Home Run Derby

There's something special about the home run. Sure, a solo homer is only worth one run, the same as a sacrifice fly or a run-scoring single. But those plays don't excite the crowd or seem as dramatic as the home run. It's kind of like a slam dunk in basketball. It's only worth two points, same as a layup, but a slam dunk has a way of inspiring a team and its fans. Home runs have the same power. They can change the game with a single swing.

The Derby: As part of pro baseball's All-Star festivities, some of the game's biggest sluggers participated in the annual Home Run Derby. Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Philadelphia's Ryan Howard all put their power on display, crushing upper-deck home runs to the delight of the jam-packed crowd in St. Louis. For one night, nothing else mattered in baseball - just long shots soaring far over the fence into the seats.

What makes home runs so special?: From the beginning of baseball history, fans have been fascinated with home runs. They admire a players' ability to hit the ball so far. Only the best players in the world can hit the ball out of the park. This is one of the reasons why the great Babe Ruth is such a special player in baseball history. Until The Babe came along, home runs weren't a big part of the game. Some players might hit 20 home runs in a season, but it was rare. In 1917, Wally Pipp led the American League in home runs with nine. The next season, The Babe led the league with 11. In 1919, Ruth crushed 29 home runs, a new record. In 1920 he hit 54 homers and baseball was changed forever.

The Fans: After 1917, never again would a player lead the league in home runs with fewer than 25. It's no coincidence that around this time, baseball grew in popularity. Fans were amazed at how far The Babe could hit the ball. Over the years, other great home run hitters like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew and Ken Griffey, Jr. drew fans to games.

Even today, fans love to watch home run hitters. That's one of the reasons why the Home Run Derby is such a popular event. Even though there was not regular game in St. Louis this past Monday night, the stadium was packed. In the end, Prince Fielder was the hero of the night. He won the Home Run Derby and, at least for the night, was baseball's Home Run King.

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