Giambi outslugs Sosa

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

MILWAUKEE -- Jason Giambi and the New York Yankees keep insisting they aren't home-run hitters.

Yet baseball's leading longball team now has the game's Home Run Derby winner.

Giambi overcame Sammy Sosa's dazzling display of power early and easily beat him 7-1 in the final Monday night.

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''I think I'm a gap hitter that hits a lot of home runs,'' Giambi said after going deep 25 times.

Giambi, who has 22 of the Yankees' major league-leading 134 homers, joins Tino Martinez, the player he replaced in New York, as the only Yankees to win the Home Run Derby.

After Sosa hit seven 500-foot homers in the first two rounds, including three that left Miller Park on the fly, the Chicago Cubs slugger could only go deep once in the final.

''Yellowstone might be the only park that could hold him,'' Giambi said. ''He's the best of the best.''

But Sosa couldn't defeat Giambi.

With Miller Park's roof leaking during a booming thunderstorm in the final round, Giambi got off to a quick start with four homers after three outs.

Giambi, hitting off Yankees coach Willie Randolph, had seven longballs before missing on his final four swings. Giambi credited Randolph for slowing his pitches in the final round.

''These events are kind of fun because you swing from your shoe tops,'' Giambi said.

Sosa failed on his first five swings in the final against Cubs bullpen catcher Benny Cadahia before changing bats. Sosa hit only one homer with the new lumber.

''I came up a little bit short, but it's no big deal,'' Sosa said.

With flashbulbs popping before every swing and the crowd of 41,732 chanting, ''Sam-my! Sam-my!'' the Chicago slugger easily put on the best show of the night

Sosa hit the ball a mile in the first round -- literally. His 12 homers traveled 5,719 feet, including the first two balls ever hit out of the 2-year-old ballpark.

Sosa had five 500-foot shots that left fellow All-Stars Ichiro Suzuki and Andruw Jones laughing in amazement. Sosa's longest drive traveled 524 feet and landed in the middle of Bernie Brewer's slide deep in left-center.

''I came in and gave the fans what they wanted,'' Sosa said. ''I put on a show for the fans.''

Giambi, who set the first-round record with 14 last year, nearly matched Sosa with 11, but had few of the jaw-dropping blasts that made the crowd ''ooh'' and ''aah'' for Sosa.

Sosa hit eight balls farther than Giambi's best shot, a 488-foot drive in the semifinals.

''I realized it's not how far you hit it, it's how many you hit,'' Sosa said. ''That's why he won.''

Sosa didn't slow down in the second round, eliminating hometown favorite Richie Sexson.

After Sexson hit four homers, Sosa got off to a slow start with no longballs on his first three swings. Then he hit four straight, including a 506-foot shot that left the park and went to a fan wearing a T-shirt with a bull's eye that said, ''Hit me Sammy.''

Four outs later, Sosa won the round with a drive that hit a panel about 15 feet above the high scoreboard in center field. Sosa flipped the bat before the ball even cleared the fence.

Conditions favored the sluggers on a humid, 91-degree night. The roof and the windows beyond the outfield were both open at the start -- an ideal environment for hitters.

But the retractable roof was closed during Paul Konerko's second round as the thunderstorm blew in.

''The ball didn't carry as well,'' Sexson said. ''That was tough for the last couple rounds there.''

Giambi went down to his final out before hitting two homers to force a swing-off with Konerko.

Konerko and Sexson each hit four homers in the opening round.

Baseball's home run king and the leading sluggers in each league were eliminated quickly. Barry Bonds, who hit a record 73 homers last season, was knocked out with just two in the opening round.

Houston's Lance Berkman, who leads the majors with 29 homers, hit only one, and Texas' Alex Rodriguez, who leads the AL with 27, had two.

Erin Stock of Ebensburg, Pa., won $250,000 toward a new house as part of a Century 21 promotion that went along with Giambi's Derby win. The Associated Press