Although neither pelotero won in Monday’s Home Run Derby–no one was beating Yankees mountain man Aaron Judge this year–both Gary Sánchez and Miguel Sanó followed in the proud tradition of big Latino hitters in baseball’s biggest dinger competition. Both Sanchez and Sanó made the semi-finals–where they faced each other–before Sanó fell in the final to Judge’s otherworldly power.
On the way there, however, New York’s Sanchez (the 8th seed in the tournament) knocked off the reigning champ, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, in the first round, while Minnesota’s Sanó had the quirky coincidence of seeing his matchups all end 11-10: wins against Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas and Sanchez, and the close loss to Judge in the final.
In years past, you could almost certainly count on at least one Latino to put up a monster performance in the Derby, either winning it or coming close; since the start of the competition in 1985, 10 players from Latin America have lifted the proverbial crown on All-Star Monday. From Juan Gonzalez to David Ortiz, and everyone in between, Latinos have bucked the general perception that they are all about speed and defense, showing as much big hit power as any of their more celebrated American peers. After all, for every Jose Altuve, there is a Yoenis Cespedes waiting to swing at anything that moves in hopes of clearing the outfield walls.
Here are the 5 best performances from Latino peloteros in the 32 years of the Home Run Derby, starting with one of the few performances that lost despite hitting the most total home runs.
5. Albert Pujols, 2003
Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run against the Washington Nationals in 2010. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
He may not have won the Derby in 2003–Garrett Anderson did, somehow–but Albert Pujols won the night in Chicago. His 14 home runs in the second round were a then-single round record, and the fact that he was hitting them everywhere–left, center, and right field all felt his wrath–was even more impressive in a contest where everyone just aims to pull the ball as hard as possible. The big Dominican would go on to win the battling title in 2003, showing off that he had it all: power, aim, and contact. No wonder he has hit over 600 home runs while batting .307 for his career.
4. Sammy Sosa, 2002
Also not winning, despite the most memorable performance of the night, was Sammy Sosa in 2002. Although Sosa did win a Derby two years before this, and although 2002 was around the time of the steroids era bubble burst that hampered his legacy post-retirement, for one night in July, the Cubs’ legend turned Milwaukee into his personal dinger playground. His first round, where his 12 home runs averaged a whopping 477 feet, will live forever in Derby lore.
3. Robinson Canó and Adrián González, 2011
A duel for the ages deserves the double tribute here, as Canó and González went toe-to-toe in the final round after tying each other with 20 home runs in the first two rounds. González gave the then-Yankees second baseman all he could handle, but Canó’s record number of home runs in a final round (12) put the Dominicano over the top, giving him his first Derby crown in front of the Arizona crowd.
2. Yoenis Cespedes, 2013 & 2014
As only the second man to ever win back-to-back Home Run Derby competitions, you had to know Céspedes would make an appearance here. A member of the Oakland Athletics at the time, the free-swinging Cubano won the 2013 Derby behind the strength of his 17-dinger first round, before eeking out over wunderkind Bryce Harper 9-8 in the final. Céspedes became the first slugger to defend his crown since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1999 the following year, doubling the next highest total of home runs (28 to José Bautista’s 14).
1. Bobby Abreu, 2004
No one aside from El Comedulce could top this list. Abreu’s record of 41 home runs stood until the new bracket format debuted in 2014. Despite never hitting over 31 home runs in a regular season in his entire career, Abreu turned all the way up to blast 10 more than that in one single night. By the end of the competition, all pretenses of rivalry were thrown out the window, as every player, announcer, and fan just wanted to see Abreu keep on blasting moonshots. For that, his 2004 performances stands out as the best ever by a Latino.