Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada on Monday night became arguably the unlikeliest champion in the history of the Home Run Derby, turning a last-minute invitation as a replacement into a remarkable performance of clutch slugging in front of 41,754 fans at Minute Maid Park.
Dwarfed by giants such as Barry Bonds, Jim Thome and Lance Berkman -- whom he beat in the final round -- the 5-foot-9, 209-pound Tejada not only outslugged everyone in the field, he also set Derby records for the most total homers (27) and most homers in a single round (15), and was credited with the longest homer of the night, a 497-foot blast in the semifinals.
"Everyone knows," Tejada said, "I am not a home run hitter."
When Tejada's fifth homer of the final round cleared the fence -- besting Berkman's score by one -- he raised his arms in triumph.
Tejada was added to the Home Run Derby lineup only Sunday, when Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees had to scratch.
Veteran first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, Tejada's Orioles teammate, led all contestants with nine homers in the first round, but was eliminated in the semifinal round with only five.
With the roof at Minute Maid Park opened at the start of the second round, Berkman -- a switch-hitter who chose to swing from the right side to take advantage of the short porch in left -- hit five balls clear out of the park, including three straight swings, and finished with 10 homers in the round.
But in the finals, with the pressure of being the hometown favorite, Berkman produced only four homers.
Decision on Expos
Robert DuPuy, baseball's president and chief operating officer, said Monday that MLB remains committed to moving the Montreal Expos prior to the 2005 season, and said mid-August is a "good, workable target" for a decision.
There is an owners' meeting scheduled for Aug. 18-19 in Philadelphia, and presumably the relocation issue could be put to a vote then.
Washington and Northern Virginia remain the front-runners to win the Expos, and officials from both jurisdictions are attending the All-Star Game.
An Elite Club
Two former Orioles and one current Oriole -- Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray and Palmeiro -- were among the 14 living members of the 500-home-run club honored before the Derby.
"You don't realize [the importance of hitting 500 homers] until something like this happens," Palmeiro said, "and you're sitting in a room with all these legends of the game."
Murray's relationship with the Orioles organization has been strained since he lost out to Lee Mazzilli for the team's vacant managerial job this winter. However, Murray expressed no bitterness.
"That's over and done with," said Murray, now the Cleveland Indians' hitting coach. "They had their choice to pick who they wanted to -- and that's what they did." . . .
Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson said he would be open to accepting a trade to a contending team this summer, the first time he has indicated such a willingness amid constant trade rumors.
Johnson, who has full no-trade privileges, said he has yet to be approached by the Diamondbacks about waiving those privileges.