07/15/08 1:00 AM ET
Morneau stuns Hamilton to take Derby
Twins star holds on despite runner-up's record 28 in Round 1
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
"He's the story of this year," Morneau said. "I mean, the year he's having, for him to come in and put on a show like that, it was something impressive. We were over there in awe of what he was doing. He was the one who put on the show tonight. I think everyone will remember Josh Hamilton more than they'll remember I won. I'm just glad I was a part of the whole thing."Smacking 28 first-round homers into the far reaches of the old ballpark, which is scheduled to close at the end of the season after 85 years, Hamilton set the all-time Derby record for homers in a single round. He shattered the mark of 24 that Bobby Abreu, then of the Phillies and now of the Yankees, set in Detroit's Comerica Park three years ago, when Abreu won the contest. Hamilton had a three-round total of 35, but it was the opening sprint that won't soon be forgotten. Asked how it felt to experience the Derby, Hamilton said: "Think about the best environment imaginable and being in the middle of it. That's what it was like out there." Morneau was the only repeater from last year's Derby at San Francisco's AT&T Park, won by Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels. Morneau, who was eliminated back then in the first round, had 22 homers on Monday night -- eight in the first round, nine in the second and five in the final round. Although Morneau won, he finished in arrears of Hamilton by 13 total homers. But the format dictates that homers hit in the first two rounds are totaled, while the finalists start with a clean slate in the championship round, a fact that was material to the conclusion. "The format is great," Morneau said. "There's nothing really that I would change. It does seem kind of unfair that he didn't get to win the whole thing with hitting the most total home runs. But at the same time, we were just going by what the rules are, and I'll definitely take it." The Derby was played on the eve of the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be televised nationally by FOX on Tuesday, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. It will also be shown live in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD, and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. As has become a Derby custom, each batter got 10 outs per at-bat, and after the ninth, a gold ball was put into play. Each homer hit with the gold ball garnered a $17,000 donation from State Farm and MLB to the Boys & Girls Club of America, MLB's preferred charity. Ten gold ball shots were hit, earning $170,000 in contributions. Hamilton hit 13 consecutive shots into the seats with eight outs during his first-round run, but none when using the gold ball. During the streak, the highly partisan Yankees crowd of 53,716 chanted "Ham-il-ton, Ham-il-ton" as the left-handed hitter lifted blasts of 502 and 518 feet. But when the run ended with a foul pop, the fans jeered, as they can do only in the Bronx. "They weren't booing me -- they were booing the pitcher," said Hamilton, referring to 71-year-old Clay Counsil, a longtime batting-practice pitcher whom Hamilton brought with him from North Carolina. "I told him that if you throw balls, they boo you here." Two new wrinkles were also added to the competition: A fan participant -- Bennett Hayes of Brimfield, Ill., -- was asked to "call a shot" before the finals. Hayes made his call to right field for Hamilton. And using a red ball, Hamilton hit a line drive down the right-field line that stayed well in the park. Ditto for Morneau, who popped out to left. Hayes would have won a car and a 2009 MLB ticket package if either of the left-handed sluggers had hit the ball in that general area. And finally, each of the eight Derby participants was paired with a member of a local Boys & Girls Club. Compliments of State Farm, the winner of the event, coupled with Morneau -- Tiffany Alvarez of the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Queens, N.Y. -- won a $50,000 contribution for a teen center at that particular club. Hamilton so dominated the first round that the other three who qualified for the second -- Morneau, Lance Berkman and Ryan Braun -- combined to hit only 23 first-round homers. The four eliminated -- Dan Uggla, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley and Evan Longoria -- combined for only 20 more. Longoria, the American League All-Star Final Vote addition from the Rays, had only three homers, the fewest of the eight players competing in the event. Berkman, participating in his fifth Derby, and Braun finished with two-round totals of 14 each before being eliminated. Berkman remained winless in his pursuit of the Home Run Derby trophy. Aside from the string of 13 in a row, Hamilton also hit nine more on 11 swings at one point. He also hit the Bank of America sign with the white background high above the right-center-field bleachers, four into the black batter's eye in dead center, and about a half-dozen into the right-field upper deck. The event was like living a dream come true, Hamilton said. "I remember being in the backyard when I was a kid thinking about Yankee Stadium," said Hamilton, who has overcome serious substance abuse problems to fight back to this juncture in his career. "I used to think of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio or whoever. To be here tonight and see the way the crowd responded, seeing my family up there, being able to hear that and experience that is the best that I could ask for."
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.