Since 2005, Major League Baseball has used a Gold Home Run Derby Ball to go along with its regular Home Run Derby ball. The contest, which takes place during the All-Star Game festivities on the eve of the big game, allows batters 10 outs per round, with the Gold Balls being used after the batter has reached nine outs.
The relevance of the Gold “Money” Ball? Each time a contestant hits one out of the park, a donation is made to one of MLB’s charities, hence the nickname Money Ball. It’s an incredible opportunity to for Major League Baseball and its sponsors to support non-profit organizations, with a great tie-in to the action on the field. It’s also a huge publicity grab for the Derby’s sponsor: Century 21 from 2005-2006, donating $21,000 for each Gold Ball home run hit, and now State Farm from 2007-2010, donating $17,000 per Gold HR Ball. Several million dollars have been donated by Major League Baseball and its partners to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and a few other charities.
Here’s how the Gold ball contributions break down, and these figures don’t include the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated for each regular home run derby ball hit for a home run:
- 2010: $204,ooo this year from the Anaheim event – 12 Gold Ball HRs
- 2009: $170,000 in St. Louis – 10 Gold Ball HRs
- 2008: $170,000 in New York (Yankee Stadium) – 10 Gold Ball HRs
- 2007: $255,000 in San Fransisco – 15 Gold Balls
- 2006: $294,ooo in Pittsburgh – 14 Gold Balls @ $21,000 per ball (donated to Easter Seals)
- 2005: $294,ooo in Detroit – 14 Gold Balls @ $21,000 per ball (donated to Easter Seals)
In 2008, the All-Star Game was held at old Yankee Stadium. Not long after the 2008 Mid-Summer Classic, a few rumors spread that a new, Red Home Run Derby ball had been used and sold at the stadium. BigLeagueBaseballs.com was on the hunt. Endless searches online, and through auction sites offered no signs of such a ball, except for one article, from MLB.com. An excerpt:
Two new wrinkles will be added to the competition:
First of all, a fan participant — Bennett Hayes of Brimfield, Ill., — will be asked to “call a shot” before the finals. Hayes will indicate which part of the stands — left, center or right — he thinks one of the participants can reach. Using a new red ball, the two finalists will attempt to smack it into that general area.
And finally, each of the eight Derby participants have been paired with a member of a local Boys & Girls Club. Compliments of State Farm, the winner of the event will net a $50,000 contribution for a teen center at that particular club.
As far as hitting any ball — white, gold or red — out of Yankee Stadium, Steinbrenner is quite right: it’s never been accomplished fair under any configuration.
The article can be found here at Major League Baseball’s website.
So these Red Derby baseballs were intended for use in the State Farm Call Your Shot promotion. That means they’re not even Official HR Derby balls that count in the competition. So what. An Official red leather ball? I had to have one, somehow. After over two years of looking, I questioned whether or not they actually existed. No dealer had ever heard of one, and only one collector claimed to have seen them for sale on the day of the event, at a memorabilia store in Yankee Stadium. Not only that, but there was no evidence they were used during the “Call Your Shot” segment of the Derby. We’ve searched for clips and pictures of the event, and nothing has turned up.
Well we’ve found one. Without further ado, the Rawlings 2008 Official Red Home Run Derby Baseball…
Sweetness? I think so. It’s so unusual, it’s awesome. Now we’re not even sure they were used. Josh Hamilton faced off against Justin Morneau in the final round of the 2008 Home Run Derby. Since they were the finalists, they came up to bat for the “Call Your Shot” promotion before the final round took place. The contestant called his shot for each player, but both batters failed to come through. Had either homered to the vicinity in which the contestant predicted, he would have won a new 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, as well as a 2009 season ticket package for four from the team nearest his residence. No worries, he still received an expenses paid trip to the All-Star game, among other things.
I personally don’t remember seeing a Red ball used in the event. I don’t even remember this entire segment, and I wasn’t looking for a red ball anyway, since I hadn’t learned about it until a few weeks after. There is a rumor that State Farm wasn’t satisfied with the look of the ball, and may not have given final approval. Again – just a rumor. Maybe that would explain its scarcity. Or maybe there just weren’t plans to produce it in large quantities, considering only two of these red gems would be needed to for the event itself, and they didn’t count towards the final outcome.
We might never have an answer, but we’re still seeking more information. Hopefully an inquiry with State Farm will give us some answers. More importantly now that I’ve found the “red whale,” I hope to see other baseballs like this in the future from Rawlings. Not necessarily this exact color or style, but definitely something out of the ordinary. Of course, we wouldn’t want it to be overdone, because then they wouldn’t be quite as… spectacular.