HOUSTON -- It may have been the most historic of all Century 21 Home Run Derby contests on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
It included three of the four active players who've surpassed the 500 mark and was prefaced by the introduction of 10 more who have retired.
But a Baltimore shortstop with 171 career homers and a hometown hero with just 142 -- two guys who weren't even in the original eight-man Derby lineup -- stole the show.
Miguel Tejada hit 27 homers on the evening and 15 of them in the second round, both records, breaking the marks set by the Cardinals' Albert Pujols last year. He followed up the record second-round performance by edging Astros right fielder Lance Berkman, 5-4, in the finals. Tejada's five homers in the finals came after five outs, half of the requisite total.
"I was just hoping to hit one home run," said Tejada, a late replacement for the Yankees' Jason Giambi. "Then I'm standing out there on the field and I'm thinking, 'Oh my God. I won the Home Run Derby.'"
Tejada not only won the Derby, but he won $250,000 toward a new home for Paula Benton of Renton, Wash., courtesy of Century 21.
It was a fitting end to one of baseball's all-time feel-good evenings. And it was an ironic twist that by the time the finals came around all the active 500-homer hitters in the Derby -- Barry Bonds (681), Sammy Sosa (555) and Rafael Palmeiro (541) -- had been eliminated. Ken Griffey Jr. (501), wasn't even able to compete because of a sore hamstring.
The event began with the 14 living members of the 500-lifetime homer club all honored at a media conference and a presentation on the field just before the Derby.
After the introduction of the eight participants, including the three active members, the retired 10 were all presented to the sellout crowd of 41,754. One by one they each came out to the field -- Willie McCovey because of his battered knees in a wheelchair -- and the rest of them slapped hands with the active players.
Miguel Tejada / SS
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"After I saw those guys walking in front of me, I just got chills," Tejada said. "It was unbelievable. Never in my life did I think I'd have these guys say hello to me."
Berkman, who replaced Griffey in the contest, swung his way into the finals with 10 homers in the second round. But he needed three homers on consecutive pitches near the end of the finals to finish that round with four. He had 21 total on the night, 17 in the first two rounds.
"That second round, I just got into a nice groove," Berkman said. "It was really neat to be able to perform in front of the home crowd. The support they gave us was just tremendous.
"But that last round, I think i just ran out of gas. It was hot. There's no excuses, obviously. Tejada set the record for the most homers in a derby. He obviously deserved to win."
Eight of Berkman's 10 homers in the second round, coming with the roof open, either cleared or came close to clearing the 58-foot high tan wall that separates the stadium from Crawford Street. His longest was his last, clocking in at 493 feet.
Lance Berkman / LF
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: L
Tejada, using Kansas City manager and American League All-Star coach Tony Pena as a batting practice pitcher, got into an even better groove. His longest was 497 feet disappearing into the dark Texas night.
"I'm used to watching this from my house, watching it on the TV," Tejada said. "But what happened here tonight is something I'm never going to forget."
The first-round show by Berkman, Tejada, Bonds and Palmeiro all came with the roof closed and moved the quartet into the second round.
Bonds, the Giants slugger, hit eight homers in the first round, but tailed off to only three in the second round to finish fourth. Palmeiro dipped from nine to five.
Palmeiro, the last batter up in the first round, launched nine into the far reaches of the right-field seats. Berkman and Tejada, both batting right-handed and able to take advantage of the far cozier left-field environs, each had seven.
Sosa was eliminated after hitting only five in the first round.
"After I saw those guys walking in front of me, I just got chills. It was unbelievable. Never in my life did I think I'd have these guys say hello to me."
-- Miguel Tejada
To Bonds, they threw the first pitch outside as if to indicate an intentional walk. Then the lefty-swinging Bonds hit eight balls out in the first round, the longest 483 feet, just below the big scoreboard high above the second deck and a sign sponsored by Master Card saying "Hit it Here" to win $1 million for a randomly picked fan. It was announced that Bonds missed by three inches.
Each player got 10 outs regardless of the number of pitches thrown -- anything hit that's not a homer is considered an out. Bonds' barrage began on the seventh pitch.
"This is a great thing for baseball," Bonds said before the performances on the field had a chance to overshadow the memories of all those legends in attendance. "You've got to remember I've been around baseball my whole life so I know all these guys. It's like being around a great big family."
A family that included Hank Aaron (755 homers) sitting to his right and Willie Mays (660), his godfather, sitting to his left during the media conference that also included Commissioner Bud Selig.
For Berkman, a switch-hitter, it was just an evening of unexpected fun.
Barry Bonds / LF
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
"It's the Wild Card," Berkman said about he and Tejada competing for rights to win the Derby. "Just like the last two years, the Wild Card (Angels and Marlins) has won the World Series."
Batting right-handed against his right-handed batting practice pitcher -- Mark Bailey, the Astros bullpen coach -- Berkman was able to take advantage of the short porch. And when he came within an out of tying Bonds in the first round, the fans stood as one exhorting him to do it. He couldn't and flied out. Likewise, Tejada lined out on his last pitch, falling just short of Bonds.
To Berkman, the ultimate result hardly mattered.
"All in all I was pleased with my performance," said Berkman, who hit only one homer two years ago during the Derby in Milwaukee. "And I think I redeemed myself from that last performance."
Sosa, the Chicago right fielder, shocked the multitudes by having his problems in the early going of his round, even whiffing at a couple of pitches for outs. The right-handed hitting Sosa found himself facing elimination with only one homer and two outs to go. He then took advantage of the porch by putting out the next four pitches into the left-field seats, passing Philadelphia's slugger Jim Thome, but falling short of the next round.
Thome, who leads the Major Leagues with 28 homers at the break, hit only four while Hank Blalock, the Texas third baseman, who won last year's All-Star Game in Chicago for the American League with a homer in the bottom of eighth off Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, hit just three. David Ortiz of the Red Sox also hit only three. The trio was all eliminated from the competition.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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