The 2019 MLB Home Run Derby takes place in Cleveland tonight. Unfortunately, no Baltimore Orioles will be participating, But that doesn’t mean we can’t hop in the wayback machine and reminisce about better days, when the O’s were competitive, or at least had a few players on their roster that were deemed powerful enough to take part in the annual batting practice competition.
1985 - The Metrodome / Minneapolis, Minnesota
Although their had been unofficial home run competitions prior to this point, the 1985 All-Star break introduced the tradition we are familiar with today. Two Orioles were in the field: Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.
According to a 2014 story from Fox Sports, Ripken was asked to participate on the day of the derby:
“I do remember some hesitancy from some of the players, but I was excited about it,” he says. “I liked some of the contests that used to happen. In 1984, we had a relay-throwing contest in San Francisco. I liked those kinds of head-to-head skills competitions, so the Home Run Derby came up and I thought it was a cool event. I gladly accepted.”
The AL hit more home runs than than the NL (17-16), but Cincinnati Reds slugger Dave Parker had the best individual performance with six bombs. Murray was tied with four others in second with four home runs. Ripken managed to leave the ballpark just once.
1991 - The Skydome / Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Cal would get his “revenge” in the ‘91 contest by winning the whole thing and lapping the entire field. Ripken’s 12 home runs were seven more than second place (5, Paul O’Neill). Reds third baseman Chris Sabo also took part, although he was unable to hit a home run during his turn. He would go on to join the Orioles prior to the 1994 season.
1992 - Jack Murphy Stadium / San Diego, California
It’s like Ripken was a really good player or something. He was asked to participate in the derby yet again in ‘92. He wound up in the middle of the pack this time around. His four home runs tied him for third place in the eight-person field. Mark McGwire took first with 12 bombs.
1993 - Orioles Park at Camden Yards / Baltimore, Maryland
It’s a bummer that no Orioles were in the field at the first, and so far only, home run derby to take place at Camden Yards. Bobby Bonilla hit five home runs, but he was with the New York Mets at this point and would not join the O’s until 1995.
Juan Gonzalez ended up winning the competition after beating Ken Griffey Jr. in the final. But Griffey Jr. stole the show when he hit the warehouse beyond Eutaw Street in right field in the air, becoming the first documented person to ever achieve that feat.
1996 - Veterans Stadium / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In the midst of his 50-homer season, Brady Anderson made his first appearance in the home derby. The derby rookie had a solid showing, hitting 11 home runs over two rounds, but he fell short of the final and took third place overall. Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire battled in the final with Bonds emerging victorious.
1997 - Jacobs Field / Cleveland, Ohio
Anderson was asked back the following season, but things did not go as well this time around. He was knocked out in the first round, managing just four home runs. Tino Martinez was the winner, out-homering Larry Walker 3-1 in the final.
1998 - Coors Field / Denver, Colorado
MLB needs to send the All-Star Game back to Coors Field with the current baseballs just to see what happens. Can you imagine how far Vlad Guerrero Jr. could hit a ball in the thin air of Denver?
Anyway, the 1998 version of the event featured Rafael Palmeiro as the lone Orioles representative. The sweet-swinging lefty smacked seven home runs in the first round and then three long balls in the second round to finish fourth in a competition that was won by, who else, Griffey Jr.
1999 - Fenway Park / Boston, Massachusetts
Griffey Jr. was the winner yet again in the ‘99 derby, but this isn’t a Seattle Mariners blog! B.J. Surhoff was the Oriole of interest in this one, but he struggled, hitting just two home runs. However, he did not finish in last place thanks to a pair of one home run performances by Sammy Sosa and John Jaha.
2004 - Minute Maid Park / Houston, Texas
The Orioles double-dipped in 2004 by sending two players to the derby, and they even got a winner out of the whole thing. Miguel Tejada dominated the competition by hitting 27 total home runs, a record at the time, including 15 bombs in the semi-finals. Palmeiro came in third with 14 long balls.
2006 - PNC Park / Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
After skipping 2005, Tejada was back in the competition in 2006. But he was unable to match his previous performance. The infielder smacked three homers and was eliminated after the first round. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard took home the trophy with 23 total round-trippers.
2013 - Citi Field / New York, New York
What a season 2013 was for Chris Davis. He earned the only all-star game appearance of his career, hit 53 home runs, slugged .634 and finished third in MVP voting. He also earned a spot in the home run derby and had a nice little showing. Crush finished fourth with 12 home runs in a field of eight, ahead of his eventual teammate, Pedro Alvarez, who took fifth.
As an added bonus, Adam Jones was mic’ed up throughout the derby and, as always, was the best.
2014 - Target Field / Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Orioles were competitive on the field once again, which meant they were receiving home run derby invites on a regular basis. Jones actually took part in the competition this season, squeaking through the first round with four home runs, but then falling in the second round with just three to finish fifth out of a 10-player field.
2015 - Great American Ball Park / Cincinnati, Ohio
This was the first derby to introduce the bracket style that is still in use today, and it worked to perfection with every matchup being quite compelling. Manny Machado donned the O’s logo in this one and had a solid showing, hitting 12 home runs in the first round, but he was bested by eventual runner-up Joc Pederson and his 13 home runs.
2016 - Petco Park / San Diego, California
Mark Trumbo would go on to lead the league with 47 home runs in the 2016 season, so it made sense that he was invited to participate in the home run derby as the number one seed. He bested Corey Seager in the first round by a 16-15 score, but then fell to Giancarlo Stanton 17-14 in round two. For what it’s worth, Stanton went on to win the whole thing.
The Orioles have a pretty nice history of home run derby performances. There are a couple of wins in there, and the team has never gone too terribly long with a participant or two. Who will be the next O’s hitter to appear in the annual derby? My money is on Ryan Mountcastle, or maybe Adley Rutschman. Of course, that could mean waiting a few more years before one our “our guys” is on center stage. It’s all part of the rebuilding process.