MILWAUKEE -- With a packed house, a closed roof and lightning flickering through the open outfield windows, the setting could have been a scene from a latter-day version of "The Natural." Jason Giambi knows as well as anyone that the most natural thing in baseball is people's love for home runs.
The New York Yankees slugger gave them the biggest show at Miller Park Monday night, beating Sammy Sosa, 7-1, in the final round to win the Home Run Derby.
At least for today, Giambi can claim to be the heavyweight champion of baseball. He hit 25 home runs in the contest that is one of the highlights of every All-Star week. He knows how important homer-hitting is. "It's why ballparks are built the way they are. It's what fans want to see," he said. "You can make money that way. You go out and hit 40 home runs and you're a special player in this league."
Giambi kept pounding Willie Randolph's pitches into the seats, swatting 11 homers in the first round and edging Paul Konerko, 7-6, in a sudden-death "swing-off" to reach the final. "Before the last round, he told me he was going to throw them a little slower. I was gassed," Giambi said. "It was like a sauna in there."
It was a spirited and eventful contest that featured a tape-measure 12-homer display by Sosa in the first round. He hit the first ball completely out of Miller Park and drilled another one 524 feet.
Barry Bonds hit only two homers. The crowd gave standing ovations to Milwaukee Brewers slugger Richie Sexson, who lost to Sosa in the semifinals. During the competition, the roof was closed because a thunderstorm moved in, and some fans behind the plate got wet because of a leak in the roof.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
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