The annual Home Run Derby is a part of the MLB All-Star festivities. Each year, it pairs some of the best sluggers in baseball history up against one another. Watching baseball’s greatest hit balls out of the field and rack up home runs has become a fan favorite event. The MLB Home Run Derby has undergone many changes over the years but still remains one of the most anticipated events of the year.
What Is the Home Run Derby?
The Major League Baseball (MLB) Home Run Derby was first introduced in 1985. The Home Run Derby precedes the All-Star Game. Each year, the league invites its top sluggers to participate in the event. The Home Run Derby was traditionally hosted by Chris Berman until 2017. Now, the event is hosted by Karl Ravech, an American journalist who often commentates on Sunday Night Baseball.
The History of the Home Run Derby
The Home Run Derby format has changed a lot since it was first formed in 1985 and continues to change in an attempt to capture fans’ attention. The first Home Run Derby consisted of two turns per player with a total of five outs. An out was recorded if the player didn’t achieve a home run. The first Home Run Derby paired the American League (AL) and National League (NL) up against one another, with five players on each team.
Over the years, the league reduced the number of players on each team, with only two sluggers representing each team in its third year. In the early 1900s, the league changed the Home Run Derby to add an additional round. They also changed the format to a qualifier-type game. Players who had the most home runs in each round would move on to the next round until only the winners were left. The league also increased the number of sluggers to five on each team in the same season.
By 2000, MLB made a few changes to the process again. This time, instead of players qualifying for rounds, they were placed into brackets. The winner would move on to play the winner of the next brackets until a final winner was decided. In 2005, the league made a big change to the method they used when choosing players. Instead of choosing the best team players to represent the league, the best sluggers now represented their home countries.
The Home Run Derby hosted players from many different countries, including the U.S., Dominican Republic, Canada, and South Korea. Just a year later, they again made changes to how the winner was selected. By 2011, the league introduced captains. A captain was chosen to represent each league, who would then choose the three players he wanted to represent the team.
Just four years later, in 2015, the league moved back to the bracket system. Instead of measuring the number of outs, they used a timer. Sluggers would have five minutes to hit as many homers as they could. This system didn’t stick around long. The league then moved to a seed system. Players were rated between one and eight based on regular-season skill. Batters would then receive time limits based on the number of hits and the distance of hits.
By 2019, the league wanted to incentivize more skilled sluggers to join the Home Run Derby and increased the winner’s prize to a whopping $1 million.
When To Watch the Home Run Derby
Watching the MLB Home Run Derby is easy since it has been nationally televised since 1994 on ESPN. Fans can tune in on Monday, July 18, 2022, at 8 p.m. ET. The derby is available on the ESPN channel or live-streamed on ESPN’s website.
Best Home Run Derby Stats in History
Throughout the years, the NFL Home Run Derby has uncovered some of the top sluggers in professional baseball. These are some of the best stats achieved in the Home Run Derby:
- Most Home Run Derby wins: Ken Griffey Jr., with a total of three wins
- Most home runs in the Home Run Derby: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., with a total of 93
Both Ken Griffey Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero still hold Home Run Derby records. However, MLB players continue to match up at the derby in an attempt to break these records.
The Most Recent Home Run Derby Winners
The most recent winners of the Home Run Derby are:
2021 Winner: Pete Alonso
In the most recent Home Run Derby, following a break in 2020, Pete Alonso of the New York Mets was the winner of the 2021 Home Run Derby. Alonso competed at the Coors Field, setting a record for the most first-round dingers of 35. He then concluded round two with another 16 dingers. The runner-up of the 2021 Home Run Derby was Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles, who slugged a total of 22.
2019 Winner: Pete Alonso
In 2019, Pete Alonso also brought home the Home Run Derby championship with a record 53 homers, the most of any rookie in history. He achieved this feat at the Progressive Field. The runner-up in 2019 was Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays. Vladimir hit 29 home runs in the first round, tied in the second round with 29, and both went on to eight home runs in a single minute. However, Pete Alonso went on to win the Home Run Derby award.
2018 Winner: Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper, the MLB superstar of the Washington Nationals, brought home the Home Run Derby award of 2018 with a total of 19 homers in the final round. The runner-up was Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs, with a total of 18 homers. Harper won the first two rounds easily against Kyle Schwarber and cranked out a total of nine home runs to tie and then hit one more for a win.
2017 Winner: Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees brought home the 2017 Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. He slugged a total of 52 homers, a rookie record at the time. He beat out second-place Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins.
2016 Winner: Giancarlo Stanton
In 2016, Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins won the Home Run Derby with a total of 61 homers with a record speed reaching up to 120.4 mph. The runner-up of the 2016 Home Run Derby was Todd Frazier of the White Sox.
Best Home Run Derby Moments in MLB History
With all the rule changes and a series of players with the best skills rotating through the Home Run Derby championships, some are more exciting than others. These are some of the greatest Home Run Derby moments in MLB history:
Record-Breaking Home Run Derby of 2008
The 2008 Home Run Derby set the perfect environment for Josh Hamilton. With the New York City night sky behind him, in what seemed like an endless supply of home runs, Hamilton blasted 28 off. He had been open about his recent struggle with drugs and alcohol, and his boost in performance let fans know he was doing well.
Hamilton had joked before the game that he planned to blast the ball through the right field and into the subway. While he didn’t make it quite to the subway, he did hit an estimated 508-foot ball.
Sammy Sosa of 2002
It’s not possible to discuss the Home Run Derby without mentioning Sammy Sosa. In 2002, Sosa hit a total of 12 home runs, including two that went out of the park. He didn’t win the Home Run Derby that year, losing out to Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, but the shots that he did make will live on in many fans’ minds.
Three MVP Players of 2004
In the Home Run Derby of 2004 at Minute Maid Park, fanatics lined up to watch three active members of the 500-home run club compete against each other for the win. This included Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Barry Bonds. Tejada hadn’t yet joined the 500 club but took home the win with a record at the time of 27 homers. The runner-up at the time was Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros.
A Family Home Run Derby Moment in 2011
There are no rules as to who can and can’t pitch to you during the Home Run Derby. So, in 2011, Robinson Cano’s dad, Jose, pitched him the ball. He must have had years of practicing because Cano was able to blast a total of 32 balls out of Angel Stadium. This was one more than Adrian Gonzalez’s, earning him the Home Run Derby award.
The best MLB Home Run Derby moments often depend on what fan is asked. For some, the number of homers makes a slugger the greatest. For others, the consistency across multiple rounds is what leads to memorable Home Run Derby moments. Either way, many sports fans can agree that the Home Run Derby brings out the best.
Officially licensed All-Star apparel and sports collectibles from Fanatics are the perfect Home Run Derby game day attire to show support to a favorite slugger. Memorabilia and collectibles can help fans recall some of the greatest moments in sports across all leagues.