Even as my interest in baseball slowly wanes, I always make time for the home run derby.
It’s the ultimate watching experience – a strong-man competition which doesn’t require the participant to be built like a mountain (though it never hurts). The only thing missing now is Chris Berman’s “back, back, back . . . GONE!” call.
This year’s derby didn’t disappoint. Bandana-wearing Bryce Harper pleased his hometown fans by claiming the title in Washington over Cubs giant Kyle Schwarber. Harper went on a tear in the final minute of the last round, launching nine of his last 10 pitches into the night as the crowd went wild.
I was able to sit down and watch the derby with my brother and Kaleb Rymer, an expert home-run hitter who launched towering shots at the Babe Ruth field before graduating to hitting moon balls at every softball field in Warren County. During the event, we debated what an all-time derby would look like – of course requiring a time machine, a necessity in any armchair sports debate.
Our final list looked like this:
Mark McGwire at Fenway Park – We saw this show in 1999, when the Cardinal slugger routinely sailed shots over the Green Monster and into the Boston streets. When it comes to a home run derby, I don’t care about steroids. It’s all about putting on a show, and McGwire did that.
Sammy Sosa at Turner Field – Again, another all-time classic performance we’ve seen. Sosa won the derby in 2000 in Atlanta, with the signature shot being Sosa slamming a ball into centerfield that drilled the jumbotron. Sosa hit two 500-foot homers, an awe-inspiring sight.
Ken Griffey Jr at Yankee Stadium – The Kid was tailor-made to succeed in the home run derby. The sweet-swinging lefty with the backwards cap won the derby three times, but those came in Pittsburgh, Colorado and Boston, respectively. Give Griffey the short porch in Yankee Stadium and it’s a wrap.
Barry Bonds at AT&T Park – The home-run king splashing shots into the bay would be must-watch TV.
Those four were must- haves, but the field could easily include by current Yankee teammates Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who won the last two derbys before Harper. Nobody will argue with a pair of guys who look like NFL tight ends hitting 500-foot bombs.
Go back to 2008 and grab Josh Hamilton as well. He still holds the record for home runs in a single round, launching 28 in Yankee Stadium.
Add prime Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes, both two-time winners, and you may have the greatest modern home run derby ever.
I’d watch every minute.