One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies deals with baseball. No surprise there. The surprising thing is that it involves George C. Scott in the movie Patton. Patton is referencing America’s desire to win and be first at everything and that we do and can not tolerate a loser. He mentions that “when we kids, we always admired, the fastest runner, the champion marble shooter, the big league ball player.”

When you begin to conjure up images of the winner with the context of “big league ball player,” the notion of the man at the plate sending one out of the yard has to be at the top of the list. The home run is the ultimate portrayal of dominance. A single swing of the bat by one individual renders the efforts of the opposing nine utterly useless. It is at this moment that the batter’s only competition is gravity or possibly Mother Nature if the wind is blowing in. In the end, the ball clears the fence and all are left to watch him circle bases. Victorious as the modern gladiator in today’s Coliseum.

The history, mystery, and splendor of our National Pastime draws heavily on the home run. Think of all that is captured and conveyed when you hear someone mention “the Babe’s Called Shot”, “the Shot Heard-Round-The World”, “Bill Mazeroski,” “61”, “Fisk in Game Six,” and “Bucky-Bleepin-Dent”. With all of this in mind, it’s not surprising that the Home Run Derby held in conjunction with the All Star Game draws the attention it does. The greatest sluggers of the game take center stage before a packed house and millions of television viewers with one simply goal…hit more home runs than anyone else. However, it should be noted, especially for the benefit of younger fans, that this is not a new concept or idea. In 1960, television series was devoted to this topic and it featured some of the true greats of the game. The list of players is as illustrative as it is interesting. Many are household names and others are likely to draw a puzzled look by many today. The fact of the matter is, at the time of the shows single season and 26 episodes airing, there was little doubt about who they were are what they were involved in…A Home Run Derby.

The list of participants in the original series is show below in alphabetical order.

Hank Aaron: Milwaukee Braves

Bob Allison: Washington Senators

Ernie Banks: Chicago Cubs

Ken Boyer: St. Louis Cardinals

Bob Cerv: Kansas City A’s

Rocky Colavito: Cleveland Indians

Gil Hodges: Los Angeles Dodgers

Jackie Jensen: Boston Red Sox

Al Kaline : Detroit Tigers

Jim Lemon: Washington Senators

Harmon Killebrew: Washington Senators

Mickey Mantle: New York Yankees

Eddie Mathews: Milwaukee Braves

Willie Mays : San Francisco Giants

Wally Post: Philadelphia Phillies

Frank Robinson: Cincinnati Reds

Duke Snider : Los Angeles Dodgers

Dick Stuart: Pittsburgh Pirates

Gus Triandos: Baltimore Orioles

Aaron, Banks, Kaline, Killebrew, Mantle, Mathews, Mays, Robinson, and Duke Snider are all Hall of Famers. Strong cases have been made over the years for Gil Hodges, Rocky Colavito, and Ken Boyer. Jackie Jenson won the AL MVP in 1958. Bobby Allison was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1959. Jim Lemon was coming off a 33 HR, 100 RBI, season and would have another one in like it the next year. Bob Cerv posted a 1958 campaign of 38 HRs and 104 RBI’s with a struggling Kansas City ball club that many thought of as a Yankees farm team. Wally Post, by this time with the Phillies for a few seasons, had long been a slugger of renown for Crosley Field Fans with his “Win a Free Suit” shots at the Seibler Suit Sign in left field and thus said to be the best dressed player in the game. Dick Stuart, know more for his fielding prowess or lack there of (Dr. Strangeglove), would average almost 30 HR’s a season from 1959-1963, including 42 in the 1963 season alone. Gus Triandos had logged a 30 HR season in 1958, but would later become a bit more famous for his use of an oversized catchers mitt to used to snare the floating knuckle ball of Hoyt Wilhelm.

What you can see from this assortment of sluggers is that almost every team in the majors was represented. I say almost since the White Sox had no participant. At first blush, I thought it may have had something to do with the fact that the Sox had just finished up a later season with a World Series appearance. Then again, their Series opponent fielded a couple of players in Hodges and Snider. This got me thinking that if the White Sox would have had a player in the derby, who might it have been? My thoughts quickly turned to Ted Kluszewski…not simply because he is a personal favorite, but consider his recent World Series performance.

In the 1959 World Series, (Ted’s only one) he hit .391 with 3 of the 4 White Sox home runs and drove in 10 of their 19 RBI’s. Klu had been acquired from the Pirates in late August after coming over from the Reds at the close of the 1957 campaign. Kluszewski’s home run production dropped off from an average of 43 home runs between 1953-1956 to just 6 in 1957. He only hit 6 with the Pirates in 1958-1959. Ted had been plagued with back trouble and this was one of the reasons he was dealt away from Cincinnati and likely had something to do with the move the Pirates made as well. It seems quite possible that this may have kept him from participating in the show.

The 26 episode series was set in Los Angeles and filmed at Wrigley Field. While show’s host Mark Scott mentions that the stadium was selected because it did not favor either right or left handed batters, there was also no much else available in the Los Angeles area as the recently relocated Dodgers were still playing in the Coliseum.

The rules of the contest were simple and not much different in principle than today that features a swing count or out limit. Batters were given three outs per inning and 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 and missed, this was an out. The rules also called for that if a player took a pitch in the strike zone; that too was an out. Working the pate for this series was Major League Umpire Art Passarella and he had no problem in ringing up Mickey Mantle for a called strike and third out as Mantle was sitting on two consecutive home runs. A third one by Mantle would have been worth an extra $500.00, something Mantle did manage to do early on in the series. Passarella also had no problem in punching out Rocky Colavito three times as he dueled Harmon Killebrew.

Passarella was as comfortable behind the plate as he was on the screen. He had played an umpire in the Movie Damn Yankees and a Touch of Mink (wonderful scene with Mantle, Maris, Berra, Doris Day and Carrie Grant in the dugout at Yankee Stadium.) He also played some bit parts in various television series in 1960s and 1970s that included “Ironsides” and “Ben Casey”.

Getting back to the contest, the player with the most home runs after nine innings was declared the winner. There was a provision for ties in that extra innings would be played. Between At Bats or innings, the players would sit and talk with host Mark Scott about the previous effort or season or the event at hand and these are just as enjoyable as watching the sluggers swing.

The money per show was not bad either given the time frame. The winner received $2,000 and was invited back for the next week’s episode against a new opponent. The loser received $1,000. If a batter hit three home runs in a row, he would receive a $500 bonus. A fourth home run in a row would be worth another $500 bonus. Any consecutive home runs hit beyond that would each be worth $1,000. Also, as an incentive for throwing good home run hitting balls the pitcher who threw the most pitches for home runs also received a bonus according to the host.

To place this in some sort of perspective for the time:

– Los Angeles Dodger’s winners share from the 1959 World Series was $11,231.00

– Average cost of a new home was $12,400.00

– Average Income per year was $5,010.00

– Average cost of a new car was $2,200.00

Hank Aaron ended up with the most money taking away $13,000.00

The schedule of the show went as follows:

Episode 1: Mickey Mantle vs Willie Mays

Episode 2: Mickey Mantle vs Ernie Banks

Episode 3: Mickey Mantle vs Jackie Jensen

Episode 4: Harmon Killebrew vs Mickey Mantle

Episode 5: Harmon Killebrew vs Rocky Colavito

Episode 6: Ken Boyer vs Harmon Killebrew

Episode 7: Hank Aaron vs Ken Boyer

Episode 8: Hank Aaron vs Jim Lemon

Episode 9: Hank Aaron vs Eddie Mathews

Episode 10: Hank Aaron vs Al Kaline

Episode 11: Hank Aaron vs Duke Snider

Episode 12: Hank Aaron vs Bobby Allison

Episode 13: Wally Post vs Hank Aaron

Episode 14: Dick Stuart vs Wally Post

Episode 15: Dick Stuart vs Gus Triandos

Episode 16: Frank Robinson v Dick Stuart

Episode 17: Bob Cerv vs Frank Robinson

Episode 18: Bobby Allison vs Bob Cerv

Episode 19: Willie Mays vs Bob Allsion

Episode 20: Willie Mays vs Harmon Killebrew

Episode 21: Willie Mays vs Jim Lemon

Episode 22: Gil Hodges vs Willie Mays

Episode 23: Ernie Banks and Gil Hodges

Episode 24: Jackie Jensen vs Ernie Banks

Episode 25: Jackie Jensen vs Rocky Colavito

Episode 26: Mickey Mantle vs Jackie Jensen

As with most things that I write about, they do relate to some aspect of collecting. For me this has taken on a personnel dimension as I have decided to start a collection of game used bats of the players in this series. This will clearly not be cheap or something I can expect to accomplish over night. What I do like about it is that is something I will enjoy and not be forced to collect many players for “set sake”. I would have little interest in say the 3000 Hit Club or 500 Home Run Club because of cost and the fact that there are players in both of those groups who I just don’t want to have an item of theirs. These bats also make a nice complement to the various flannel uniforms I already have.

Other Related Period Collectables:

Home Run Derby Promotional Cards

While there is a set of cards issued to promote this series, these are a bit pricey as I have never been much of a card guy. For me, the reproduction set issued by CCC in 1988 will work just fine. These can be found on E-Bay with prices often found in the $5-$10.00 range for the set. The Rocky Colavito card even reflects his trade to the Detroit Tigers as the Indians swapped their league leader in home runs for Detroit’s 1959 American League batting champion Harvey Kuenn.


One of the more popular collectables from the same period are the Hartland Baseball Statues. Issued between 1958 and 1962, the set includes eight (8) participants from Home Run Derby. Those players are:

Hank Aaron

Ernie Banks

Rocky Colavito

Harmon Killebrew

Mickey Mantle

Eddie Mathews

Willie Mays

Duke Snider

Of these, Rocky Colavito’s is the most expensive of the participants based on a much lower production number. This is one of the rare cases when a Mantle item does not command the top price among series peers. Prices for the others range from $200-$1200 depending on condition and completeness (box and tag). More affordable alternatives to these can be found in the 25th Anniversary Issue from the early 1990s.

Armour Coins

First issued as inserts in packages of Armour Hot Dogs in 1955, the concept made a come back in 1959 and 1960. Both years featured 20 players and 10 player coin sets were available through a mail in offer from Armour. Although the coins are undated, they can be year identified by the player stats from the previous season on the back. The players from Home Run Derby that have coins are as follows:


Hank Aaron

Ernie Banks

Bob Cerv

Jackie Jensen

Frank Robinson

Gus Triandos


Hank Aaron

Bobby Allison

Ernie Banks

Ken Boyer

Rocky Colavito

Al Kaline

Mickey Mantle

Eddie Mathews

Willie Mays

Dick Stuart

Gus Triandos


Vintage period magazines make for wonderful reading and have great eye appeal in augmenting any player or theme display. While there are hundreds of examples you could find and add, I will limit this sampling to those from 1959-1960. What I found interesting is that some of the offerings are in form of main-stream national non-sports publications. Times have certainly changed as it is rare to find a professional athlete on the cover these days unless it involves some scandalous topic. Possible display pieces or player covers to consider include:

The Sporting News

01/28/59 Willie Mays

05/20/59 Ernie Banks

06/03/59 Hank Aaron

06/10/59 Rocky Colavito, Ed Mathews

07/01/59 Harmon Killebrew

11/25/59 Bob Allison

01/20/60 Willie Mays

02/17/60 Ernie Banks

04/27/60 Rocky Colavito

05/11/60 Ken Boyer

Dell Sports Publishing

Baseball Annual

1960 Gil Hodges

Dell Sports Publishing

Baseball Stars

1960 Hank Aaron

Dell Sports Publishing

Who’s Who in the Big Leagues

1959 Mickey Mantle

1960 Rocky Colavito

Sport Magazine

April 1959 Rocky Colavito

May 1959 Gil Hodges

June 1959 Mickey Mantle

August 1959 Mickey Mantle

April 1960 Duke Snider

May 1960 Harmon Killebrew

August 1960 Mickey Mantle

September 1960 Rocky Colavito

Time Magazine

08/24/1959 Rocky Colavito

Street & Smith Baseball Yearbook

1959 Mantle

Baseball Digest

April 1959 Ernie Banks

September 1959 Rocky Colavito

August 1960 Dick Stuart

Famous Slugger Yearbooks

1960 Rocky Colavito

Getting back to the item that is probably of most interest to you, with respect to the bats, so far I have managed to find hardwood from these Home Run Derby participants:

Hank Aaron: Milwaukee Braves

Bob Allison: Washington Senators

Ernie Banks: Chicago Cubs

Ken Boyer: St. Louis Cardinals

Bob Cerv: Kansas City A’s

Rocky Colavito: Cleveland Indians

Gil Hodges: Los Angeles Dodgers

Harmon Killebrew: Washington Senators

Mickey Mantle: New York Yankees

Ed Mathews: Milwaukee Braves

Frank Robinson: Cincinnati Reds

Dick Stuart: Pittsburgh Pirates

Gus Triandos: Baltimore Orioles

If you are looking to build a similar collection, I think that some bats bats that might take longer to find may be those of Jim Lemon and Gus Triandos. The rest of the players may be a bit easier to find, but then adding them becomes a function of price as it relates to both the player and the period/condition of the bat. For me, I am looking for bats from the late 1950s to early 1960s. My Gil Hodges is a 1952 World Series bat so this is probably more bat than I need, but then I can always trade that to someone looking to upgrade on a Hodges if they have a bat I am also looking for.

The other non-Hall of Famers seem to already have solid followings for any number of reasons such as with World Series Team Collectors.

Gil Hodges (1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, and 1959 Dodgers)

Ken Boyer (1964 Cardinals)

Dick Stuart (1960 Pirates)

Bob Allison (1965 Twins)

Bob Cerv (1960-61 Yankees)

Wally Post (1961 Reds)

Jackie Jensen (1950-51 Yankees)

Rocky Colavito has always been popular with bat collectors and this is somewhat also reflected in his presence on so many of the magazine covers listed previously.

The show was very popular when it debuted in 1960. Sadly only one season of Home Run Derby was ever produced. The host of the show, Mark Scott, died of a heart attack in 1960. This was extremely unfortunate as I can only imagine what might have been given the period in which it was produced. Consider the 1959-1960 baseball seasons:


-The White Sox win their first pennant since the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

-The Dodgers are the first “West Coast Team” to win the World Series.

-Ernie Banks wins his second NL MVP Award with a team once again finishing in the “Second Division.”

-Pumpsie Green becomes the first black player to join the Boston Red Sox, thus completing the integration of major league baseball.

-Harvey Haddix throws 12 “perfect” innings” and loses 1-0 against the Milwaukee Braves.

-For the first time, two All Star Games are held in the same season.


-The Pirates win their first pennant since 1927 and win the World Series against the Yankees with Bill Mazeroski’s walk –off homer in game the bottom of the 9th.

-The Yankees fire Casey Stengel after the World Series despite winning nine World Series in twelve seasons.

-Just prior to opening day, the Tigers and Indians swap a previous seasons batting champion (Harvey Kuenn) for a home run champion (Rocky Colavito).

-Jim Brosnan writes “The Long Season”.

-The White Sox change baseball by adding names to the back of uniforms.

-Ted Williams homers in his last at-bat.

-Charlie Finley buys the Kansas City A’s.

-The last season of 16 major league teams.

For me, I have always considered this a “magical time” for baseball hence my interest in looking for something to focus a collection on from this time frame. As with anything that is a hobby, I advise people to focus on and collect what it is you like and interests you. Home Run Derby has always been a show that I enjoyed and had an interest in….best of all… I have now found a way to collect it as well…Talk about hitting a Home Run.