on one of the greatest shows in Home Run Derby history in 2005 in Detroit.
Abreu hit 24 home runs in one round, which was the record at the time, and hit the third longest ball in the competition's history. He won the contest, and some still feel that his struggles in the seasons that followed are the result of his Derby exhibition.
Bobby Abreu has been a steady talent with 30-30 capabilities throughout his entire career. He was the best player for many years on some bad Phillies ballclubs, and was solid for the Yankees before coming to his present home with the Angels.
2 All-Star Games
No 20, Prince Fielder 2009
For a player who was once rumored to have hit a home run in batting practice that reached the upper deck of Tigers Stadium at the age of 12, it comes as no surprise that Prince Fielder won the competition when he grew up.
Fielder, who as most sports fans know is the son of home run hitter Cecil Fielder, has emerged as one of the biggest deep ball threats in the game today. He is a part of a lethal power trio alongside Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in Milwaukee.
He has a long career ahead of him, and it would come as no surprise if he were to reach the 500 home run milestone before it is all said and done.
2 All-Star Games
No 19, Garrett Anderson 2003
One of the most underrated players of his era, Garrett Anderson won the Derby in Chicago in 2003. Remarkably, he was able to win the MVP of the All-Star Game the following night as well.
The man that has almost all the hitting records in Angels history had one of the most impressive and quietest runs in the game from 1997 to 2003, when he had the second most hits in the league behind Derek Jeter.
He also was a key piece of the championship team of 2002 with his plate discipline and power to all fields. Another amazing fact about Anderson is that he was the 13th player ever to have 10 RBIs in a single game, which he did in 2007.
3 All-Star Games
World Series Champion Angels (2002)
No 18, Justin Morneau 2008
This Canadian slugger who dons the number 33 in honor of his idol Patrick Roy, won the Home Run Derby in 2008, but many fans forget this in light of Josh Hamilton's unreal display that night in Old Yankee Stadium.
Morneau is a former MVP winner and is having a MVP-worthy season again this year in 2010. He, along with Joe Mauer, are one of the most feared and intimidating duos the league currently has.
It won't be long before kids throughout state of Minnesota are wearing No. 33.
4 All-Star Games
AL MVP (2006)
No 17, Luis Gonzalez 2001
Many will remember Luis Gonzalez for his epic blooper hit off of the untouchable Mariano in Game Seven of the 2001 World Series. But early in that season, he also won the Home Run Derby in Seattle.
2001 was an amazing year for Gonzalez, who shocked the world, and after years of bouncing from team to team, hit 57 home runs.
Another memorable feat was when a piece of Gonzalez' chewing gum was sold for $10,000 in 2002.
He retired in 2008, and became the first Diamondback to have his number retired.
5 All-Star Games
World Series Champion Diamondbacks (2001)
No 16, David Ortiz 2010
The most recent of the Home Run Derby winners is "Big Papi" David Ortiz. It comes as a surprise to some that this is the first time that Ortiz has won the Derby.
"Papi" always had the power, but it wasn't until he left the Twins in 2003, and began playing for the Red Sox, that he became a star. He has been a part of two titles in Boston, and became one of the greatest designated hitters to play the game.
Despite being a feared hitter at the plate, Ortiz is considered by many to be a fan-favorite in many cities other than New York.
6 All-Star Games
2 World Series Championships Red Sox (2004, 2007)
No 15, Darryl Strawberry 1986 (tie)
One of the most prolific power hitters in the 1980s, Darryl Strawberry drew comparisons to the greats of all time before he even turned 30. He tied Wally Joyner in 1986 in the Home Run Derby.
An extremely popular player with the New York Mets, Strawberry was voted to eight straight All-Star games from 1984 to 1991. Also during this time, he was immortalized in a famous episode of "The Simpsons" with other baseball stars of the day.
In the mid-90's, he would have his health problems and also his issues with drugs, but he would come back to play a role with the Yankees, and win three championships.
8 All-Star Games
4 World Series Championships Mets and Yankees (1986, 1996, 1998, 1999)
No 14, Juan Gonzalez 1993
"Juan Gone" won the 1993 Home Run Derby in Baltimore in a playoff battle with the master of the competition, Ken Griffey Jr.
One of the best power-hitters and run producers of his era, Juan Gonzalez was an intimidating figure with his viper-like batting stance and famous mustache. His production in a losing effort in the Divisional Round of the playoffs with the Rangers was one of the highlights of his impressive career.
After his strong run with the Rangers, he moved on to a host of different teams, and was riddled with injuries. He turned down a monster contract offer from the Tigers and was famous for telling them to move the fences in, as he did not fair well in the spacious confines of Comerica Field.
3 All-Star Games
2 AL MVP (1996, 1998)
No 13, Dave Parker 1985
The winner of the inaugural Home Run Derby in 1985, Dave Parker was a player that was able to do everything from an awards standpoint in a career, but still is not in the Hall of Fame.
Known as "The Cobra" in his playing days, Dave Parker was a player that could hit for average, power, and play exceptional defense. He played for 18 seasons for six different teams.
His best run was in the first 10 years of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which included an MVP season in 1978.
7 All-Star Games
NL MVP (1978)
2 World Series Championships Pirates and Athletics (1979, 1989)
No 12, Ryan Howard 2006
The 2006 Derby winner in Pittsburgh, Ryan Howard very well may be the best pure pull-hitter of his generation. Going along with this assumption, he could be the best power-hitter as well.
Howard reached 100 and 200 home runs quicker in his career than anyone before him, which gives the impression that he will climb this list with every season that passes.
He has already done as much as some players do in great careers with his MVP season, and leadership of a perennial championship contender team.
Some have called him the left-handed Frank Thomas. That is a lofty comparison, but it seems appropriate for the talented young first baseman.
3 All-Star Games
NL MVP (2006)
World Series Champion Phillies (2008)
No 11, Jason Giambi 2002
The winner in Miller Park in 2002, Jason Giambi was a dominant power-hitter with the A's, which was surrounded in controversy as it was later admitted that he took PEDs.
However, Giambi always was a good contact hitter with his career average at .282. He ended up taking a large contract with the Yankees following his great run with the A's, and in his first season with the Bronx Bombers, he won the Home Run Derby.
He returned to Oakland last season for a brief stint, before joining the Rockies, for whom he currently plays, and is hoping to win his first title in Denver.
5 All Star Games
AL MVP (2000)
No 10, Andre Dawson 1987
The winner of the 1987 Home Run Derby in Oakland is going into the Hall of Fame this summer, joining only two other Derby winners who have this distinction.
"The Hawk" was an outstanding hitter and fielder in his day. He played for the Expos and Cubs and also briefly with the Red Sox and Marlins. His accomplishments were great, but knee problems set him back for much of his career, and hold many to question what he would have done if healthy.
8 All-Star Games
NL MVP (1987)
No 9, Miguel Tejada 2004
The 2004 Home Run Derby in Houston was won by none other than shortstop Miguel Tejada. Long considered one of the best shortstops in the game, he has since moved to third base, much like the transition of his childhood idol Cal Ripken Jr.
He has been known for his consistency much like Ripken, as Tejada had a stretch of over 1,000 consecutive games earlier in his career.
Early in his career as well, he was a part of a threesome of shortstops in the league with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, that gave All-Star voters fits for several years.
6 All-Star Games
AL MVP (2002)
No 8, Vladimir Guerrero 2007
The winner of the 2007 competition in San Fransisco, Vlad Guerrero is not the most picky or selective of hitters. As former Angels announcer Rex Hudler once said about Guerrero, "From his nose to his toes, that's how Vladdy goes."
That is how Vladimir Guerrero has been perceived throughout his career. He's been considered one of the dangerous hitters since he came into the league in 1996 with Expos. He has had some injuries that may have been the result of playing on the awful surface for years in Montreal, but that has not slowed down Vlad's production or accomplishments.
He is also known for his commercial with A-Rod in which Guerrero hits a ball that shatters the moon. And that is what he is doing with the first-place Rangers this season.
9 All-Star Games
AL MVP (2004)
No 7, Ryne Sandberg 1990
The 1990 Home Run Derby champion is the only second baseman ever to win the competition, and the only player that has ever won it in his home ballpark.
The Cubs' Hall of Fame Sandberg is considered by many baseball historians to be one of the best hitting second basemen ever to play. His power was matched by his spectacular defensive play, with nine Gold Glove Awards to go along with his seven Silver Sluggers.
He now is in the sights of being the Cubs' next manager, as he has gone from Single A, to Double A, to Triple A manager in the course of four seasons.
Perhaps he could teach the young Starlin Castro a thing or two about being a complete middle-infielder.
10 All-Star Games
NL MVP (1984)
No 6, Sammy Sosa 2000
The next three winners on this list will get some opposition based on the allegations that have come at them, some rightfully so in recent years. However, 2000 Derby winner Sammy Sosa was one of the greatest home run hitters of all time, controversy or not.
From 1998 to 2002, Sosa was a sight to see, as he posted numbers that rarely or never had been seen before. His home run saga in 1998 with Mark McGwire as they chased Roger Maris' record of 61 homers in a season was the talk of the nation.
In later years, Sammy would deal with the "corked bat" and the steroid allegations. He still does not admit to anything, and some still may believe that perhaps he was that good.
7 All-Star Games
NL MVP (1998)
No 5, Mark McGwire 1992
"Big Mac" Mark McGwire was the man that took the long-standing record that Roger Maris had set with his unheard of 70 home runs in 1998. This year, however, it was greatly tainted by McGwire's admission of PED usage throughout his professional career.
McGwire won the Home Run Derby in 1992 when he was a member of the Oakland A's. Alongside Jose Canseco, the two of them were known as the "Bash Brothers," as they smashed home runs at an alarming rate.
His statistics in St. Louis were mind-boggling as he not only had the 70 homers in '98, but he followed it with a 65 home run season in 1999 as well.
In time, it will be told how much credit should be given to the player, and how much should be given to the aides they took, but regardless, it was a lot of fun to see Mark McGwire hit those home runs.
12 All-Star Games
World Series Champion A's (1989)
No 4, Barry Bonds 1996
Some may say Barry Lamar Bonds should be nowhere but first on this list. Others may say Bonds and others during the "juice era" should not be in the top ten. Regardless, Barry Bonds who was the winner of the '96 Derby in Philadelphia could be the greatest talent the game has ever seen.
Bonds was the among the greatest five-tool players in his early years with the Pirates, and had even greater success when he became a member of the San Fransisco Giants.
He is the all-time home runs leader, though some still do not recognize that he is in fact, based on the great Hank Aaron. Still, this polarizing figure in sports was among the greats, as his eight Gold Gloves and 514 career stolen bases cannot be attributed to extra help.
14 All-Star Games
NL MVP (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
No 3, Frank Thomas 1995
"The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas ranks higher than players of his era such as Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa simply because his name has never been tied in at all with any PED scandals. He looked the same in his prime baseball years as he did as the massive tight end at Auburn. Thomas' numbers in the mid-1990's were some of the best of any hitter of any generation. He won the Home Run Derby in 1995 in Arlington.
He will go down as the greatest player in White Sox franchise history, as he has almost every offensive statistic by a large margin. He is a back-to-back MVP winner, and many say his best season was during the strike-shortened season.
He was injured halfway through the World Series winning year of 2005 with the White Sox, but was still there for his team to celebrate. He will have his No. 35 retired by the White Sox next month, and will go into Cooperstown in a few years.
5 All-Star Games
2 AL MVP (1993, 1994)
World Series Champion White Sox (2005)
No 2, Cal Ripken Jr. 1991
"The Iron Man" Cal Ripken Jr. revolutionized the art of hitting at the shortstop position. His example would lead to the successes of the Jeters and Rodriguezes and players like Hanley Ramirez. Ripken won it in the SkyDome in 1991.
Cal Ripken will be remembered for breaking the consecutive games record previously held by "The Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig, as it was named by baseball fans as the game's all-time most memorable moment. He also was a prolific offensive player that won eight Silver Slugger Awards in his career, and was named the league's Most Valuable Player on two separate occasions.
Ripken is a beloved figure as his accomplishment and enduring record are a purity that is a rare thing to find looking back upon the last 25 years in baseball.
19 All-Star Games
2 AL MVP (1983, 1991)
World Series Champion Orioles (1983)
No 1, Ken Griffey Jr. 1994, 1998, 1999
The only multiple-time winner of the Home Run Derby not only won it twice, but a third time as well. Ken Griffey Jr. is recognized as being one of the greats to ever put on a pair of cleats. He was named to the All-Century Team while still playing, and many fans consider him to have the "prettiest" swing many have ever seen.
Many wonder what he would have done had he not had the numerous injuries that kept occurring over the years.
I believe fans should remember the wonder and excitement that he gave millions in the mid-90's, and realize that we saw greatness in navy, green, and silver.
13 All-Star Games
AL MVP (1997)