Markusen: Mark Scott and the ‘Home Run Derby’

From SABR member Bruce Markusen at The Hardball Times on September 29, 2015:

For fans of a certain age, this bit of timeline information will be difficult to swallow, but it is no less true. It has now been 55 years since a simple show named Home Run Derby aired on network television.

It might also be difficult to believe, but the show, which has become a cult classic over the last half-century, lasted exactly one season and all of 26 episodes. That’s it. The show almost certainly would have aired longer but for an unforeseen tragedy.

On Jan. 9, 1960, Home Run Derby made its debut on nationally syndicated television. The half-hour program pitted two star sluggers of the era against each other in a basic competition to see who could hit more home runs against the equivalent of batting practice pitching. In a nine-inning format, the two hitters took turns trying to hit home runs before they registered three “outs” in the inning. An out was recorded each time a batter swung and produced something other than a home run. (The umpire could also call an out if the batter failed to swing at a pitch in the strike zone.) The player who hit more total home runs over the nine innings won the contest, earning the right to come back to participate in another program.

The Derby became synonymous with a young broadcaster named Mark Scott, who had experience as a baseball radio announcer. During the 1950s, Scott had served as the play-by-play voice of the Hollywood Stars, an extremely popular team in the Pacific Coast League. But when the Brooklyn Dodgers moved their franchise to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, the Stars were forced to dismantle, leaving Scott to concentrate on his role as the sports director of a local radio station. He also found some work hosting a new television show called Meet the Dodgers, but did not serve as one of the team’s regular announcers on either TV or radio.

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Originally published: September 29, 2015. Last Updated: September 29, 2015.