|Monday, July 8
Updated: July 9, 10:03 PM ET
Giambi wins, but it was Sosa's show
By Jayson Stark
MILWAUKEE -- He clanked a home run off Bernie Brewer's slide. He smoked a home run that cleared the scoreboard -- in dead center field.
He launched three home runs that sailed clear out of a domed stadium. (OK, so they went through the open windows.) He scrunched seven home runs that went 500 feet or more, nine that went 490 or more and 10 that went 480 or more.
That was Sammy Sosa's immortal contribution to Home Run Derby lore Monday night.
And he didn't even win.
Your Home Run Derby history books (coming soon, undoubtedly, to your local book store) will always show that Jason Giambi won the 2002 Derby. But this was Sammy Sosa's show.
"I actually felt bad for Giambi," Florida's Mike Lowell said afterward. "And he won."
Giambi, in fact, became the first Home Run Derbyist ever to hit at least seven homers in three straight rounds (11 in the first, seven in the second, seven in the finals). But even he was awed by Sosa, who pounded massive home runs off everything in Milwaukee except Bud Selig's house.
"I don't think anything can hold him," a grateful Giambi said, "except Yellowstone."
Sosa hit 12 home runs in the first round -- tying Cal Ripken (1991) for the third-most prodigious round in Derby history. Only Giambi (14 in the first round last year) and some guy named Mark McGwire (13 moon shots in the first round at Fenway in 1999) ever hit more.
But it's one thing to hit a lot of home runs. It's another thing to hit home runs that go further than some commuter flights.
Here are the highlights of Sosa's first round, provided as a service to air-traffic controllers who may want to plan accordingly for next year's Derby:
So there they were, a dozen homers. If "homers" is the right word for them. "Mars probes" might be more accurate.
Those dozen homers averaged 477 feet. If he'd strung them together, they'd have traveled more than a mile -- 5,724 feet to be exact.
"Giambi turned to me after that and said, 'How bout having to follow that round,'" said White Sox bopper Paul Konerko, who lost to Giambi in the second round. "I'm glad I wasn't next. They probably would have booed me."
"I was sitting next to Andruw Jones," Lowell said. "And he said, 'That's unbelievable.' And Andruw Jones isn't some ping hitter. He kills the ball. I'd need a fungo and I'd have to stand on second to hit balls like that."
After Sosa, the home runs that "only" descended in the second deck looked like pop-ups. But Giambi took a deep breath, stroked 11 in his round immediately after Sosa's show and headed for a second-round mano-a-mano with Konerko.
Konerko actually was one out from winning, too. He hit six, and Giambi was still stuck on four with one out to go. But as Byung-Hyun Kim can attest, it's never safe to push the Yankees down to their final out.
Giambi hit an upper-decker to right to pull within one, got even with a bomb into the ESPN set in deep right-center, then won in a sudden-death penalty-kick shootout (or the Home Run Derby equivalent of it).
"To be honest," Konerko laughed, "it just wouldn't have been right if I'd have been in the finals. It was good to have the two premier home-run hitters in each league in there. People would have been turning off their TVs all across America if I was in the finals."
Of course, after watching Sosa's act in the first two rounds, Giambi wasn't what you'd call overconfident entering the final.
"He's unbelievable," Giambi said of Sosa. "He's a manimal."
But the good news for Giambi was, he got to go first.
"I just wanted to get up there and get it out of the way," he said, "and let the manimal take his shot."
Last year, Giambi hit 14 homers in the first round and wound up losing to Luis Gonzalez. This year, he hit seven in the finals, then sat back in shock and watched Sosa hit just one -- as massive lightning and thunderbolts crashed in the background.
"That's OK," said Sosa, who won this thing in 2000, in Atlanta. "I'll get it next year."
Technically, maybe the record will show he didn't get it this year. But like McGwire pounding them off the light towers at Fenway, Sosa will be this Derby's everlasting image.
"That was the most unbelievable home-run show I ever saw in my life," said Mike Lowell. "The only word for those 500-footers is 'ludicrous.'"
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.