Ever since 1985, the league’s top power hitters have come together every year to put on a show for fans during the All-Star break via the home run ball. The rules have changed over time, but the overall purpose of the derby is simple: given the same limits of outs or time, hit more home runs than everyone else.
From Darryl Strawberry to fan favorite Ken Griffey Jr., these legends have consistently put on great performances, showing baseball fans what true home run power looks like. Over the 20+ years that this competition has been televised, ratings have soared, and in 2008 it was named the year’s most highly rated basic cable program.
As this year’s All-Star break approaches, we’re marking the occasion with a list of our favorite throwback participants from the 1980s and 1990s. Feel free to comment below with any of your favorites from this era.
Ken Griffey Jr.: Griffey Jr. participated in a total of eight derbies in his career and came away with three wins, the most of any player in league history. In 1998 and 1999, Griffey Jr. won back-to-back events with 19 and 16 home runs thanks to his smooth left-handed swing. You can also never forget the backward cap Griffey Jr. donned during his at-bats.
Bo Jackson: Although we will never really know what Jackson could have done if it wasn’t for his hip injury, we can assume that he would have been one of the best professional two-sport athletes of all time. Jackson participated in the 1989 derby in Anaheim, California and hit a total of 32 home runs that season for a total of 141 in his short lived career.
Darryl Strawberry: Throughout his 17-year-career, Strawberry was one of the most feared hitters because of his home run power. He participated in two derbies during his career as a Met, and was a significant factor in his teams’ win in 1986 when he led his team with 4 home runs (The derby had a total of 10 outs at this time, as compared to the modern day 30).
Cal Ripken Jr.: Ripken is known as one of the best shortstops, hitters, and personalities to ever be a part of the game, and was the face of the Baltimore Orioles for 20 seasons. The Hall Of Famer and 19-time All-Star, participated in three derbies during his career and, most notably, led his team to a win in 1991 with his 12 bombs.
Mike Piazza: As a Hall Of Famer Piazza was one of the best offensive catchers to play the game, and hit 427 home runs over his career with five teams. He made two derby appearances, had a career batting average of .308, played above average defensively, and paved the way for modern day offensive-focused catchers in the league.
When taking in the 2017 All-Star festivities, don’t miss the opportunity to rep your favorite retro player right with their batting practice jersey from Mitchell & Ness and the New Era MLB 59Fifty Home Run Derby Cap, available now at eastbay.com.