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Then & now: First Home Run Derby was at the Dome, tickets were $2

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The Major League Baseball All-Star Home Run Derby gets started at 7 p.m. today inside the pitcher-friendly confines of Target Field.

Outside of baseballs flying over the outfield fence, tonight's derby – the 29th edition – doesn't at all resemble the first edition in 1985 at the Metrodome.

According to the New York Times, tickets to the inaugural MLB Home Run Derby at the Dome were just $2. Proceeds from tickets sold went to amateur baseball programs in Minnesota. Tickets to tonight's contest range from $200 to $2,000 on StubHub.

That's just the start of the differences.

ESPN will televise tonight's derby for a likely three-hour period. Additional coverage will include lengthy pre-derby programming on a multitude of sports channels.

The 1985 competition took place in the afternoon and it was over in one round. There will be four rounds of competition tonight.

In '85, it wasn't an individual competition. The American League roster simply battled the National League roster for most combined home runs. Twins outfielder Tom Brunansky hit the deciding homer that year, giving the AL All-Stars a 17-16 victory.

“It was so casual,” said Brunansky, who now serves a a role as the Twins' hitting coach. “It wasn’t like it is now where there was an invitation, a big thing, a big production. 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?’”

Tonight will be a spectacle.

Yoenis Cespedes is back to defend his crown, but the odds of him winning again are low. Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999 is the only player to win back-to-back titles.

The full derby roster is below. See photos of each slugger via USA Today.

American League

  • Jose Bautista, Blue Jays – 17 HR
  • Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics – 14 HR
  • Josh Donaldson, Athletics – 20 HR
  • Brian Dozier, Twins – 18 HR
  • Adam Jones, Orioles – 16 HR

National League

  • Todd Frazier, Reds – 19 HR
  • Justin Morneau, Rockies – 13 HR
  • Yasiel Puig, Dodgers – 12 HR
  • Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins – 21 HR
  • Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies – 21 HR

Who will win the Derby? The Star Tribune gave reasons why each competitor will or won't win.

The Las Vegas odds, according to Bleacher Report, make Stanton a 2 to 1 favorite.

By the way, FiveThirtyEight.com says the common believe that players who change their swing to hit homers during the derby are more likely to go into a second-half slump is a myth. Instead, any second-half swoon is more likely a cause of expected regression.

The players selected for the Derby are typically among the best home-run producers of the first half, though they may not necessarily be among the best power hitters in baseball. Uncharacteristic performances help players get selected for the Home Run Derby, and the decline in their numbers in the second half is more likely to be due to natural regression than their participation in the event.

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