Perhaps the best All-Star break event of any sport — MLB’s Home Run Derby — is tonight at Petco Park.
While the Cubs don’t have anyone participating this year, north siders have been very successful in the past. In fact, 18 MLB teams have never had a single player with the derby, while the Cubs have had three champions (Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa). No MLB team has more than three champions.
Now, time for a trip down memory lane.
The format was much different back in the day. At this time, it was structured as a two-inning competition, with each hitter getting five outs per inning. This made the event much quicker than it is today. It was also set up as a National League vs. American League event, with each side having two hitters compete. At the Coliseum in Oakland, Chicago’s Andre Dawson and Atlanta’s Ozzie Virgil swung for the NL, while Oakland’s Mark McGwire and Toronto’s George Bell hit for the AL. So much for McGwire’s home-field advantage, the slugger hit only one homer — Bell added just one as well. Virgil hit two and Dawson added six, giving the NL the 8-2 victory. The 1987 derby fell short on theatrics, with the second fewest long balls ever hit in a derby.
The 1990 derby is regarded as the worst of all time. It was held at the friendly confines, but the wind was blowing in off the lake, and directly into the hitters’ faces. This made for an uneventful afternoon at Wrigley — yes, the lights had been installed, but they decided to play it in the afternoon. This snooze-fest featured just five home runs. Total. It’s especially interesting considering that eight players competed. Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Bobby Bonilla and Darryl Strawberry all went oh-for, failing to hit a single long ball. The event was very different than the glorified batting practice that it’s become today.
The 2000 derby was the first year that the league instituted the round system. Each player got 10 outs to hit as many homers as they could, with four advancing to the second round. After another 10 outs, the top two performers advanced to the finals. Sosa hit six in the first round and 11 in the second round to advance to the finals against Reds’ slugger Ken Griffey Jr. Sosa easily bested Griffey, slamming nine homers over the fence at Turner Field in Atlanta compared to Griffey’s two.
Kevin McCarthy, a junior at the University of Illinois, is serving an internship at Scout.com this summer and covering the Cubs for NorthSidersReport. You can follow him at @KevOMcCarthy on Twitter or contact him by e-mail at Kevin.McCarthy00@yahoo.com