Despite its current status as a staple in All-Star game festivities, the Home Run Derby is actually a pretty recent phenomenon.
The first Home Run Derby took place in 1985; it wasn’t even televised until 1993. And even then, it was broadcast on tape delay; the Derby wasn’t aired live until 1998. It stands today as one of ESPN’s most popular live events, and perhaps the most widely covered non-game sporting event of the year. 2016’s Derby’s ratings fell to its second-lowest rating since 2008, but in 2017, the event enjoyed its highest ratings in years, with more viewers than the NBA All-Star Game or the NFL Pro-Bowl.
Home runs are way up in baseball over the last two years; there were just 61 hitters with 20-plus home runs in 2015. That number almost doubled last season, to 111, more than were even hit in the late-90s or early-00s. Current MLB heavy hitters like Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Eric Thames, and Joey Gallo, and established stars like Giancarlo Stanton, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper, are signs that this trend is likely to continue into the near future, at least.
And even though the Derby doesn’t count for anything—it doesn’t mean much at all, come to think of it—it still is a place where legends are made. The Griffey backwards hat at all of the '90s derbies is probably one of the most iconic looks in baseball history. Josh Hamilton’s Home Run Derby performance in 2008 at Yankee Stadium was the most memorable moment of his career, despite the fact that he won an MVP, played in two World Series, and didn’t even win the Derby. (It was won by Justin Morneau, something many people forget.)
So let’s look back at some of the most memorable moments from past derbies. Here are some of the best performances we've seen.