Home Run Derby (TV Series) - Gameplay

Gameplay

The rules were similar to modern home run derbies, with two notable exceptions. If a batter did not swing at a pitch that was in the strike zone, that also constituted an out. Also, the contests were conducted in a more similar fashion to a baseball game than the modern home run derbies, where a player has a set number of outs before his turn is over.

Batters were given three outs per inning, and the player with the most home runs after nine innings won. The defending champion had the advantage of batting last; his opponent batted first. Any ball not hit for a home run was an out. The player did not have to swing at every pitch, but if he did not swing at it, and the pitch was in the strike zone, that also constituted an out, as did a swing and a miss, but these rarely happened as the pitcher was supposed to be giving the batters good balls to hit. If the players were tied after nine innings, the Derby would go into extra innings as per regular baseball.

When a left-handed hitter played, a special rule was put into place. At the time, Wrigley Field in Los Angeles boasted an inner fence with palm trees and a brick wall located several feet behind it. In order for a pitch hit out in that direction to count for a home run, the ball had to clear the wall or hit the top of the trees that stuck out over the wall. This was done because the distance was shorter to right field with the inner fence and would therefore give a lefty an unfair advantage as he would only have to hit the ball over the inner fence to get a home run while a righty would have to hit over the deeper left field wall. (The distances were still slightly different once the deeper right field wall was factored in, but at 339 feet vs. 340 feet the difference was negligible.)

While one player was taking his turn at bat, the other player would be at the host's booth and would have a brief conversation, typically unrehearsed "small talk" about the contest itself or the player's performance for that season. Willie Mays, who was a champion later in the run (after losing in the initial contest to Mantle), joked with host Scott during his run that the host should be quiet while he batted for his third consecutive home run (for which Mays would receive a $500 bonus) and Scott took him up on it, speaking into the mike sotto voce, similar to a bowling or golf announcer, whenever Mays would step up to the plate. Sometimes when the batter would hit a ball in the deep outfield, the player in the booth would sometimes comment that it would have gone for extra bases in a real game, which Scott replies that on Home Run Derby it's nothing but an out. Some players wore golf gloves during the show - a noticeable addition because the batting glove was still years away from being a normal part of a player's gear.

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