07/13/2004 12:34 AM ET
Tejada 'the man' of Derby night
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
|Miguel Tejada celebrates winning the All-Star Home Run Derby in Houston on Monday. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Round-by-round results & highlights
Tejada sets a Derby record: 56K | 350K
Tejada in the Derby final: 56K | 350K
Tejada in Round 2: 56K | 350K
Tejada in Round 1: 56K | 350K
HOUSTON -- The fatigue had set in. Miguel Tejada's forearms were cramping and his legs, which had helped torque 26 home runs through the sweltering air of Minute Maid Park, were wobbly.
Still, Tejada mustered the strength to hit one more home run and the home crowd, all of whom were rooting for hometown hero Lance Berkman, acknowledged Tejada's prowess and endurance.
A last-minute addition to Monday's Century 21 Home Run Derby, Tejada outshined 500 Home Run Club members Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa with a Derby-record 15 home runs in the second round and carried the Home Run Derby trophy back to Baltimore.
Tejada edged Berkman, 5-4, in the final round, capping an impressive display for the Orioles' shortstop.
Derby officials invited Tejada to join the group on Sunday night, replacing former teammate Jason Giambi, who did not participate because of a lingering sickness.
"I never thought that I was going to be in the Home Run Derby in my life," he said. "I know I can hit home runs like that but I never think that I am a home run hitter. I just thought I am going to have an opportunity to be in the Home Run Derby and I am going to enjoy it."
With Kansas City manager Tony Pena as his pitcher, Tejada advanced to the second round with seven home runs but it definitely wasn't easy. He showed early jitters with four quick outs and it appeared as if Tejada would be an early elimination victim. After hitting two line drives into the left-field corner for homers, he appeared to gain confidence.
With just three outs left, he hit two more homers to reach four. After another out, Tejada ran off three straight homers, including one that sailed well over the left-field facade and out of the park.
In the second round, Tejada put on an incredible display with 10 home runs in 12 chances. There were three shots that sailed more than 430 feet in that group. But he got even stronger, hitting his final two of that round out of the stadium, the final one measuring 497 feet.
Minute Maid Park lived up to its reputation as a haven for right-handed hitters.
"You know when you have a chance to hit in a ballpark like that, you have to take advantage," he said. "That's the great part, I'm going to enjoy it. It's made for right-handed hitters."
During his turns, Boston's David Ortiz, Tejada's buddy from the Dominican Republic, was toweling off his friend and providing him encouragement.
Ortiz, who was eliminated after the first round, was not surprised at Tejada's power display.
"He's not little," Ortiz said. "He looks little, this guy, you touch him everywhere, he's rock solid. He told me after the first round, 'They let me get hot. I'm going to hit 10 now.' And he hit 15. He got a little tired. This guy, you know what we call him back home, we call him 'The Bus,' because whenever anyone's on the (bases), he picks them up."
No disrespect to Jerome Bettis, but for this night Tejada was "The Bus." He even delivered for Paula Bowen from Renton, Wash., who won $250,000 toward a new home courtesy of Century 21. She immediately invited Tejada and his family over for dinner.
"I think it's more important she get a house and it's unbelievable," he said. "I am really happy to see people win a house because of the job that I do."
Berkman wowed the partisan crowd with 10 home runs in the second round, including several that landed on the street behind the park. But it was obvious in the final round he was gassed. Going first, Berkman could muster just four home runs, meaning Tejada needed just five to win.
He laced three quickly, and then fouled off a few before hitting the tying homer. Sensing victory, Tejada pumped his chest a few times and hit three more foul balls before finally cinching the Derby with "just" a 378-footer into the left-field bleachers.
"I'm enjoying the moment," Tejada said. "When I take the first swing I say, 'Miggy, you're not going to win. There's so many home run hitters that you're not going to win.' I just say, try to enjoy the most you can, make your family happy to be here."
Palmeiro, who will be 40 in September, also represented himself well. He belted a first-round best nine homers but appeared to fatigue and hit five in the second round.
"In the first round I felt good, refreshed," he said. "In the second round, I got tired. My shoulders got a little heavy. I just lost my focus, it got a little hot out there. I feel good with how I did. You want to put on a good show and I think everybody did. Tejada's the man. I think people will remember this for a while."
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.