Recently when I was doing some Internet research I stumbled across newly posted videos of the classic Home Run Derby TV series that featured baseball’s great sluggers from the 1950s facing off against each other for “nine innings.” This was the show that inspired the home run derby we see every year the night before the All Star game.
The twenty-six half hour episodes featured sluggers Hank Aaron, Bob Allison, Ernie Banks, Ken Boyer, Bob Cerv, Rocky Colavito, Gil Hodges, Jackie Jensen, Al Kaline, Jim Lemon, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Wally Post, Frank Robinson, Duke Snider, Dick Stuart, and Gus Triandos.
It is a thrill to see once again, these great players take their cuts at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, a minor league ballpark that was later demolished in 1966. When one batter was at the plate, Mark Scott would interview the other batter, which was usually just small talk. Yet the whole thing is priceless.
Batters were given three outs per inning and the player with the most home runs after nine innings won. Any ball not hit for a home run was an out and if a batter did not swing at a pitch that was in the strike zone it was an out. The winner of the contest received on the spot a check made out for $2,000 while the loser received $1,000. Considering that back then the players were so underpaid, these winnings were relatively significant.
As you would expect, the home run champion in the series was Hank Aaron who appeared in the most episodes (7) where he had a 6-1 record and earned $13, 500.
Al Kaline appeared once, and that was a showdown against Aaron who defeated number 6 in episode 10 with a 5-1 victory.
In years past ESPN and ESPN Classic have shown the episodes, and thanks to MGM Home Entertainment, in 2007 the episodes were released on three DVDS.
I hope you enjoy this video of the match between Henry Aaron and our own Al Kaline.