The summer slugfest was inspired by a 1960s TV show called “Home Run Derby,” where MLB players faced each other to hit the most home runs for a cash prize.
In what was essentially a combination of a game show and high-stakes batting practice, the first episode pitted Willie Mays against Mickey Mantle, who came from behind to win $2,000. The show only aired for one season, but set the blueprint for the future.
The derby as an MLB event debuted in 1985, and until 1990, it was structured as a two-inning event and each slugger got five outs per inning. That changed in 1991 when the format was changed to include three rounds, with each player getting 10 outs per round to hit as many home runs as possible.
Outs were replaced by a clock in 2015, which made the competition easier and encouraged players to swing more. The new rules give each batter five minutes of slug time, beginning with the release of the first pitch. At the last moment, the timer stopped on a home run and did not start again until the batter spun and missed a home run. In theory, these rules allow for unlimited homers. Also in 2015, players can earn one extra minute for every two homers over 420 feet. If they hit a home run more than 475 feet, the batter gets an extra 30 seconds. Players can get both, but only for a maximum of 90 seconds.
One rule from 2015 that has stuck is one timeout per round, which lasts 45 seconds.
New rules established in 2015 also allow for a 90-second swing-off to determine a tiebreaker, as opposed to the current 60-second swing-off, which was changed in 2019.
Also in 2019? A million dollar prize was introduced.
In 2021, the time limit was shortened to three minutes in regulation and two minutes in the finals. If batters launch two balls more than 440 feet, they receive 30 seconds of bonus time. They can get one minute of extra time if they hit a ball more than 475 feet.
The 2022 derby is a repeat of the 2021 rules, and this year is no different.