Despite previous announcements that David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, and Miguel Cabrera would be participating in the Home Run Derby for the Caribbean Series tonight, MLB and the MLBPA announced on Monday that they would not be allowed to participate, reminding us yet again of the business aspects of the game. As reported by ESPN, the MLBPA executive director explained that participation in the derby would be contrary to the players’ best interests because, “Unfortunately, the people in charge of the event didn’t follow the necessary protocol to ensure that any major leaguers participating in an event like that one is protected from a possible injury.” Nonetheless, the derby will go on. Remaining in the contest are: Alfred Despaigne and Yosvani Alarcon of Cuba’s team, Felix Perez of Venezuela, Cyle Hankerd of Mexico, Kennys Vargas of Puerto Rico, and retired MLB player, Vladimir Guerrero. ESPN noted that Vargas is also an MLB player, but will be permitted to participate in the home run derby, unlike the other, higher paid, MLB stars.
Tonight’s home run derby will also make history as the first one conducted as part of the Caribbean Series. That made me wonder how long the concept has been around. The first home run derby I can remember is, naturally, the one Cal Ripken won in 1991. The other memorable HR derby, for me, was part of last year’s AAA All-Star Game, where another of my Orioles, Dariel Alvarez, won with a total of 21 home runs over three rounds.
So when did “home run derby” first become part of our lexicon? Although the first MLB home run derby was conducted in 1985, it wasn’t televised until 1993. Unfortunately, minor league baseball home run derbies were not so easily Googled, so they will require more research. I did, however, find out about a TV show from the 1960s called, “Home Run Derby.” (I’ll post more about that tomorrow.)
One of the coolest things I uncovered was this footage from 2009 with 16-year-old high schooler, Bryce Harper, competing against minor leaguers – and winning – a home run derby in Salt Lake City, UT.