The excitement that surrounds the MLB Home Run Derby is unmatched by any other exhibition in sports. The game’s most prominent hitters gather around as the world watches them hit balls into uncharted territories of Major League stadiums. Blasts are often hit so far that fellow All Stars deliver child-like responses in disbelief of what their cohorts are capable of. It’s a spectacle that provides must-see TV every single year. But then, every so often, someone puts on a performance like none we’ve ever seen before. These are the moments that transcend time. These are the greatest Home Run Derby moments in history.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. & Joc Pederson (2019)
How could we not start with the most impressive battle in Derby history? Young Vlad Guerrero Jr. (20) displayed his raw power with a record-setting opening round score of 29. Guerrero Jr. opened his second-round matchup against Joc Pederson with another 29 home runs to prove it wasn’t a fluke. But Pederson wasn’t going down without a fight and responded in a BIG way, posting 29 of his own home runs. This forced the two into a 60-second “swing off.” Guerrero Jr. hit another eight home runs (~HR every 7.5 seconds) but Pederson responded yet again, hitting eight more of his own. The two were then given three swings each. Both players added another home run to their total (38) and were given another three swings. The HR Derby’s most exciting moment of all time concluded as Guerrero Jr. hit two more bombs while Pederson managed only one. Guerrero Jr. defeated Pederson 40-39.
(Fun fact: Only 123 MLB players have ever hit 40+ HRs in a season.)
Bryce Harper (2018)
In front of his fans at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper put on the most remarkable comeback in HR Derby history. With only 50 seconds remaining, Harper found himself trailing Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber by eight home runs. Harper and his flair for the dramatic rallied to hit nine home runs and secure the title. This moment had it all - Harper finished with an iconic bat flip, an American flag bandana around his head, and an embrace from his dad.
Josh Hamilton (2008)
The story of Josh Hamilton is remarkable. After being selected first overall in the 1999 MLB Draft, Hamilton had a tumultuous path to the Big Leagues. Battles with various issues off the field kept Hamilton from making his MLB debut until 2007. He was then traded from the Reds to the Rangers following the 2007 season. Hamilton found something he liked in Texas as he rattled off five straight All-Star appearances, beginning in 2008. He had set the AL on fire in the first half of the 2008 season, but he solidified his stardom at Yankee Stadium during that year’s HR Derby. In front of the plaques of former Yankee legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle, Hamilton rattled off 28 home runs in a single round. Hamilton eventually lost to Justin Morneau in the finals despite hitting 13 more home runs than Morneau throughout the entire event.
Mark McGwire (1999)
The stage was set for the 1999 Home Run Derby. Coming off the historic summer of 1998, McGwire was an icon worldwide, and everyone was tuned in to see what he was going to do at legendary Fenway Park. Well, it didn’t take Mcgwire long to showcase his muscles. He opened the event with a 13-home run first-round, sending balls well into the Boston night. The event as a whole was something to behold. Especially given that he was squaring off with fellow mashers Sammy Sosa and eventual champion Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr. (1993)
The Kid. Baseball’s smoothest and downright coolest player, announced his stardom in 1993 at Camden Yards. With his hat flipped around backward and his hands tight against his chest, Griffey launched a ball in Baltimore that hit the brick warehouse beyond the right-field concourse. The moment was forever iconized by a plaque that was placed on the wall where the ball hit. Griffey ultimately lost the ’93 Derby but still stands as the only 3-time winner in Home Run Derby history (’94, ’98, & ‘99).
Todd Frazier (2015)
The 2015 Cincinnati Reds were not a good baseball team. They finished two losses shy of 100, and there was little excitement surrounding the ball club. Fortunately, they did play host to the 2015 Home Run Derby. Representing the hometown team was Reds’ third baseman, Todd Frazier. Knowing that 14, set by Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson, was the number to beat, Frazier stepped into the box and gave Reds fans a moment they won’t soon forget. Having tied Pederson at 14, Frazier took advantage of the bonus-round by sending his 15th and final long ball into the left-field bleachers.
Aaron Judge (2017)
There may not be a better-built hitter for the Home Run Derby than Yankee slugger Aaron Judge and in 2017, he put it all on display. 16 of his home runs at Marlins Park exceeded an exit velocity of 115 mph. For reference, only 21 MLB hitters have exceeded 115 mph in 2021 (as of the All Star break.) Four of his bombs traveled over 500-feet as Judge became the first rookie to ever win the Home Run Derby.
We encourage you to tune in to the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby on July 12th in Denver, Colorado. Who knows what history will be made? Shohei Ohtani headlines the list of sluggers looking to cement their place in baseball lore.
If we left any of your favorite Home Run Derby moments off our list, hit us up on social media. And if you’re looking for a home run hitting baseball bat, be sure to check out JustBats. We offer free, fast shipping, Bat Expert advice, and a slew of personalization options at checkout. We’re JustBats, and we’re with you from Click to Hit!