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Pete's Point: Home Run Derby started in Metrodome

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So many things have changed in 29 years.

You could buy a gallon of gas for $1.09 and the average price of a new car was $9,005. The top song and video was "We Are the World," which raised money to provide aid for Africa while testing had begun for the first mobile phone.

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I also had the opportunity that year to be part of history as a young sports writer for the Brainerd Dispatch. It was this week back in 1985 when the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was hosted in Minnesota at the Metrodome.

I wasn't able to receive a media credential to attend the All-Star Game, but I was granted a press pass to watch team workouts the previous day, with an extra event making its debut - a Home Run Derby where some of the top power hitters in the American League faced its top sluggers from the National League.

No one really knew what to expect for this event. but it's debut was popular and 30 seasons later the Home Run Derby has become an annual tradition almost as popular as the All-Star baseball game itself.

There seemed to be few media restrictions for the Home Run Derby in 1985. There were probably less than 200 media attending the workout and derby, and we had access to locker rooms, the field and players and honorary coaches walked the lower hallways of the Metrodome.

It was a neat experience to walk out to the field with baseball legends like Sandy Koufax and Pete Rose. It was also nice to be able to watch the derby from the National League dugout. I thought it was interesting to see the expressions on the faces of some of the National League players as they looked around the Metrodome field. For some it was the first time seeing the dome since there was no interleague play back in the mid-1980s.

One of the National League players was excited as he looked at the short right-field fence in the Metrodome and predicted that, as a left-handed slugger, he could have hit many more career homers if he could have played in the dome.

The derby format focused on team competition, and the American League Trailed 16-13 when the final hitter, the Twins' Tom Brunansky, stepped to the plate. Brunansky received a big ovation from the hometown fans when he slugged four homers to clinch a 17-16 win. He shared the honor with his batting-practice pitcher Tom Kelly, who was the third-base coach for the Twins at that time, and became the team's manager for World Series wins in 1987 and 1991.

Brunansky was a young outfielder for the Twins at the time, and he joined eventual Hall of Fame players Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr., and Jim Rice on the AL derby squad. The NL team consisted of Jack Clark, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy, Ryne Sandberg and Dave Parker, who did hit the most homers with six. The derby hitters were selected from the All-Star rosters. Today, derby players aren't required to make the All-Star teams, like this year's participants in former Twin Justin Morneau and current Twin Brian Dozier.

"It was so casual," Brunansky, a current Twins hitting coach, recalled in a recent New York Times online story. "It wasn't a big production at all. It was like, 'hey, this is what we're going to try to do, what do you think?' "

I remember a big ovation went to Sean Moe, a St. Cloud Apollo High School baseball player who was shagging baseballs in the outfield during the derby and made a catch in center field to take away a home run from Sandberg. Apollo had just won the state baseball title and the Eagles were chosen to retrieve balls in the outfield.

Moe, who now lives in Foley and still has the baseball, said in a recent WCCO TV interview that he probably shouldn't have caught the ball since it was a factor in the final derby outcome. But MLB officials weren't upset, and invited him back the next night to be a ball boy for the All-Star Game.

As for the 1985 All-Star Game, the National League came out on top 6-1 as LaMarr Hoyt was the winning pitcher and the Tigers' Jack Morris took the loss.

Another example of how things have changed in 29 years is the ticket prices for the home run derby. I checked into ticket prices online and most were over $175 for the derby. I thought it would be fun to go back and see the event, but for that ticket price I decided to just stay home and watch it on TV. Fans paid just $2 for admission for the derby back in 1985, and that money went to support amatuer baseball in Minnesota.

The media coverage has also expanded, and extended internationally since 1985 when the event took place in the afternoon. The derby is now shown live at night in prime-time television on ESPN. Major League Baseball distributed more than 1,000 media credentials, a good majority were for online coverage that didn't exist 29 years ago.

It makes me wonder how much things will change in about three decades if Minnesota hosts another All-Star event.

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