Home Run Derby: Mickey Mantle vs. Willie Mays

Home Run Derby is a 1960 television show that was held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles pitting the top sluggers of Major League Baseball against each other in nine-inning home run contests. The show was produced and hosted by actor/broadcaster Mark Scott and distributed by Ziv Television Programs. Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees and Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants face off in the first episode of the series.

Willie Mays, who was a champion later in the run (after losing in the initial contest to Mantle), joked with host Scott during his run that the host should be quiet while he batted for his third consecutive home run (for which Mays would receive a $500 bonus) and Scott took him up on it, speaking into the mike sotto voce, similar to a bowling or golf announcer, whenever Mays would step up to the plate.

The winner received a check for $2,000 and was invited back for the next week’s episode against a new opponent (a rarity in that era for syndicated games); the runner-up received a check for $1,000. If a batter hit three home runs in a row, he would receive a $500 bonus check. A fourth home run in a row would be worth another $500 bonus check. Any consecutive home runs hit beyond that would each be worth $1,000. Each show would end with the host presenting each player with their prize checks (beginning with the loser), and would award separate checks for consecutive home run bonuses. These were actual bank checks, not the jumbo “display” checks typically used today. For example, if the winner hit three homers in a row, they would receive one check for $2,000 and another for $500 instead of one check for $2,500. As an incentive for throwing good home-run-hitting balls, the pitcher who threw the most pitches for home runs also received a bonus, according to the host.

Unlike more modern home run derbies, which usually award prizes in the form of charity donations to a player’s choice of charity, the economic realities of the era meant that the cash prizes earned by the players on the show were a substantial income supplement.