The All-Star game began in 1933, with players such as Lou Gehrig, Ben Chapman and Babe Ruth littering the lineup. The starting pitchers were Lefty Gomez and Bill Hallahan. Imagine being there for that first game of greats, only to be capped off by none other than the Babe himself winning the game with a scorcher over the right field wall.
Back then there was no home run derby, but there is little doubt who would have been in attendance. The above-mentioned hall of famers, “The Great Bambino” (Ruth) and “the Luckiest Man on the face of the Earth” (Gehrig), for sure. What of later home run greats? Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Willie Mays? This writer would pay tenfold the amount charged for the home run derby nowadays to see the four of them attempt to knock the cover off a ball. But alas, the home run derby wasn’t around until 1985, and then, like the All-Star Game, it was all about A.L. vs. N.L. Though Dave Parker of the N.L. cracked the most long balls (at 6), the A.L. emerged victorious combining for 17 to the N.L’s 16.
It wasn’t until 1996 that the Derby became round based. One year later, the round based game became more individual-based, with less focus on the A.L.-N.L. rivalry. That’s when the huge displays of power came into full view (Along with, arguably, the increased use of steroids and corked bats).
In its early years, six to seven home runs was a huge deal. Surprisingly, this list will not feature steroid-extraordinaire, Jose Canseco, who, in two Home Run Derby Appearances, managed to crank just one single, solitary home run. Ironic.
Here’s a list of the top 5 performers in Home Run Derby history.
5. Barry Bonds
48 total home runs in 6 appearances; 1996 champion
The all time leading home run king appeared in 6 home run derbies. Though his numbers weren’t that high, his home runs certainly were. It seemed for Bonds as if it was go big or go home, as his towering shots were sore high into the upper decks of stadiums. His greatest amount in one round was his 10 in 1996, the year he went on to win it all.
4. Mark McGwire
58 total home runs in 7 appearances; 1992 champion
There is quite a jump between number 5 and number 4 on this list. Ironically, that’s a good way to describe McGwire’s home runs as well: quite a jump. “Big Mac”, like Bonds, was a brickhouse of sheer power. In most parks, he’d get at least one out of the entire stadium. His greatest amount in one round was his 13 in 1999. Despite this, however, he did not even reach the finals that year.
3. Sammy Sosa
65 total home runs in 6 appearances; 2000 champion
Slammin’ Sammy was true to his name. Though many of his home runs were more frozen rope-like line shots to the wall, he would occasionally have a few that would sore to the heights of McGwire and Bonds. Which is why his “cork incident” surprised me. Though perhaps the other two just stuck to steroids? His greatest amount of home runs in a single round was 12 in 2002, but he lost in the finals to Jason Giambi.
2. David Ortiz
68 total home runs in 4 appearances; 2010 champion
Whereas other on this list, I’ve mentioned to be either “go big or go home”, it appears as if Ortiz only knows how to go big. Hence why he’s gotten more home runs than any of the above in such fewer appearances. Big Papi cranked out 32 home runs in 2010, and is one of only two players to hit more than 10 home runs in two separate rounds of the same derby.
1. Ken Griffey, Jr.
70 total home runs in 8 appearances; 1994, 1998, 1999 champion
Of course! The solid, cocky kid with swagger had one of the smoothest swings ever to grace the game of baseball, Griffey made it look pretty. Such a pity that he spent the second half of his career plagued with injury. Griffey simply had fun. It’s almost as if it was too easy for him. As if he knew just how many to hit that he needed to win and would hit no more. The most he ever hit in a derby round was 10, and that was in the second round of 1999. Baseball fans tip their caps to you, Junior, the game will miss you.
Having only been to one home run derby and that was in 2005. Not only is he one of only two, alongside Ortiz, to hit double digits in two separate rounds, he also holds the record for most home runs in a derby with 41.
Also having only been to one derby, Hamilton hasn’t even won one. “Well why is he here?” you ask. Josh cranked 28 home runs in a single round! And to think, 10 used to be a big deal! He finished with 10 more total home runs than Justin Morneau, the Twinkie that won it all that year, because he flaked in the following rounds with only 3 and 4, respectively.
Home Run Derby History, MLB.com
1933 All-Star Game, Baseball Almanac
More from Associated Content:
MLB Player Profile: Elvis Andrus
Fantasy Football: Top Five Kickers