07/14/2003 10:40 PM ET
Anderson king of Home Run Derby
Angels outfielder edges Cardinals phenom Pujols, 9-8
CHICAGO -- The 2003 All-Star Home Run Derby came down to the most deservedly hyped young player in the game against a player who has struggled until recently to even get noticed.
Albert Pujols vs. Garret Anderson.
The guy nobody seemed to know was around until a couple of years ago showed once again Monday night that he's worthy of some hype himself.
Anderson, the veteran left fielder for the Anaheim Angels, edged out the 23-year-old phenom Pujols by a 9-8 margin in the finals, earning the 2003 CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby title at U.S. Cellular Field.
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
"I don't look at myself as a home run hitter but I know I'm capable of hitting the ball out of the park," said Anderson, who has 22 homers at the break and is making his second All-Star appearance. "It's just another platform to go out and show America what I can do."
Pujols, who eliminated defending champion Jason Giambi in the semifinals with a record-tying round of 14 homers, got the most gasps out of the crowd of 47,619 and actually outhomered Anderson in the three rounds, 27-22. But it came down to the finals, and Anderson got the better of Pujols when it counted most.
What the contest lacked in excitement early on was made up for in a strong final round. Pujols was down by one homer with one out to go in the finals. He let two pitches go by before drilling his last attempt into the bottom of the fence, making Anderson the champion and Pujols a gracious runner-up.
"I couldn't be more happy," Pujols said. "It would be nice if I had won it, but I'm happy for Anderson. He hit one more home run than me. That's what it's all about."
Anderson, whose sweet swing has made him one of the American League's most consistent hitters over the last several seasons, was consistent throughout the contest but left his best for last. After going for seven in the first round and six in the semifinals, Anderson got on a roll to rack up nine homers in the finals -- all with Mariners bullpen coach Dave Valle pitching.
"By (Pujols') last showing (in the semifinals), I thought nine was kind of easy for him anyway, the way he was putting everything out of the park," Anderson said.
Pujols struck his first two finals pitches for homers but made three outs after that. When he hit one 446 feet into the left-center field bleachers, he moved within one of Anderson before falling short.
Thanks to Anderson's effort, Johnny Hasick of Cairo, Ga., won $250,000 toward the purchase of a home, courtesy of CENTURY 21.
Pujols made center field at U.S. Cellular Field a shooting range and made history in the process with his semifinal effort. With Cubs bullpen catcher Benny Cadahida grooving him pitches, Pujols matched Giambi's 2001 first round with 14 for the Derby record, spraying baseballs deep into the bleachers, going 478 feet on his eighth shot for the longest homer of the night.
"Giambi is a guy that you want to top right away," Pujols said. "If you get the opportunity, you want to hit as many home runs as you can. You never know. That's the idea. In the Home Run Derby, you never know."
After a tremendous first round, Giambi looked like he wasn't going to be able to put up much of a fight for his crown at first, getting only three in his first 11 swings. But then he went on a seven-homer run and added one more off the top of the wall in right-center to make it interesting. His reign officially ended when he drilled a scorching liner that landed short of the fence.
"That was fun -- that's what it's all about," Giambi said. "He put the big number up first and I had to try and chase it down. That was the tough part."
In the other semifinal, Anderson had a bit of a hard time getting started before advancing with six to Jim Edmonds' four.
The first round was all Giambi. After missing on his first five first-round attempts, Giambi got on a major roll. He hit five in a row and 10 of his next 12 en route to a total of 12 that left the rest of the field in the dust.
Before Giambi put on his display, the one who looked the most comfortable at the plate was Anderson. With nice, easy swings, Anderson registered homers in three of his first four and five of his first seven en route to a total of seven, second only to Giambi.
Well, at least they looked like nice, easy swings.
"That swing that I was using tonight is not a swing that I try to use during the season," Anderson said. "It was strictly for trying to hit balls over the fence. During the season, mentally and physically I don't do that. I look for mistakes and try to hit them hard."
Gary Sheffield, Pujols and Edmonds all finished with four in the first round, but Sheffield was left behind because he had fewer homers in the first half of the season (22) than Pujols (27) and Edmonds (28).
Suffice to say Milwaukee's Richie Sexson and Seattle's Bret Boone were not cozy in the batter's box Monday. Sexson, who reached the semifinals in 2002 at his Miller Park home, managed just one homer -- and that was after seven misses, including a few foul pops. Boone, who bowed out in 2001 with three at his Safeco Field home, drew a big zero -- something nobody did last year but Anaheim's Troy Glaus did in 2001.
"I got a lot of hits," Boone said. "I think I went 8-for-10 with a couple of doubles, hit a couple down the line. That was my worst nightmare right there. A couple of years ago, Troy Glaus hit zero and I was just making fun of him. I was all over him. Everything comes back around, I guess."
It turned out Anderson, Glaus' teammate, got the last laugh this time.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.