Home run power was on display July 8 at Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland for this year’s extremely entertaining All-Star Home Run Derby.
Cleveland Indians fans were disappointed to see first baseman Carlos Santana not get out of the first round, losing to Pete Alonso of the New York Mets. But they could take solace that Alonso won the home run title by defeating Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, 23-22. Earlier, Guerrero and Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers put on the show of the night by going into triple overtime. In the second overtime, alone, Guerrero won, 40-39.
For the first time, the eight-man field included two Jewish sluggers – Pederson and Houston Astros star Alex Bregman.
They squared off in the first round. Pederson hit a short-lived record 21 home runs, while Bregman finished with 16 home runs.
In the semifinals, Pederson tied a single-round record with 29 home runs to force a one-minute playoff against Blue Jays outfielder Vlad Guerrero Jr. Pederson then forced a swing-off against Guerrero when both batters hit eight home runs. It took two swing-offs and 40 home runs for Guerrero to defeat Pederson.
Pederson and Bregman are on their way this year to career highs in home runs and RBI. Pederson has 20 homers and 42 RBI in at the break, while Bregman has 23 homers and 56 RBI. Pederson has hit 107 career homers with the Dodgers, while Bregman has hit 81 career round-trippers.
They aren’t close to the greatest Jewish home run hitters. Topping that list is current Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who has 334 homers. He recently passed fellow Jewish sluggers Hank Greenberg (331 homers), who played primarily with the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s and ’40s but missed three seasons to serve in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, and Shawn Green (328 homers), who played mostly with the Toronto Blue Jays and Dodgers through the 1990s and 2000s.
Further behind is Cleveland Indians third baseman Al Rosen, who hit 192 from 1947 to 1956, although he didn’t play much in his first three years. Rosen hit 43, 37, 28 and 24 (twice) when those totals were considered high for a single season. From 1930 to 1947, Greenberg had single-season highs of 58, 44, 41, 40 and 36, and on three of those occasions led the majors in homers. Green had single-season highs of 49, 44 and 42 (twice) but never led the league.
For many reasons, home runs were easier to hit then. I am not including Braun’s highs because many of them were performance enhancing
drugs-induced, as determined by Major League Baseball.
Several years ago, Nike ran a series of promos letting us all know that “Chicks Dig the Long Ball.” Apparently, MLB feels the same way. Even the Indians, who didn’t like batters to strike out, now do not seem to care. Moving up runners with ground balls to the right side or hitting away from the shift are things of the past. Launch angles seem to mean more than bunting. While I am at it, throwing to the right base seems to be a lost art.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Indians, who were 11 games behind Minnesota in the American League Central Division not long ago, have pulled to within 5½ as the All-Star Game has come and gone. They resume play this weekend with a 17-game stretch that includes 14 games against AL Central teams, with winnable games against Detroit and Kansas City and six versus the Twins. It should be fun.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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