Barry Bonds was in six Home Run Derbies in his career, five of them as a Giant. He won only one of them, though. This is the story of the Derby he won, as told by someone who forgot he watched it live 19 years ago, but is far too excited that the whole thing is on YouTube.
Do you know how long ago 1996 was? Sure, it was just a couple years ago. I know because I was in college, and I haven't been out of school for ...
... you know, that long, or anything ...
Hey, that's a room in my house! Anywho, the competition was fierce for the HR Derby.
Some of my favorite quotes from the three rounds:
"The Giants need to pick it up and play somebody other than San Diego" - Chris Berman
This is still true. The Giants were in a series against the Padres back in 1996, and it was a 2,398-game series that is still going on. Please, someone stop this Padres/Giants series. We've had enough. Uncle.
"People jump on Barry Bonds ... the way he jumped on that pitch!" - Chris Berman
Smoooooooth-as-hell segue. But it's worth remembering that even before BALCO, even before the HR records, people really hated Barry Bonds. Part of that was his forever-wounded arrogance and sharp tongue. Part of that was he didn't play for every team, which tended to annoy people, especially when he reminded everyone that he was better at baseball than everyone else.
"I spent some time with him this week, and he is very serious -- very serious -- about making a run at 500 home runs. And that's a long way off." - Chris Berman
It took him three-plus seasons to get there. Let's watch him get there in a video that wasn't shot on an upside-down Super 8.
Fifteen years later, the Dodgers standing around with their hands on their hips is still the best.
"He also has a shot at 40-40 this year. He's already halfway home. And this is a bad year for him, by the way." - Chris Berman
Barry Bonds was hitting .301/.421/.577 with 23 home runs at the All-Star break. Berman had Steve Scarsone's stat sheet in his hand by mistake.
"Another thing he wants is that fourth MVP award. " - Joe Morgan
They broke down all of the players who won three, and it was a ridiculous list. Jimmie Foxx, Mike Schmidt, Joe DiMaggio ... simply the best players ever. Which allows us to giggle and snort that Bonds won seven of the things. Probably deserved nine. Could have had a dozen.
"Cranrrckx" - Barry Bonds's bat, breaking as he hits the ball over the fence at 32:25
Broken-bat home runs are underrated. Bonds had at least two in the regular season that I remember, including one against the Marlins at Pro Player Robbie Dolphin Town that I remember for some reason.
"Can we get some rap or something? Yeah, some real stuff!" - Barry Bonds
This was in response to the PA playing Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Bonds then spent the next 30 seconds waving off the song, as if it were a personal affront. It was equal parts oblivious and hilarious, which is Bonds in a nutshell. Really, though, who hits dingers to Tony Bennett?
"Is he even sweating?" - Mark McGwire on Barry Bonds
He is. And in a few years, licking that sweat would make anvils pop out of your fists and smoke come from your corn-cob pipe. For now, though, it was just sweat.
Later, in the second round, McGwire started cranking baseballs over the fence, and the crowd ooohed and aaaahed. This is what Bonds was doing when the camera cut to him.
"Tell my wife I love her very much, she know-ow-owwws." - The ball that was murdered into space at 1:23:37
The grainy video makes it hard to appreciate a lot of these dingers. You can still see this ball become an ex-ball during its viking funeral to the stars.
Bonds made it through the first round, just barely, hitting four homers. Gary Sheffield had a chance to unseat him but couldn't. Then Bonds went goofy in the second round, leading the way with 10 dingers, setting up a fantastic showdown with Mark McGwire. It was late and hot, and McGwire was clearly tired, hitting just two homers in the final round. Bonds needed three homers to win. He took three swings:
- Upper deck
- Upper deck
- Murdered ball that just missed the upper deck
It remains to this day the best Home Run Derby finish in history.
"Are you taping this, mom? I beat the great Mark McGwire." - Barry Bonds
Well, say, get used to that. In the years before 1998, before Roger Maris's record went down, McGwire was still a dinger icon. Up there is the story about how Barry Bonds beat him head-to-head and was really, really proud of it. I mean, I would be, too. But there would be more dinger milestones left for Bonds. Maybe one or two, really.
My main points, here, are that I miss Barry Bonds and the Home Run Derby is generally dumb when he's not involved and winning it. I'm so very happy that this 1996 Derby is preserved on YouTube for us to squint at in amazement.