2011 MLB Home Run Derby: Power Ranking the 13 Best Derby Performances Ever
In the history of the Home Run Derby, there have been many incredible and not-so-incredible performances. From Bret Boone's epically awful performance to Josh Hamilton's electrifying display at Yankee Stadium, the Derby has never been short on entertainment.
As the sluggers of 2011 prepare for a demolition Derby in the desert, it's fun to look back on some of the greatest individual performances of all time.
So before you sit back and watch this year's Home Run Derby (8 p.m. EST, ESPN), let's take a look back.
No. 13: Ken Griffey Jr., 1993
When I was given this slideshow, the word in the title that really stuck out to me was "performance." The Home Run Derby isn't about winning (who cares if Justin Morneau won the '08 Derby?).
Instead, it is a show. A true performance.
In that sense, the 13th-best performance from the Derby is a result of one home run. In 1993, Ken Griffey Jr., the young superstar of the Seattle Mariners, only hit seven home runs. Camden Yards was not particularly torn apart by Junior.
But one home run was absolutely stunning, a 445-foot blast that became the first and only home run to strike the iconic B&O Warehouse beyond the right field wall. It was the first real sign that baseball was entering an era that would be centered around the longball.
Griffey's performance in 1993 was the real start of the age of mammoth home runs in the Home Run Derby.
No. 12: Jason Giambi, 2002
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The 2002 Home Run Derby was one of the more captivating iterations of the event.
It came at a time when steroid use was becoming an extremely hot topic, and this was magnified by the fact that two of the headliners for the event were Jason Giambi and Sammy Sosa.
Sosa's performance was absolutely legendary, and he will be on this list later. But Giambi's performance was not one to be forgotten, either.
He hit 24 home runs in the derby, including 11 in the first round. In the semifinals, he hit his longest blast of the night, clocking in at 488 feet.
Giambi won the contest, and though history will probably remember Sosa's moonshots, this was still a very impressive performance. Those fans in Milwaukee certainly got a hell of a show.
No. 11: Barry Bonds, 1996
Al Bello/Getty Images
In terms of competition, the 1996 Home Run Derby may have been the greatest in the history of the event. The field was impressive, including Brady Anderson, Jay Buhner, Jeff Bagwell and Joe Carter. But no one cared about anyone except for Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.
The two sluggers had a battle royale, going bomb for bomb. In the end, it was Bonds who prevailed. It was a crazy finish, with Barry winning the Derby with three home runs on his final three swings.
This is another derby where the winner may not have been the most impressive, as McGwire is higher on this list.
But regardless, Bonds was able to be the king of Veterans Stadium for a night. Philadelphia was home to an epic slugfest, and baseball's home run king prevailed.
No. 10: Miguel Tejada, 2004
Al Bello/Getty Images
Raise your hand if you picked Miguel Tejada to win this Home Run Derby.
My hand is down.
Tejada, the former MVP for the Athletics, was not even supposed to be in this contest. He ended up replacing Jason Giambi, who was sick the night of the Derby. But Tejada filled in quite respectably. Scratch that—brilliantly.
He hit an astonishing 27 home runs, including 15 in the second round. By far, his most impressive shot was the final home run of the second round, a 497-footer that left Minute Maid Park.
It was incredible to watch, not only because of the home runs, but because Tejada was a replacement.
Not bad for a backup.
No. 9: Cal Ripken, 1991
In 1991, a young, talented hitter named Cal Ripken, Jr. became a surprise competitor in the Home Run Derby.
It was held in Toronto's SkyDome and didn't look to be too exciting. Aside from Cecil Fielder, George Bell and hometown hero Joe Carter, there was not a lot of firepower in this contest.
But Ripken put on quite a show, hitting 12 home runs on just 22 swings. What's most impressive about this performance is not necessarily what happened during the Derby, but after. Ripken went on to have a terrific second half and won the 1991 AL MVP.
Nevertheless, his home runs in the '91 Derby were impressive and were the most home runs hit in one Derby until 1995.
No. 8: David Wright, 2006
Al Bello/Getty Images
In the 2006 Home Run Derby, two sophomore stars from the NL squared off in an epic battle at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and New York's David Wright put on quite a show, with Howard ending up the champion.
But the most impressive part of the night, and the best performance of the evening, came with Wright's opening round. The Mets' star pounded home run after home run, ending up with 16 first-round homers.
While Howard hit a few into the Alleghany River, Wright was consistently pumping balls into the left field bleachers.
It was a terrific performance for a guy not considered to be a true slugger. But Wright was on fire, and it made for quite a show that night.
No. 7: David Ortiz, 2010
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
When David Ortiz stepped up to the plate in Anaheim for last year's derby, everyone knew what he had to do. Pull, pull, pull.
With the high fence in right-center field, Big Papi faced a slight challenge. But down the right field line, a home run would be a piece of cake.
The first round for Ortiz wasn't anything real special, as he hit eight home runs. But in the second round, Ortiz hit 13, many of them absolute moonshots. Always one to destroy home runs, Papi uncorked several monsters, some of which approached the scoreboard in right field.
Then, in the finals against fellow Dominican Hanley Ramirez, Ortiz powered 11 more home runs, finishing with an astonishing 32 home runs on the night. Not only was he pounding the ball, but he was having fun.
It was a terrific thing to watch.
No. 6: Mark McGwire, 1996
As I mentioned earlier, the 1996 Home Run Derby in Philadelphia was a real thriller, with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire duking it out to the finish. Bonds won, but it was McGwire who put on the electrifying performance.
Part of the allure of that year's Derby was that it was a prelude to the Steroid Era. Many contestants that year ended up being implicated in PEDs, with Bonds and McGwire the poster children.
But no one knew this at the time, and seeing McGwire park home runs in the upper deck of Veterans Stadium was a thrill no one had seen before.
It was McGwire's Ruthian blasts in '96 that really set the stage for the series of Derbies over the next few years that would prove to be the Home Run Derby's golden age.
No .5: Sammy Sosa, 2000
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
I was nine years old in the summer of 2000, and my love affair with baseball was in full bloom. I had been captivated by the home run races of '98 and '99, and was giddy about watching the 2000 Home Run Derby in Atlanta.
A year removed from Mark McGwire's Fenway showcase (see next slide), Sammy Sosa put on an unforgettable show at Turner Field.
He ended up hitting 26 home runs that night, but it wasn't the number that stuck. Sosa wasn't just hitting home runs—he was obliterating them.
It almost seemed like that night, the upper deck at Turner Field was only a few feet away. It was impressive, to say the least.
Of course, Sosa would outdo himself two years later. But for this one night, Sammy Sosa was the king of the longball.
No. 4: Mark McGwire, 1999
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Has there ever been a more memorable All-Star week than 1999? Between this incredible Home Run Derby and the incredibly emotional visit of Ted Williams, this was a special time for baseball and its fans.
But the star attraction of the show was St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire, fresh off his 70-home run season. Boy, did he not disappoint.
McGwire hit the eight longest home runs of the contest, and made the Green Monster look absolutely useless. Even if the behemoth wall were twice as high, some of Big Mac's home runs would have still cleared it by 10 feet.
Despite having seen many of his home runs in '98, some of these home runs at Fenway were truly awe-inspiring.
It was one of many fine moments for McGwire during the short stretch of his career.
No. 3: Sammy Sosa, 2002
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
As I write this, I'm getting chills thinking about this performance. Remember what I said about Sosa in 2000? This night made that night look like a joke.
Sure, Sosa lost to Jason Giambi. But in terms of the sheer distance these balls traveled, no one has ever put on the kind of show Sosa did that night in 2002 at Miller Park.
I clearly recall bouncing around my living room, obnoxiously shouting at my dad as Sosa seemed to hit each home run further and further. His crown jewel was a 524-foot shot that seemed to never want to come down. It could have gone into orbit if not for the back wall of Miller Park.
The 12-homer first round might not have had the most home runs, but those balls traveled a long, long way.
That's a night not many baseball fans will forget.
No. 2: Bobby Abreu, 2005
On a night dedicated to celebrating diversity in baseball, Bobby Abreu showed that baseball fans are united by at least one common thread—the love of the longball.
Comerica Park in Detroit was home to one of the most incredible home run performances ever. Abreu hit them out early and often and never let up.
In what was supposed to be a prelude to 2006's World Baseball Classic, the Venezuelan Abreu put on an electrifying display of power. He hit a then-record 24 home runs in the first round but didn't let up.
He hit six in the semifinals and a record 11 in the finals to finish with 41 for the night, a record that still stands.
The most impressive shot of the night was a 517-foot dinger that went past the Montgomery Inn Barbecue restaurant in the second deck of right field.
But all of Abreu's shots were bombs, and the night ended as a celebration of a great pure hitter's display of immense power.
No. 1: Josh Hamilton, 2008
Nick Laham/Getty Images
There are no words to describe the show that Josh Hamilton put on at Yankee Stadium in 2008. It was impressive for the volume of home runs. It was more impressive for their distance. But it was most impressive as the culmination of a resurrection.
Josh Hamilton had taken himself to hell and back, but the 2008 Home Run Derby might have been his single greatest personal achievement.
He hit a record 28 home runs in the first round and almost all of them seemed to be moonshots. They were upper-deckers, shots deep into the space between the right-center and rightfield bleachers.
Skyrockets, laserbeams, everything! If you are any sort of fan of baseball, you were standing and cheering for Hamilton on this night.
It was a triumphant night for a man with tremendous talent. He'd made his mistakes, but he found redemption in baseball's greatest venue in front of millions. This was simply an unparalleled performance.
The greatest ever and possibly the greatest there will be.