We're nearing the end of our countdown and, somewhat appropriately, our second-best moment comes on the same night as the 2011 Home Run Derby. That's right, No. 2 on the list was the night Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada decided to liven up the Derby for everyone around the Houston area.
For those of you who don't remember, Lance Berkman was entered into the race along with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome from the National Leauge while Tejada was joined by Rafael Palmeiro, Hank Blalock and David Ortiz. Looking at the names on this list, I should also mention that 2004 was the year that steroid testing became a hot-button topic around the major leagues. I'm not saying that only two guys on here weren't really suspected of steroid...You're the one saying that...
Still, this was a pretty elite group of power hitters. In the first round, Sosa, Thome, Blalock and Ortiz fell off, while Tejada and Berkman tied for third with seven homers. Palmeiro led the first round with nine homers while Bonds came in second with eight.
The second round was when things got interesting. Bonds bowed out quickly, but that was also the first time he'd made it out of the first round since 2001. Bonds did win the event in 1996, as did Sammy Sosa in 2000. So, there were two former winners in this group and one future winner (Papi in 2010).
Oh, and the second round is also what turned this Derby special. Berkman, by the way, was batting from the right side of the plate in this Derby. In case you've forgotten now that he's no longer an Astro, Berkman was always a much better power hitter from the left side. But, he also knew his home park well enough to know he can take advantage of left field better than right field in Minute Maid Park. So, Berkman blasted 10 homers in the second round, which was more than all but nine other round totals in Derby history to that point. That included three balls that went over the railroad tracks.
*By the way, one of those rounds came when Cal Ripken, Jr. hit 12 homers to win the Derby in 1991. Never realized Cal won a Home Run Derby.
Tejada took the cake, capitalizing on a jet stream going out to right field to hit 15 homers in the second round. That set up a big time finale, where Tejada hit five home runs and Berkman only got four. It was a close, close call, but still a memorable night. I remember just going crazy as Berkman kept hitting more home runs in the second round. I liked Tejada, too, so I was pretty pumped that they both got to the finals. There was also this ESPN graphic I remember on that jet stream, illustrating where it went and why Tejada and Berkman were able to capitalize on it.
Luckily, we can relive all those Berkman homers, because MLB.com still has video highlights of the contest here. I tried to embed them, but alas, that's not happening. Just go check out the video linked above. It's worth it.
Though Jeff Bagwell had been a fixture in the Derby's during the 90's, Berkman was just the fourth different Astro to compete in the Derby since it started in 1985. Glenn Davis was the first in '89 and Moises Alou also got into the game in 1998. Berkman was also in the 2002 Derby, but none of all these Astros got to the finals. Berkman still holds that distinction, even if he lost in the end.
You know what this means? Only one more stop on this tour of Astros history and this one is a doozy. You might not guess it off-hand, but it's the most successful hitting performance in team All-Star Game history. Appropriately, we'll get that one on the actual day of the All-Star Game.