Giambi takes Home Run Derby title

Posted: Tuesday, July 09, 2002

MILWAUKEE -- Once again, when it comes to hitting home runs, Sammy Sosa is No. 2.

Jason Giambi overcame Sosa's dazzling display of longballs early in the All-Star Home Run Derby and easily beat him 7-1 in the final Monday night.

After Sosa hit seven 500-foot homers in the first two rounds, including three that left Miller Park on the fly, the Chicago Cubs slugger could only go deep once in the final.

''Yellowstone might be the only park that could hold him,'' Giambi said. ''He's the best of the best.''

But Sosa couldn't defeat Giambi.

With Miller Park's roof leaking during a booming thunderstorm in the final round, Giambi got off to a quick start with four homers after three outs.

Giambi, hitting off Yankees coach Willie Randolph, had seven longballs before missing on his final four swings.

Giambi credited Randolph for slowing his pitches down in the final round.

''These events are kind of fun because you swing from your shoe tops,'' Giambi said.

Sosa failed on his first five swings in the final against Cubs bullpen catcher Benny Cadahia before changing bats. Sosa hit only one homer with the new lumber.

Sosa, the runner-up in the NL homer race in three of the past four years, finished second in the Derby for the second straight year. He lost to Arizona's Luis Gonzalez last year in Seattle.

''I came up a little bit short, but it's no big deal,'' Sosa said.

Sosa easily put on the best show of the night. With flashbulbs popping before every swing and the crowd of 41,732 chanting, ''Sam-my! Sam-my!''

Sosa hit the ball a mile in the first round -- literally. His 12 homers traveled 5,719 feet, including the first two balls ever hit out of the 2-year-old ballpark.

Sosa had five 500-foot shots that left fellow All-Stars like Ichiro Suzuki and Andruw Jones laughing in amazement. Sosa's longest drive traveled 524 feet and landed in the middle of Bernie Brewer's slide deep in left-center.

He also hit a drive off an advertising sign above the scoreboard in center field.

''I came in and gave the fans what they wanted,'' Sosa said. ''I put on a show for the fans.''

Giambi, who set the first-round record with 14 last year, nearly matched Sosa with 11, but had few of the jaw-dropping blasts that made the crowd ''ooh'' and ''aah'' for Sosa.

Sosa hit eight balls farther than Giambi's best shot, a 488-foot drive in the semifinals.

''I realized it's not how far you hit it, it's how many you hit,'' Sosa said. ''That's why he won.''

Sosa didn't slow down in the second round, eliminating hometown favorite Richie Sexson.

After Sexson hit four homers, Sosa got off to a slow start with no longballs on his first three swings. Then he hit four straight, including a 506-foot shot that left the park and went to a fan wearing a T-shirt with a bull's eye that said, ''Hit me Sammy.''

Four outs later, Sosa won the round with a drive that hit a panel about 15 feet above the high scoreboard in center field. Sosa flipped the bat away before the ball even cleared the fence.

Conditions favored the sluggers on a humid, 91-degree night. The roof and he windows beyond the outfield were both open at the start -- an ideal environment for hitters.

But the retractable roof was closed during Paul Konerko's second round as thunderstorms came.

''The ball didn't carry as well,'' Sexson said. ''That was tough for the last couple rounds there.''

Giambi went down to his final out before hitting two homers to force a swing-off with Konerko.

Konerko and Sexson each hit six homers in the opening round.

Baseball's Home Run King and the leading sluggers in each league were eliminated quickly. Barry Bonds, who hit a record 73 homers last season, was knocked out with just two in the opening round.

Houston's Lance Berkman, who leads the majors with 29 homers, hit only one, and Texas' Alex Rodriguez, who leads the AL with 27, had two.

Minnesota's Torii Hunter was also eliminated in the opening round with three longballs.

This year's Derby has lost its innocence after months of talk about steroid use. Major league baseball has even contributed to the cloud hanging over the game's sluggers with an ad that depicts players as puffed-up cartoon characters, who look like they're on steroids.

''I'd like to think the Home Run Derby is a big thing because the fans like it and want to see how far you can hit a baseball not whose muscles are bulging or who's juiced up,'' Florida All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell said.

Erin Stock of Ebensburg, Pa., won $250,000 toward a new house as part of a Century 21 promotion that went along with Giambi's Derby win.

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