The Greatest Moments in Home Run Derby History

Jeffrey Schmidt@JeffSchmidt9Correspondent IIIJuly 7, 2011

The Greatest Moments in Home Run Derby History

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    If there is one thing that baseball definitely does right, it's the Home Run Derby. 

    The first Home Run Derby took place in 1985 in the Metrodome. But little did anyone know, it would change the sport's culture, out-rate many postseason games and become the highest-rated Cable television event of the summer. 

    The Derby has featured some of the game's best players including current and future Hall-of-Famers and will continue to be a fan-favorite for years to come. In this article I will count down the top ten Home Run Derby moments of all-time.

10. Ken Griffey Jr., Coors Field, 1998

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    Ken Griffey Jr. stated in the weeks leading up to the 1998 Home Run Derby that he had no interest in taking part in the event.

    Griffey was booed for every move he made by fans who wanted him to participate in the Derby. Griffey then changed his mind and agreed to take part. He won the thing with 19 homers in 42 swings.

9. Frank Thomas, Three Rivers Stadium, 1994

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    I couldn't find a video, but you know you've hit a memorable home run when the place it lands is preserved, even after the stadium is destroyed. In the 1994 Derby, Frank Thomas launched an upper-deck shot to the moon in left-center, landing nine sections over from the foul pole.

    He hit the ball an estimated at 519 feet, marking the longest home run ever hit in Three Rivers Stadium. The home run was such earth-shattering blast that the Pirates put a star on the seat on which it landed. Eventually Thomas and his pitching coach Rich Donnelly signed the star, and then auctioned it off before they blew up the stadium.

8. Lance Berkman vs. Miguel Tejada, Minute Maid Park, 2004

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    The 2004 Home Run Derby was supposed to feature every active member of the 500-home run club. Instead, it came down to two guys who didn't have 500 homers combined. 

    The winner was Miguel Tejada, who set records (at the time) for most home runs in one round (15, in round two) and in one Derby (27). Lance Berkman also set a record of his own by blasting five home runs that landed on the streets of Houston after they opened the roof for the start of the second round.

7. David Ortiz, Comerica Park, 2005

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    In 2005, home runs were going out of style. David Ortiz had himself what would have been viewed as the greatest Derby round ever—except that it wasn't even the greatest Derby round of that same Derby round (we'll get to that a little later). 

    Big Papi still tallied an amazing 17 home runs in a single round, standing currently as the third best round in Hmoe Run Derby history.

6. Cal Ripken Jr., SkyDome, 1991

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    Ripken hit a then-record 12 home runs in 22 swings on the way to winning this Derby, and he said he found something in the stroke that drove him all the way to an MVP award. 

    Ripken is not known for his Home Run Derby performances, but nevertheless, 12 homers on 22 swings is pretty impressive no matter how you look at it. 

5. Barry Bonds vs. Mark McGwire, Veterans Stadium, 1996

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    Two of baseball's top sluggers may have put on the greatest Derby duel ever.

    Mark McGwire led off the second round with nine crushing homers. Bonds then stepped in and smashed 10, which advanced the two into the finals. Bonds fell within one out out of losing, and then hit three spectacular homers in his final three swings.

    McGwire won in style points, however, by destroying two homers that reached the 600 level of Veteran Stadium, which was something that had never been done before.

4. Sammy Sosa, Miller Park, 2002

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    In the first round, Sosa sent out 12 home runs, which at the time was tied for the third most home runs hit in one round. However, this was a round you needed to measure in mileage, not homers. Those 12 home runs traveled an astounding average of 477 feet.

    Seven of those home runs carried 500-plus feet and nine traveled 490-plus, which is purely amazing.

3. Mark McGwire, Fenway Park, 1999

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    Although Mark McGwire technically didn't win this Derby (Ken Griffey Jr. did.), McGwire put on a show. In the first round, McGwire terrorized the baseball with a then-record 13 home runs that amounted to 5,692 feet worth of bombs.

    The highlight of the night however, was a 488-foot blast that screamed beyond the Green Monster, cleared the street, soared over a parking garage and hit a billboard above the train tracks, right next to the never-reached Massachusetts Turnpike.

2. Bobby Abreu, Comerica Park, 2005

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    The baseball gods really wanted to put a show on during the 2005 Home Run Derby. Bobby Abreu is a man who has never hit more than 31 home runs in one season. So its safe to say that he wouldn't hit 41 Derby homers in one night, right? 

    Ten of Abreu's first 14 swings left the park, and Abreu would have 14 more bombs in him just in that round, which were followed by 17 more in the next two rounds.

1. Josh Hamilton, Yankee Stadium, 2008

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    In the 2008 Derby, Josh Hamilton launched 28 home runs in one round, and made a final, lasting memory that reflected what had gone on in Yankee Stadium the previous 85 years: home runs, and many of them.

    He hit home runs on 13 swings in a row. And 16 of 17. And 20 of 22. And 22 of 25. He crushed five balls into the upper deck. It was amazing to witness this display of power and grace, and it has to go down as the greatest Derby moment of all-time.