On Monday, the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby will kick off at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. This year’s group boasts some of brightest names in the league, including Ronald Acuna Jr, Pete Alonso, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
One of the most intriguing All-Star events in professional sports, the Home Run Derby has taken off since its inception in 1985. Over the past few decades, it has created some of the most memorable moments in league history.
Let’s take a look back at the five most memorable Home Run Derby moments in its 24-year history.
5. Robinson Cano shares the spotlight with his dad
Warranting many famous “back, back, back, gone!” calls from Chris Berman, Robinson Cano slugged 32 total homers en route to his 2011 Home Run Derby title. Although Cano’s performance in itself was one for the history books, what made it more special was that his father was pitching to him.
Growing up with his father pitching to him in batting practice, it was a no-brainer for Cano when deciding who would pitch to him in the derby. After winning the competition, Cano and his father embraced in front of the pitcher’s mound in a heart-warming moment, one of the best in derby history.
4. The Judge enters the chambers
In 2017, the legend of Aaron Judge was born. In his first full season as a New York Yankee, Judge was the AL Rookie of the Year, an MLB All-Star, and a Silver Slugger Award winner. Among all these honors, his 2017 Home Run Derby performance may outweigh them all, in the process becoming the first rookie in MLB history to win the competition outright.
In the newly adapted bracket-style and timed Home Run Derby, Judge blew through the competition en route to a final round victory over Miguel Sano. He mashed 23 homers in the first round alone, and hit 47 in total while defeating each opponent in his path.
It was one of the most impressive Derby performances of all time, with Judge slugging four homers of at least 500 feet. If you hadn’t known Judge’s name prior to the competition, you certainly did after.
3. Bryce Harper hits nine dingers in 50 seconds
In the 2018 Home Run Derby, Bryce Harper belted 45 home runs en route to his first-ever win. He saved his most impressive moments for the final minutes of the competition. Trailing Kyle Schwarber in the final round, Harper caught fire in front of his hometown crowd, and proceeded to come out on top after hitting nine home runs in the span of 50 seconds.
When it looked all but over for Harper, he caught momentum at the right time and gave us the best comeback victory in Derby history. For Schwarber, all he could do was sit back and watch as Harper put his name in the history books.
2. Ken Griffey Jr. literally hits the warehouse
The warehouse at Camden Yards is one of the most prominent ballpark features in the entire league. During the 1993 Home Run Derby, Ken Griffey Jr. became the first and only player in league history to hit the building on the fly.
Although Juan Gonzalez won the 1993 Home Run Derby, Griffey Jr’s bomb stole the show. The Baltimore Orioles put a monument on the spot where Griffey Jr’s ball landed, as a way to honor the only player to hit the warehouse in the park’s history.
At 465 feet, Griffey Jr’s shot off the warehouse will forever go down as one of the indelible moments in Derby history.
1. Josh Hamilton makes history
Among all the moments worth remembering in Home Run Derby history, none compare to the show that Josh Hamilton put on in 2008. With the event hosted at the historic Yankee Stadium for the last time, Hamilton added to the stadium’s lengthy history books. In the first round, Hamilton caught fire, slugging a record-setting 28 home runs in just one round.
It was especially noteworthy for Hamilton, who struggled with years of drug addiction before recovering and becoming one of the breakout players of the 2008 season. Every time his barrel touched the ball the stadium watched in awe. Although Hamilton eventually fell to champion Justin Morneau, his first-round performance became the most unforgettable moment in Derby history. It signified that Hamilton had overcome all obstacles and finally made it, while setting an MLB record that may never be broken.