There was an interesting tweet floating around the Cincinnati Reds landscape over the weekend. User Gingersaurus Rex posed the question of three players in Reds history of your choosing – who would in a home run derby?
You are tasked with putting together a team of three current or former #Reds to win a HR Derby.
Which three players do you choose?
Quote or Reply to this tweet with your team.
— Gingersaurus Rex (@HeyGingersaurus) April 26, 2020
The Cincinnati Reds have been around for a very long time. They’ve had a few big time home run hitters, too. But only once in the entire history of the franchise have they had a player top 50 home runs in a season – 1977 when George Foster hit 52 of them while bringing home the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. Eugenio Suarez (2019) and Ted Kluszewski (1954) came close, hitting 49 in their best seasons. Kluszewski is also next on the list with 47 home runs in his 1955 season.
With all of that said, the Reds have had some truly impressive home run hitters that never hit 40 in a season for the organization – even if they didn’t always make it happen in games.
Very few baseballs have been hit out of Great American Ballpark. We all remember Adam Dunn hitting one to center field off of Jose Lima that cleared the batters eye and bounced into the river. That was a truly magical moment. But one of the other players to leave Great American Ballpark was Juan Francisco. He went over the stands in right field back in 2011.
The stories of Juan Francisco’s raw power are legendary. Back when the Reds were still in Sarasota, a young Francisco hit a ball in batting practice that reportedly hit a batting cage on the backfields well beyond the wall. Google maps measured that cage to be 528 feet from home plate.
And who could ever forget Wily Mo Pena? Before we had Trackman set up in every ballpark, we had estimations on how far home runs went. And early on in Great American Ballpark’s history it was Pena topping the 500-foot mark with a 502-foot blast in 2005.
Much like Francisco – the exploits of a Wily Mo Pena batting practice session are that of legend. How hard and how far he could hit a baseball seemed impossible.
Then there is also a guy that you may have forgotten even played for the Reds: Wladimir Balentien. He played in all of 40 games for the Cincinnati Reds and managed just three homers. In his big league career he managed to hit just 15 home runs in 170 games. But he’s near the top of the list on the longest home runs ever hit in Great American Ballpark with this blast back in 2009, which was his final Major League home run.
In 2011 Wladimir Balentien would take his talents to Japan. He’s hit at least 30 home runs every season there since, except in 2015 when he was injured and missed nearly the entire year. He broke the all-time single season home run record in 2013 with Yakult, hitting 60 home runs in 130 games. Between the minors, majors, and Japan – Balentien has hit 466 career homers.
Actual Home Run Derby Winners
The All-Star game has featured a home run derby every year since 1985 except for in 1988 when it was rained out. IN CINCINNATI. Because of course it was. The Reds have had three winners since the start of the competition, including the first ever winner – Dave Parker in 1985. Four years later Eric Davis would tie Ruben Sierra for the win out in Anaheim. It would be quite a while until the next Red won a home run derby, but it sure was exciting as Todd Frazier kept the trophy in Cincinnati in 2015 by winning things at home.
Ken Griffey Jr. is the only player to ever win three home run derbies, but all three of his wins came as a Seattle Mariner. And while he didn’t win, Josh Hamilton‘s 28 home runs in the first round at Yankee Stadium in 2008 was unforgettable as he just kept going and going, and hitting them further and further into the night.
Who is on your Reds home run derby squad?
The current home run derby format is to have eight players from baseball face off. So that’s your assignment: Pick eight players from Cincinnati Reds history to face off in your home run derby. Here are the eight that I’m picking, in alphabetical order:
- Adam Dunn
- George Foster
- Josh Hamilton
- Juan Francisco
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Ted Kluszewski
- Wily Mo Pena
- Wladimir Balentien
Outside of Ken Griffey Jr., who had more home runs than anyone on the list by a long shot, all of those guys were known for that pure power and how far they could hit the ball. That’s not to say that Griffey couldn’t hit the baseball 450 feet – but he was more of a “lots of home runs” guy than a “hits the ball to the literal moon” kind of guy. The man was great at everything, though, and winning home run derbies falls into that category.
Who makes your all-Reds home run derby team?