Hamilton's power display defies explanation
NEW YORK -- Even before Monday night, the Legend of Josh Hamilton was already an onrushing storybook train, building speed on its way to a Cineplex near you.But that was before he brought his little magic show to Yankee Stadium, a place where legends are born. And another one sure was born Monday, in a Home Run Derby that won't be soon forgotten by anyone who witnessed it. Except how are we going to describe what just happened here? Seriously. In a few months, when that Yankee Stadium wrecking ball is swinging and we start spinning the incomprehensible tale of Josh Hamilton, how will we explain this one? How will we explain a man who didn't even require an actual baseball game to carve his indelible place in Yankee Stadium lore? How will we explain this night of unforgettable Home Run Derby sorcery, when the gentleman who was already the best story in sports sent 35 baseballs flying into the night, off black seats and billboards and into the hands of upper-deck occupants he could barely see, let alone reward with a souvenir? Even more than that, how will we explain that this was Hamilton's night even though, technically speaking, somebody else won? That somebody else was Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, by the way. We'd probably better mention that now before we forget -- because it'll be, oh, about 20 minutes before everyone else forgets. The record will show he won because he outhomered Hamilton in the anticlimactic final round, five homers to three. So we guess he won't be giving back that trophy.
I got a chance, when I was in the middle of that [home run] streak, to look up and see my mom and dad and family and everybody, just absolutely laughing and cheering. And I mean, that's priceless.
-- Josh Hamilton
"This," he said, "was like living the dream out, because like I've said, I didn't know the ending to that dream."Now, though -- now he knows. Now we all know. We saw a man have an evening in Yankee Stadium that told a story that ought to restore our faith in mankind. So who cares if Josh Hamilton didn't "win" this derby? What he did win was bigger and better than any trophy. "More than anything else," he said, "I'm glad my family got to see this. Whether I'd hit 50 or hit none, I'm sure this is hard for people to believe, but I wouldn't have been disappointed if I didn't hit any. "I got a chance, when I was in the middle of that streak, to look up and see my mom and dad and family and everybody, just absolutely laughing and cheering. And I mean, that's priceless." Ah, but this was no MasterCard commercial, friends. This was the beauty of life itself. There was a time not very long ago when none of them thought that moment, that joy, could possibly have happened to them. And then it did. On a heart-pumping Home Run Derby Monday inside the baseball temple that is Yankee Stadium. So the record may show that Josh Hamilton didn't win this derby. But life will tell us -- and him -- otherwise. Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.
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JULY 14, 2008: HOME RUN DERBY
Justin Morneau won the State Farm Home Run Derby, but Josh Hamilton stole the show with a record 28 homers in the first round. Story
• Jayson Stark: Hamilton victorious in defeat
• 2008 Derby Tracker
• Replay the Derby on ESPN360
• Pre-Home Run Derby blog
• Jayson Stark's post-Derby video blog
• Morneau outlasts Hamilton to win Derby
• Morneau talks after winning Derby
• Hamilton's record-breaking first round
• Hamilton talks after setting Derby record
• Gallery: Greatest HRs at Yankee Stadium
• Home Run Derby chat wrap