Top 10 All-Time Home Run Derbies

The scene is set, the contestants have been chosen and next week we will get to see the best sluggers Major League Baseball has to offer when they compete in the 29th Home Run Derby.

This year’s lineup is littered with a mixture of youth and veteran talent.  The National League’s squad is composed of New York Mets third baseman David Wright, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Colorado Rockies Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez.  For the American League, New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder and a player to be determined will be the league’s hitters.

But before that famous Citi Field apple pops up-and-down as baseballs fly through the hot New York City night, we thought we’d take a look back at our 10 favorite derbies from over the years.

A solid lineup proved to be rather disappointing last year, but it was one player that made the event worth watching – Prince Fielder.  While the Detroit behemoth hit just five dingers in the first round, he belted 11 in round two and finished with 12 in the final round for a total of 28.  The next closest was Toronto’s Jose Bautista who finished with 20. It was Fielder’s second derby win in four years, making him just the second player to win it at least twice (Ken Griffey, Jr. won it three times throughout his career).

The 2003 edition got off to a slow start until Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi came to the plate at the end of the first round.  He hammered out 12 and what ensued was two of the better rounds the derby has ever seen.  Giambi hit 11 in the next round but failed to advance when St. Louis’ Albert Pujols belted 14 to take him down.  Pujols then squared off against Los Angeles Angels outfielder Garret Anderson in the finals.  Pujols couldn’t connect on his final out and fell 9-8 to Anderson in perhaps the most thrilling finish the derby has ever seen.

There’s just something about that Mile High air that screams “dinger”; it could be because the ball tends to carry due to scientific reasons we simply don’t want to bore you with.  The lineup in 1998 didn’t hurt either, thanks to guys like Mark McGwire, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro.  But it was Griffey who stole the spot light with his trademark backwards hat.  First round: eight.  Second round: eight.  The finals didn’t take nearly the same effort, as he beat Thome 3-2 to win his second title in four years.  He wasn’t done there, however.

Finally Pittsburgh Pirates fans had something to cheer about, even it was mainly thanks to the bat of a cross-state-rival.  Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard put on a display, knocking out 23 total, including one that landed on a promotional “hit it here” sign.  It looked as though New York’s David Wright would take it home after 16 in the first round, but he cooled-off, hitting just six in the final two rounds.  For the second straight year a Phillies player won the derby, but we’ll get back to that later.

Before the event, the league honored the 14 living members of its 500 home run club.  After, three of those who were honored – Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Palmeiro – helped put on a show.  Bonds and Palmeiro advanced; Sosa did not, though it was clear that Astros faithful wanted Lance Berkman, their hometown boy, to add some hardware to his collection.  However, it was Miguel Tejada who walked away a winner, finishing the night with 27 bombs – which is like 81 back, back, backs by Chris Berman, if our math is correct.