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A Longball Love-In
Home Run Derby in Atlanta in July -- perfect, just perfect
Posted: Monday July 10, 2000 01:22 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ATLANTA -- Ah, the Home Run Derby. The Dinger Demonstration.
The Circuit Clout Circus.
Yes, Monday is the pinnacle of the pre-All-Star Game festivities, with the made-for-fans HRD taking center stage. With Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire out this time around, and with Ken Griffey nursing a bit of a bad knee, it won't be the same.
But, still, it's a chance for fans in Atlanta and millions around the world (oh, yeah, this is a prime-time televised event now) to get first-hand proof of the majesty of the home run. As if, given the record pace of home runs again this year, anyone needs any further proof that the round-tripper is king.
Atlanta's Turner Field will be a prime setting for the big swingers, too. The ball is said to travel well in the friendly confines of the one-time Olympics venue, and there's plenty of proof of that. It's not the shortest park around -- 335 feet down the left-field line, 330 down right -- but that hasn't stopped lots of people from going yard in Ted Turner's yard.
Just last week, for instance, Montreal's Rondell White blasted a shot 455 feet into the club level of the stadium, the first time that level has been reached in the three-plus years the place has been called Turner Field. The Expos' Jose Vidro, a doubles hitter by trade, yanked out two homers -- one from each side of the plate, the first to dead center field -- last Monday.
And those two guys, hardly HRD material, did it against live pitching.
Griffey, of course, is the real deal, and he'll be back with his gimpy knee to defend his Derby title. He has won the last two years. McGwire's out with a bum knee, though, as is Bonds with a fractured thumb.
But there's still Sammy Sosa, the ever-smiling Chicago Cubs slugger, and Vladimir Guerrero, the powerful Expos outfielder. Hometown hero Chipper Jones knows the park like few others. Top vote-getter Ivan Rodriguez of Texas will take his cuts, too.
It all promises to add up to something at least semi-special. Lots of big swings, lots of homers -- with probably a few of jaw-dropping length -- and, in the end, some decent-natured fun, too.
It's the Longball Love-In.
On to this special edition of the baseball Week at a Glance, which we'll do daily through Tuesday's All-Star Game. The regular Week at a Glance, for those of you keeping track, will re-appear Wednesday.
Meanwhile, we have a question for you: What's all this fascination with the home run?
The answer: Where have you been? Baseball's always been enamored with the homer. It just took the game awhile to get its players bulked up enough, its parks shrunk enough and its balls juiced enough so anyone could hit one.
| You call this an All-Star Game |
. We're not sure what it is that is making all these players drop out of Tuesday's game. OK. There's the injury thing. But we'll be the first to offer up this new theory: The ball is juiced. Hey, it's the reason for everything else bad in the game today.
| The Derby |
Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds won't be there, but Junior will, and with the hot air at Turner, plenty of balls are liable to be bleacher-bound in Monday's Home Run Derby. Harmless, meaningless fun.
| Workout Day |
Essentially, folks, Major League Baseball is getting fans to pay to watch batters mostly stand around, then get into a cage for a glorified round of "Who Can Reach the Seats?" Great job of marketing. Too bad it's not working for Daniel Snyder.
| The heat |
Like it or not, it's still a topic. And when the cameras pan into the night sky during the Derby on Monday night, catching a good glimpse of all the junk in the air, remember that balls seem to jump on nights like we've had here in Atlanta lately.
| Frank Thomas . Baseball would have to come begging pretty hard for the Big Hurt to put the hurt of an All-Star snub behind him. The man deserved to be here, so there's no reason he should be a fill-in. We say: Good for you, Frank. |
| Roger Clemens . The Rocket's not here, but we still have to give him the thumb down for taking Mike Piazza out of the game. Did he bean him on purpose? We'll leave that to you New Yorkers to figure out. We just know Piazza's not around to enjoy this. |
| Griffey's Call . We applaud him for taking part in the Derby, but we wonder if it's too much to ask him to make a token appearance in the game. That's what it's for. And he's a fan favorite. If the Reds are worried about him running into walls or getting hurt running the bases, we understand. But can't he just be real careful? |
| Subs . Mike Bordick, Steve Finley, Danny Graves, Tony Batista … give these guys credit for dropping everything to come to Atlanta on a moment's notice. It'd be a fitting finish to the black-and-blue MidBummer Classic if one of the late fill-ins won the game for his team. |
| A special All-Star Weekend collection |
"I feel fortunate. For once, I'm speechless."
-- Cincinnati reliever Danny Graves, picked to the All-Star team as a replacement for Atlanta's Greg Maddux.
| The last person to lead off the All-Star Game with a home run was K.C.'s Bo Jackson in 1989. |
| Only one grand slam has been hit in All-Star Game history: Fred Lynn, in 1983. |
| Stan Musial holds the record for career All-Star Game homers with six. |
| There have been 16 pinch-hit homers in ASG history, the last by Jeff Conine in 1995. |
| The last time there were back-to-backers: First Bo, then Wade Boggs, to lead off the game in 1989. |
| A little skills contest. We have the big bangers in the Home Run Derby. How about a competition among the best bunters in the league? Or pitchers' moves to first? It's at least as exciting as watching 150-pound guys go yard. |
| A full complement of starters, selected by the fans, actually playing in the game. |
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