Other Cubs have participated in the Derby since it began in 1985. Here’s a brief rundown of all the Cubs who have hit long balls in the Home Run Derby. You’ll have to recall that the Derby rules were different in the early years, accounting for some of the much lower home-run totals than we see now in this event. For example:
From 1985-90, the Derby’s eight to 10 contestants were given two innings of five outs to hit as many home runs as possible for their respective leagues.
Ryne Sandberg was one of the National Leaguers in the Derby. He got robbed of a home run by an 18-year-old high school kid who was supposed to just be shagging the balls that didn’t make it over the fence. I am not making this up — here’s the full story. Dave Parker won the Derby with six homers. Sandberg hit two.
Only four players participated — Mark McGwire, George Bell, Ozzie Virgil and the man who would be N.L. MVP, Andre Dawson. Dawson won, but hit only four home runs in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum.
The All-Star Game came to Wrigley Field in 1990, and fans were excited about the Home Run Derby in one of baseball’s smallest ballparks.
A day before the Home Run Derby, a cold front had gone through Chicago and dropped temperatures below average. It was still pleasant, but only in the 70s rather than the 80s that are common in Chicago in July.
And for the Derby, the wind was blowing in at about 20 miles per hour from left field. There were eight participants, many of whom hit hundreds of career homers: Ken Griffey Jr., Bobby Bonilla, Darryl Strawberry, Cecil Fielder, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Matt Williams and Ryne Sandberg.
These eight sluggers hit five home runs. Combined. Sandberg hit three, so he was the winner. Perhaps the Wrigley Field wind should have been declared the winner.
George Bell. Remember him? I barely do, as a Cub; he spent just one year on the North Side, then was traded to the White Sox for Sammy Sosa.
I had forgotten he was in the Home Run Derby in ‘91 in Toronto, and I should have remembered because I actually attended that All-Star Game. Bell hit two homers; the Derby was won by Cal Ripken Jr., with 12.
Sosa hadn’t become the big home-run guy he became later, but he was invited to the ‘95 HR Derby in Arlington, Texas. He hit two homers and finished tied for sixth. White Sox slugger Frank Thomas won it with eight.
Sosa was invited back after a couple of his biggest home-run years, and won the Derby by hitting six homers in Round 1 (won a tiebreaker), 11 in Round 2 and nine in the finals, defeating Ken Griffey Jr. in Turner Field in Atlanta.
Sammy lost the finals in the ‘01 Derby, held at Safeco Field in Seattle, to Luis Gonzalez.
Sosa was once again invited to the Home Run Derby, this time at Miller Park in Milwaukee. He made the finals, but lost 7-1 to Jason Giambi. Among his early round blasts was one that went 524 feet, the longest of this Derby (and the longest of any I can find record of).
Sammy’s fifth and final Home Run Derby appearance came at Minute Maid Park in Houston. He hit five home runs and was eliminated after the first round.
After an 11-year absence, Cubs players returned to the Home Run Derby with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant representing the team. Bryant was eliminated by Albert Pujols and Rizzo was eliminated by Josh Donaldson, both in the first round. Here’s some video of KB and Rizzo at the 2015 Derby in Cincinnati:
Best of luck to Javy and Warbird tonight! You know Javy loves to swing as if he were going to hit a 900-foot home run. 900 tonight? Nope, but maybe 500+. It’ll be fun. It all happens tonight starting at 7 p.m. CT. TV coverage will be on ESPN. We’ll have a “game thread” here for the Derby starting at 6 p.m. CT.