The 8 Best Home Run Derby Performances

The 31st installment of the derby will take place tonight in San Diego, and will feature sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and Robinson Cano.

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Complex Original

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Many of baseball’s biggest spectacles are ancient practices. Opening Day has been played since the 19th century, the World Series since 1903, and the All-Star Game since 1933.

However, the Home Run Derby serves as a more modern tradition. It was first played in 1985, but did not begin being nationally televised until 1993. It’s by far the youngest of baseball’s cornerstone events and is actually one of the only baseball events to experience a recent uptick in ratings. Last year’s derby was the most-watched since 2009—apparently chicks still dig the longball. The 31st installment of the derby will take place tonight in San Diego, and will feature sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton, Robinson Cano, and last year’s winner, Todd Frazier.

Despite its status as a relative newcomer, it has produced many memories over the last two-plus decades of televised existence. Here are the Eight Best Home Run Derby Performances since 1993.

2010: David Ortiz

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One of the most prolific power hitters of his generation, “Big Papi” won his only Home Run Derby in 2010. He hit eight homers in the first round and 13 in the second round, just enough to advance to the finals. In the finals, he out-homered his future teammate Hanley Ramirez 11-5 to take home the title.

2012: Prince Fielder

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Fielder won his first Home Run Derby as a Brewer in 2009. In 2012, he came back to win one as a Tiger. Fielder hit many moonshots at Kauffman Stadium that year, and became one of just three players to win the derby three times—and the only one to win it with both leagues, or two teams.

2013: Yoenis Cespedes

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The first time Yoenis Cespedes wore orange and blue to play at Citi Field actually didn’t come when he was traded to the Mets last year—it came while he was with the A’s in 2013.

He hit a whopping 17 homers in the first round, and outhomered Bryce Harper 9-8 in a high-octane final to win the Derby. His 32 home runs in the 2013 contest are tied for the fifth-most in derby history. What makes this even more impressive is that Citi Field is a notoriously pitcher-friendly-park.

Cespedes repeated as champion in 2014, joining Ken Griffey Jr. as the only other player to repeat. His 2013 derby remains the only time that a non-All-Star won the title.

2011: Robinson Cano

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Most second basemen don’t hit home runs.

Robinson Cano, however, isn’t most second basemen.

He already has the sixth-most home runs of any player at that position in baseball history—and he’s only 33.

So it should serve as no surprise that Cano became the first second baseman since 1990 to win the Home Run Derby. He dominated the competition in Arizona with 32 home runs. His had his father pitch to him, and together they became the first father-son combo to win a Home Run Derby. He’s participating again this year, so he better hope his dad can lob a few more meatballs.

2015: Todd Frazier

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1994, 1998, and 1999: Ken Griffey Jr.

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The sweet swing. The backwards hat. The infectious personality.

Every 90’s kid who owned a Wiffle ball bat used to turn their cap backwards and pretend to be Ken Griffey Jr. in the backyard. The backwards hat stands as one of the most iconic images of 90’s baseball. Many fans—and websites—actually wanted to see Griffey wearing a backwards cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. It resonated so much that Nike even made this image its “Swingman” logo.

“Junior” participated in the contest eight times from 1990-2000, and won in 1994, 1998, and 1999.

He’s the only player in derby history to win it all three times, and each of his winning performances proved memorable. Who could forget that swing?

2005: Bobby Abreu

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When Bobby Abreu came to the plate for the 2005 Home Run Derby, the all-time record for Derby home runs was 28. Abreu hit 24—and that was just in the first round. He went on to hit six in the second round and 11 in the first round for a grand total of 41 home runs. This still stands as the Home Run Derby record.

While Abreu came into the derby as one of the game’s better power hitters, he never hit for as much power after winning it all. He hit 184 home runs before winning the Home Run Derby, and just 104 after.

2008: Josh Hamilton

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Josh Hamilton’s rise from drug-addicted draft bust to All-Star outfielder was one of the most chronicled stories of the 2008 MLB season. “The Natural,” who was out of professional baseball from 2004-2006, surprised the baseball world the first half of the season on his way to a 32 home run, 130 RBI campaign.

When it came time for the Home Run Derby at the old Yankee Stadium, in its final year of existence, Hamilton almost brought the house down a few months early. He set a single-round-record with 28 homers in the first round. Hamilton was embraced by the Bronx faithful as perhaps no road player in the Stadium’s 85-year history had ever been.

Tape measure shot after tape measure shot, Hamilton just missed hitting the ball out of  Yankee Stadium on several occasions—one of his shots went an estimated 518 feet. This stands as probably the most memorable derby performance of all-time, but many people don’t remember that Hamilton actually didn’t win this derby. That title went to Justin Morneau, who out-homered Hamilton 5-3 in the finals. 

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