Sosa goes distance, but Giambi is one who brings derby home

Yankee hits seven homers, beats Cubs slugger in final

All-star Game

July 09, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE - Sammy Sosa displayed almost superhuman strength in the first round of the All-Star Home Run Derby last night, but it was Jason Giambi who had the staying power.

Giambi didn't break any distance records, but he out-homered Sosa, 7-1, in the final round to win the popular event at the All-Star Workout at Miller Park.

The New York Yankees star hit 11 homers in the first round and had to survive a sudden-death swingoff against White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko in the semifinals before defeating Sosa in a surprisingly anticlimactic final.

It was Sosa, however, who dazzled the crowd of 41,732 with a series of mammoth blasts that pierced the hazy Wisconsin night and tested the boundaries of the Brewers' new ballpark.

"He's unbelievable," Giambi said. "Sammy takes this seriously. He gets locked in. He's the best of the best, so it's exciting to have the opportunity to go up against him, and to come away with the trophy is unbelievable."

The longest of Sosa's 12 homers in the first round traveled an estimated 524 feet, 14 feet farther than the record established by slugger Mark McGwire, who teamed up with Sosa in 1998 for the most exciting home run race in baseball history.

Sosa hit several balls completely out of the ballpark and hit two that cleared the center-field scoreboard - nearly 80 feet above the 400-foot sign in center field.

Conditions favored the sluggers on a humid, 91-degree night. The roof and the windows beyond the outfield were both open at the start - an ideal environment for hitters.

"I came in and gave the fans what they wanted," Sosa said. "I put on a show for the fans."

It's small wonder the sport is awash in rumors that players are bulking up with performance-enhancing drugs. The continuing steroid controversy was the talk of the afternoon All-Star news conference, and the amazing exploits of Giambi, Sosa and their friends couldn't have done much to dispel the growing impression among baseball fans that it's the players - not the baseballs - that are juiced.

Sosa says he has never used steroids and has been quoted as saying he "would be the first in line" if baseball instituted a testing program for performance-enhancing drugs.

The trouble is, until there is some kind of testing program, everyone with a big swing and an unusual home run total will be the object of suspicion.

Giambi says that's unfortunate, since it discounts the hard work that the game's great players have to put in to gain their status.

"I think it's way blown out of proportion," Giambi said.

Inquiring minds can't help but wonder. Sosa's 12 first-round home runs averaged 477 feet, 1 foot longer than the longest single homer hit in last year's derby at Seattle's Safeco Field (Barry Bonds).

If fans were anticipating an early-round showdown between Sosa and Bonds, they would be disappointed. Bonds managed only two home runs in the first round to finish near the bottom of the eight-man derby field.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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