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They’ll be swinging for the fences

First Home Run Derby was held in the Metrodome

By Anthony Rieber

Newsday

NEW YORK — The All-Star Game Home Run Derby is such a staple of baseball’s showcase event that it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when it didn’t exist.

The current Derby — not to be confused with the one that was a TV show in 1959-61 and featured Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, among others — began in 1985 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

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The 10-man field — five from each league — included four future Hall of Famers, five perennial All-Stars and Tom Brunansky.

Dave Parker of the Reds was the first Home Run Derby champion. He hit six. Other participants in the inaugural event included future Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Carlton Fisk, Ryne Sandberg and Cal Ripken Jr., plus Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, Steve Garvey, Jack Clark and Brunansky.

Ripken, who hit 431 home runs in his 21-year career, hit one in the Derby, worst among the participants.

Ripken redeemed himself at Toronto’s SkyDome in 1991, when he hit 12 dingers to lap a field that included Paul O’Neill (then of the Reds) and Howard Johnson of the Mets. Johnson, now the Mets’ batting coach, didn’t hit any.

Mark McGwire won it the next year at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium with a dozen. That was six years before McGwire broke the single-season home run record and before anyone thought about andro or steroids or not talking about the past. The home run was still something to be celebrated, not questioned.

• Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has been named to the American League team for today’s Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium.

Morneau, batting .323 with 14 homers and 68 RBI, received a phone call from MLB Sunday morning, when the request was made.

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