Bryce Harper has shown interest in participating in the Home Run Derby, but it would be on one condition. You must be selected to be on the team, which is very likely for a number of reasons.
He is the best known player in the National League, having won both the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards. Fans are very likely to pick him as the starter, despite a somewhat bad year thus far.
In the rare possibility that he doesn’t get a fan vote, Harper is sure to make the team as a reserve. Not only does he deserve it in terms of talent, but the game is played at his home stadium in Washington.
Almost forty years earlier, the last time the nation’s capital hosted the Midsummer Classic, another popular outfielder had been selected to start in front of the home team crowd. If there had been a contest like the Home Run Derby back then, this guy would surely have been one of the contestants.
After all, the Washington Senators’ Frank Howard had led the league with 44 home runs the previous year, the first of three in which he would hit the 40-homer plateau. To the delight of local fans, Howard hit one out in his first at-bat.
Unfortunately, the Senior Circuit stars had already posted three runs before Howard sank, highlighted by a two-run homer from Cincinnati wide receiver Johnny Bench in the top half of the second. An inning later, another of the dozen future Hall of Famers who played in that game, San Francisco first baseman Wilie McCovey, had a two-run blast.
Stretch McCovey wasn’t done yet, as he threw another blast on his next at-bat. Not only was it impressive enough to put the game basically out of reach, but even more so because McCovey got along with current Cy Young Award winner Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers. C
After hitting those two home runs, the obvious choice for the game’s MVP was McCovey. He and his fellow National League stars finished with a nine-to-three victory, continuing a streak in which the Senior Circuit won all but one of the Summer Classics in a span of seventeen years.
Fans in Washington who were disappointed that their team lost back then now expect the American League team to lose this year. DC’s new team is in the National League under a different name and a different stadium than RFK Park in 1969.
Two other things that are likely to differ in this contest reflect the way the sport has evolved over the past forty years. That last contest in Washington was played at two in the afternoon, and it only took two and a half hours to complete.
Expect the lights to be on for the contest on July 17 this year, and expect them to shine for at least four hours.