The high offense "Steroid Era" saw some ridiculous home run hitting feats, including the absurd shows of raw power at MLB's annual All-Star Game Home Run Derby. One of the greatest performances of all time came from one of the Home Run Derby's most unlikely participants, the then-Phillies power/speed/patience specialist Bobby Abreu in 2005.
For the first two months of 2005, though, Abreu went on a tremendous tear, including a run of 10 games in May in which he hit nine home runs. A hot streak that coincided exactly with the revelation that Abreu's fiancee, a former Miss Universe from his native Venezuela, had been caught being naughty with some other dude on a Mexican reality show. Abreu closed out June 2005 at .313/.445/.547, with 17 home runs.
The designated gimmick for the 2005 All-Star Game Home Run Derby at Comerica Park in Detroit was World War III or something. Specifically, one player was selected from one of MLB's eight representative nations/commonwealths, with Abreu selected to represent Venezuela.
In a field represented by the likes of David Ortiz for the Dominican Republic, Andruw Jones for the Netherlands (Curacao), Mark Teixeira for the United States, and Jason Bay for Canada, Abreu was thought of as something of an also-ran. It didn't take long, however, for Abreu to announce his presence.
Abreu slammed 24 home runs in the first round, setting a Home Run Derby record that would stand until broken by Josh Hamilton's magnum opus at the 2008 Festivities. Abreu would end the night with 41 homers, also shattering the previous record.
As a long-time supporter of Abreu, in the face of general ambivalence or outright hostility from the fanbase, I was hopeful that this would lead to greater appreciation for Abreu's overall play among the Phillies' fanbase. It wasn't to be, though. The Home Run Derby loosely coincided with a steep decline in Abreu's in-game home run power, which many blamed on the Derby messing up Abreu's swing, even though Abreu had only hit two home runs in the calendar month leading up to the Derby. The power stroke never really returned, and Abreu was finally dealt to the Yankees for crap in July 2006.
In a way, the 2005 Home Run Derby was sort of the beginning of the end for Abreu in Philadelphia. Although the team has gone on to a run of unprecedented success without him, he was for a long time the team's best player since Mike Schmidt (I think both Utley and Howard have since passed him in that regard), and suffered from the mediocre rosters that mostly surrounded him.
Here's a little glimpse at our coverage of the 2005 Derby as it was happening. Awww we were just babies!