The Birth of Home Run Derby

Posted by on May 19, 2005 in Baseball, Stories

My friend Rob and I played on our high school varsity baseball team. One very humid summer Houston evening, we headed outside with a plastic bat and ball and began pitching to each other. We made a game of hitting the ball over a light pole in front of my house. The game of Home Run Derby was born.

Over the next few weeks, we formalized the rules, basing them more or less on the Major League All-Star Home Run Derby. We experimented with different kinds of plastic balls before finding ones that wouldn’t break (smooth polyballs), and we came up with ways to block the storm drains that lined the street and would eat our balls.

We had very specific rules for scoring. A home run was any ball that cleared the fence in the air in fair territory. Any swing that was not a home run was an out. Any ball caught in the air counted for two outs. A round lasted for ten outs. If a round ended in a tie, players would go into a hit-off that lasted two outs. We meticulously kept our statistics with a pen and paper as we played, and we’d finish every night by entering all the numbers into my computer.

When we played on the street, our line drives would often ricochet off our neighbor’s roof. The hollow balls wouldn’t cause any damage, but they’d make a lot of noise hitting a house, especially in the middle of the night. My neighbor would come outside in his bathrobe and scream at us from time to time. We eventually found that the community tennis courts offered the perfect dimensions for our game, so we moved our game there. Home Run Derby was slowly evolving.

We’ve introduced the game to a few others, but no one loves it as much me and Rob. Even today, whenever we see each other, Rob and I will find some tennis courts and play a few rounds of Home Run Derby. We’re grown men, but it’s still fun.

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