There’s a great page on Baseball Almanac devoted to the Home Run Derby and, if you spend a little time on it you’ll notice that the power-hitting contest is one of the few things in baseball where the Yankees don’t have a whole lot of history.
Granted, the Derby isn’t so old – it’s gone through a couple of overhauls in format (starting back in 1985) but by my count the Yankees have had two players make three appearances in 25 years. Why is that? I’d venture that a good part of it was George Steinbrenner’s disenchantment with his players doing anything that wasn’t directly beneficial to the Yankees pursuit of a championship; in his heyday, the Boss certainly wasn’t shy about telling his employees what he did and did not think was a good use of their time.
Anyway, since Nick Swisher will become the fourth Yankee to participate in the Derby tonight, here’s a look back at the previous three performances:
1997 All-Star Game, Jacobs Field, Cleveland: Tino Martinez takes first place in the Derby after hitting 16 home runs. Martinez’s total was actually three fewer than second-place finisher Larry Walker, but Martinez beat Walker, 3-1, in the head-to-head final round.
2002 All-Star Game, Miller Park, Milwaukee: Jason Giambi makes his first appearance for the Yankees and wins the title as well, crushing Sammy Sosa, 7-1, in the finals. Giambi hit 11 homers in the first round and six more in the second, giving him 24 for the competition including one particularly memorable moonshot that was estimated to go 488 feet.
2003 All-Star Game, U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago: The Big G was back to defend but couldn’t pull off a repeat, finishing third despite hitting almost as many homers in two rounds (23) as he did in three rounds a year earlier. Giambi’s total was actually one more than the eventual winner, Garrett Anderson, and three fewer than runner-up Albert Pujols.
*That’s an AP photo of Giambi with the trophy from 2002.