Tom ‘Bruno’ Brunansky Recounts The First-Ever Home Run Derby
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The annual Home Run Derby is Monday night at Target Field — and it’ll include former Twin Justin Morneau.
But did you know that the very first home run derby also took place here?
It was back in 1985. That’s when Major League Baseball sanctioned an official home run derby at the All-Star Game.
“And this is just simply my opinion, is that they just wanted to liven up our batting practice days,” said Tom Brunansky, a Twins outfielder at the time. “And they said, hey that’d be kind of fun.”
Brunansky, who’s now the Twins hitting coach, was a pioneer that day.
“I agreed to do it,” he said, “because it was something where it wasn’t an individual thing.”
It was a different format back then. It was a team competition with five guys on each side.
“It was the National League vs American League,” Brunansky said.
While the competition was informal, Brunansky said the stress level was far beyond what he’d imaged it’d be.
“I didn’t feel, I was so underprepared for what the game and how that thing took on its own personality,” he said. “Number one is: The cage was gone. Kind of took us right out of our element, for me.”
The one familiarity was his pitcher. It was Twins manager Tom Kelly.
“Got off to a little slow start, until I found my rhythm and believe me, TK was trying to find my bat as best he could,” Brunansky said. “And finally we got into a pretty good flow, and then it kind of went from there. But it wasn’t something enjoyable enough to say, ‘Man, I can’t wait to do that again.'”
The home team got a little help from a St. Cloud Apollo high schooler, shagging fly balls, who stole a home run away from Ryne Sandberg.
But the American League still trailed when its final hitter came up, Brunansky. It all came down to him.
“Dead last,” he said, “which I knew was going to happen, in a situation of having to hit a few home runs because if not, we’re going to lose.”
As it turned out, one less homer for the NL made all the difference. Brunansky won it for the AL in his final at-bat.
Final score: 17-16.
“Well, I was a little bit nervous being down two,” Brunansky said. “I didn’t get a good first round, and I wanted to step out of the box, I just wanted to see one pitch and kind of relax, and Tommy threw the best pitch he threw me the first time, and I took it, and we both kind of laughed. But after I got that first home run I felt pretty good.”
Looking back, Brunansky never expected it to turn into the spectacle it’s become today.
“Nah. No. No,” he said. “I don’t even think they did, when they first imagined. Just to think where it could go…it’s taken a life of its own. It’s an event.”
Brunansky finished with four homers, the second-most individually.
Cincinnati’s Dave Parker had the most with six.