Best Home Run Derby Moments of All Time

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIJuly 2, 2013

Best Home Run Derby Moments of All Time

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    The annual Home Run Derby is one of the best things about the Major League Baseball All-Star festivities. At no other moment during the baseball season do eight of the game's premier home run hitters get together to send baseballs into orbit.

    For many baseball fans, certain Derby moments live forever. For young kids, it's something they'll talk about even into adulthood.

    Here's a look at the best Home Run Derby moments in history.

13. Prince Fielder Wakes Up in Second Round (2012)

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    While Robinson Cano was booed throughout his Derby performance, Prince Fielder skated by in the first round with five home runs to barely make the semifinals.

    However, from there, there was no contest, as Fielder blasted 23 home runs in the final two rounds.

    In the finals, his 12 home runs easily beat out Jose Bautista, who hit seven.

    The win made Fielder the second two-time winner in Derby history, with Ken Griffey Jr. being the only other player to win more than one.

12. Miguel Tejada Goes off in Houston (2004)

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    The 2004 Derby was supposed to be about guys like Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. But it ended up being about Miguel Tejada, who won the day, knocking a then-record 27 home runs.

    In fact, none of the big hitters made it to the final round, as Lance Berkman joined Tejada in the finals.

    Making the Derby even greater was the roof being opened prior to the second round at Minute Maid Park. It marked the first time in the stadium's history that balls went out onto the streets of Houston.

11. Ken Griffey Jr. Changes Mind and Wins (1998)

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    Ken Griffey Jr. was adamant about not participating in the 1998 Derby at Coors Field. But once the fans started booing him on workout day, he proceeded to enter into the contest.

    And it was a good thing he did, as he won his first of two straight Derbies.

    Griffey led the pack in the first round, hitting eight home runs. He and Jim Thome then hit eight more in the second round to advance to the finals, where Griffey hit three to win the title.

    What makes Griffey's performance significant is the fact that he listened to what the fans wanted. He understood the Derby was for the fans, and he gave them what they wanted.

    Too bad we don't see that same sentiment today.

10. Robinson Cano Gets Booed (2012)

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    The 2012 Derby took was supposed to be fun. However, for Robinson Cano, the Derby was anything but fun a year after winning in Arizona.

    Named the team captain for the American League, Cano failed to pick Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals for the Derby. Butler had 16 home runs through the All-Star break, and many fans hoped Cano would do the right thing and pick him since the exhibition was being held in Kansas City.

    However, he didn't, and Kansas City fans let Cano have it. They booed him during his entire at-bat and only cheered when he got an out.

    The fans had a lot to cheer about in the end, as Cano failed to record one long ball.

    While Bautista, Fielder and Mark Trumbo were all equally deserving on a spot, Cano gave Kansas City fans hope and then ripped it out from them.

    It may not have anything to do with the long ball, but with Cano hitting zero home runs, it was sweet justice for the Kansas City fans.

9. Cal Ripken Jr. Becomes Most Unlikely Winner (1991)

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    When it comes to players most unlikely to win the Derby, Cal Ripken Jr.'s win in 1991 has to rank up there.

    Ripken was never much of a power hitter compared to guys like Cecil Fielder, Howard Johnson and Joe Carter, who also participated that year.

    In fact, prior to 1991, the most home runs Ripken had hit in a year was 27.

    But on that day, it was Ripken who stole the show with 12 home runs. The other seven players involved hit a combined 15 home runs, with nobody hitting more than five.

    Ripken went on to win the MVP Award, becoming the first player to ever win both in the same season.

8. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire Go Swing for Swing (1996)

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    The 1996 Derby featured two heavy hitters going head-to-head at the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds matched each other throughout the competition, with each belting home runs over 450 feet.

    Both hit four home runs in the first round to advance, and then they started to put on a show.

    Bonds hit 10 in the second round, while McGwire countered with nine. In the final round, it seemed as if McGwire was going to win with his two home runs. Bonds was down to his last out, and he proceeded to hit three straight home runs to win.

    This exhibition was before the PED cloud started hanging over baseball. It was a matchup of giants and one that will go down as one of the best head-to-heads in Derby history.

7. Ryan Howard's Splashdown in Allegheny River (2006)

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    The 2006 Derby featured a lot of baseballs getting wet. In total, 15 baseballs ended up in the Allegheny River, including six by Ryan Howard.

    Howard won the Derby, but he excited fans by sending six homers into the river—a feat that had only been accomplished once in a regular-season game.

    Howard beat David Wright 5-4 in the finals after both hit 18 home runs through the first two rounds.

    The next year, most expected multiple splashdowns to happen at San Francisco's AT&T Park. However, that failed to happen, leaving Pittsburgh's 2006 Derby as the wettest in history.

6. Mark McGwire's Moonshot (1999)

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    Fenway Park was the perfect place for the Home Run Derby in 1999, especially for McGwire, who used his power and blasted balls over the Green Monster.

    ESPN's Jayson Stark described his best home run of the night:

    McGwire terrorized New Englanders from Kenmore Square to Kennebunkport with a then-record 13-homer round that amounted to 5,692 feet worth of bombage. His ultimate highlight: a 488-foot mortar that whooshed 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.

    Of course, we're not sure if McGwire was taking performance-enhancing drugs at the time. But he gave the fans a show nonetheless.

5. Sammy Sosa Hits Mile Worth of Homers (2002)

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    Even though he didn't win the Derby in 2002, Sosa stole the show in Milwaukee. He hit 12 home runs in the first round, totaling 5,719 feet, including two out of the ballpark, according to an Associated Press story (h/t Sports Illustrated):

    Sosa had five 500-foot shots that left fellow All-Stars like Ichiro Suzuki and Andruw Jones laughing in amazement. Sosa's longest drive traveled 524 feet and landed in the middle of Bernie Brewer's slide deep in left-center.

    When crunching the numbers, that's an average of 476.5 feet per home run.

    Even though he lost to Jason Giambi in the final round, Sosa gave the fans exactly what they came to see.

4. Bobby Abreu Sets Derby Record (2005)

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    Of course the guy who hit the most home runs in a single Derby has to be on the list.

    Bobby Abreu accomplished the feat during the 2005 exhibition in Detroit. He hit a then-record 24 home runs in the first round and followed it up with six home runs in the semifinals. In just those two rounds, Abreu grabbed the all-time lead for dingers in the Derby, passing Tejada, who hit 27 the year before.

    In the final round, he beat Ivan Rodriguez 11-5 to take the title.

    Melvin Mora, Cesar Izturis and Miguel Cabrera wrapped Abreu in the Venezuelan flag at the end of it all, helping bring great pride to the country.

3. Ken Griffey Jr. Goes off the Warehouse (1993)

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    When it came to the 1993 Derby, Ken Griffey Jr. stole the show.

    In a Derby that also featured Juan Gonzalez, Cecil Fielder and Mike Piazza, he made headlines when he hit a shot off the B&O Warehouse. It was something that had never been done before then.

    While Gonzalez ended up winning, Griffey gave the fans a show. It was one of the last highlight moments baseball had before its purity was lost.

    A 1994 strike, multiple performance-enhancing drug scandals and bloated contracts changed the perception of the sport in the public's eyes.

2. Robinson Cano's Dad Pitches to Him (2011)

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    In one of the greatest moments in Home Run Derby history, Cano and his dad, Jose, stole the show in Arizona in 2011.

    Pitching to his son, Jose placed the ball exactly where Robinson needed it, as the younger Cano hit 32 total balls out of the park.

    But the greatest moment came at the end when father and son embraced. It was a moment that dads at home could only dream about.

    Not many players have chosen their dad to throw for them during the Derby. Cano's gesture is one that will be remembered longer than his Billy Butler snub in 2012.

1. Josh Hamilton Breaking Records in 2008

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    Josh Hamilton easily takes the top spot on the list.

    In 2008, Hamilton blasted 28 home runs in the Derby...and that was just in the first round. Pitch after pitch, he blasted balls into the New York night. At one point, he hit 13 straight home runs.

    It was a performance that helped him burst onto the national scene.

    What makes this the greatest moment in Home Run Derby history is Hamilton's history. Having battled alcohol and drug abuse throughout his professional career, Hamilton finally seemed to have things together. His first-round performance gave people a reason to cheer for him.


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