Boghossian: Chicago ties run deep in original ‘Home Run Derby’

From Chris Boghossian at the Chicago Tribune on July 13, 2018:

When Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber compete in the Home Run Derby on Monday night, they will continue a long tradition of Chicago sluggers participating in the annual All-Star event.In the first derby in 1985, Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg and White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk took part at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Fisk and the American League sluggers beat Sandberg and the National Leaguers 17-16, with Fisk hitting four homers and Sandberg two. The Reds’ Dave Parker was crowned champion after hitting six.

Baez’s and Schwarber’s participation will make it 21 times a player has represented a Chicago team in the made-for-TV spectacle — the key phrase being “made-for-TV.”

ESPN didn’t start airing the event live until 1994, but the derby actually dates to December 1959, when the major leagues’ best sluggers went to Wrigley Field — in Los Angeles, then home of the Pacific Coast League’s Angels — over a three-week period to take their hacks in “Home Run Derby,” a short-lived television show with Chicago native Mark Scott as host.

Beginning in April 1960, the 30-minute show aired weekly for 26 episodes during the major-league season, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, and featured some of the game’s biggest names. Nine of the 19 players who participated — including Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks — went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of the 20 players who hit 25 home runs or more in 1959, Scott recruited all but four to compete on “Derby.”

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Originally published: July 19, 2018. Last Updated: July 19, 2018.