The Home Run Derby is tonight at Target Field in Minneapolis. Coverage begins at 8:00 ET on ESPN.
To the surprise of no one, no Indians were inviting to participate this year (in fact, the Indians have had only one Home Run Derby participant in the 2000s, Grady Sizemore in 2008).
Instead of missing out on the fun, the Indians decided to organize their own Home Run Derby. Not willing to settle for just having eight guys from this year's team, organizers swung by Chisholm, Minnesota to speak with town doctor Archibald "Moonlight" Graham about how the hell time travel works.
With Archie's help, the following players were assembled, each from the prime of their career:
Nap Lajoie: The players wanted every era represented, and no one hit more home runs in the team's early years than Lajoie's 33 (that's not his single-season best, it's the total of his 13 years with the team... The Dead Ball Era, ladies and gentlemen!)
Earl Averill: The first Indian to hit 30+ homers in a season (he hit 32 of them in 1931), Averill also held the franchise record for most career home runs (he hit 226 with the Indians) from the time he set in in 1932, until it was finally broken in 1996.
Hal Trosky: The first player in franchise history to hit 40 home runs in a season (he hit 42 of them in 1936), he totaled 216 of them with the Indians, and was second all-time on the franchise list until the 90s.
Rocky Colavito: Prior to the offensive explosion of the 1990s, no Indian hit home runs more frequently than Colavito, who hit 190 of them in 3185 at bats with the team. He is the only player with multiple 40+ HR seasons for the Tribe prior to the last 20 years.
Andre Thornton: The 1960s, 70s, and 80s were a bad time for Tribe home runs. Thornton had three of the team's nine 30+ home run seasons during those three decades, and his 214 homers with the Indians are easily the most over that time span.
Albert Belle: Belle set the franchise single-season home run record by hitting 50 of them in 1995 (despite the season being only 144 games), and broke the career record in 1996, eventually finishing with 242 of them with the Indians.
Jim Thome: Thome broke both the records Belle set, hitting 52 home runs in 2002, and eventually totaling 337 of them with the Tribe. He hit 40+ homers for the Indians three times, the only player to do so, and on July 3, 1999 he hit the longest home run in Jacobs/Progressive Field history, a titanic 511-foot shot:
Travis Hafner: Pronk hit an even 200 home runs for the Indians (easily the most by any player in the 2000s), many of them mammoth blasts to distant points around AL stadiums. He is the only Indian to hit 40+ during the last ten years.
During the first round, Thome led the way with 8 home runs before making his tenth out. Travis Hafner was off to a good start, with 3 home runs in his first five swings, but then he hurt himself, and was finished for the night. Aside from the tape-measure blasts to all parts of the stadium, the most notable action of the round involved Lajoie.
He initially complained about playing at night, but when told that the prize for winning was more than he ever made in a year, he settled in at the plate. After fouling the first pitch off, Lajoie poked one down the right field line, which rolled into the corner. When the pitcher turned to prepare for the next pitch, he realized Lajoie was no longer in the batters box, and was instead rapid approaching third base. Lajoie raced home, being sure to step on the plate on his way by. He then turned to the scorer and announced "Mark me down for my first."
An argument then broke out when the scorer tried to explain that a home run was a ball that traveled over the wall, while Lajoie protested that any batter who hits the ball and then reaches home safely is to be credited. Lajoie refused to continue after being having his claim overruled, and stormed off into the clubhouse, where he was last seen playing Xbox with Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley.
Along with Thome, Averill, Belle, and Colavito also advanced.
In the second round, Thome again led the way, this time hitting 9 home runs. Belle and Colavito were at a disadvantage in the competition, as Target Field's dimensions favor left-handed power, and Belle tallied only 3 home runs in the round, and was eliminated. He spoke with sideline reporter Hannah Storm and calmly explained that while he'd have loved to win, just being a part of the competition had been an honor, and one he'd very much enjoyed. He then invited assembled members of the media to his hotel suite, where he'd be hosting a dinner.
Colavito and Averill each hit 6 home runs in the round, but before the tiebreaker could be held, Frank Lane stepped out of the time machine and traded Colavito to Detroit, allowing Averill to advance.
Thome, on account of having hit the most home runs to that point, got to choose whether to bat first, or go last. He chose to wait, and Averill stepped to the plate. He'd only just snuck through in each of the first two rounds, but this time he belted 9 home runs.
It was Thome's turn, but he'd been surrounded by adoring fans in search of autographs. As we all know, Minnesotans are a mean bunch, prone to rudeness and losing their tempers. Before anyone could step in, Thome had been knocked to the ground and badly injured. He would be unable to continue.
According to the ground rules, Averill did not automatically win, but he did have the right to choose Thome's replacement from among any of the former Indians in attendance. Never one to miss a trick, Averill made his way to the media room, where Giants announcer Duane Kuiper, who hit exactly one home run in his 12-year career, most of which was spent with the Tribe.
Unlike the other participants, who'd been brought from another time, Kuiper was just there to cover the game. Too polite to decline, Kuiper, 64, put down his microphone, asked someone for a bat, undid the top button on his polo shirt, and stepped to the plate.
After taking a couple pitches that weren't to his liking, Kuiper swung hard... and belted one into the right field seats. He swung at the next pitch, and blasted another home run. Incredibly, Kuiper homered on his first ten swings, not making a single out and winning the whole thing. Asked for comment, Kuiper said, "I'm one of those guys whose power developed late in life."