#6 -- The 1992 season: Juan breaks the team home run record
The 1992 Texas Rangers season stands as the breakout year for Igor. Although his '91 numbers were fantastic, his power came on in full force the following year.
Playing primarily in center field, which is historically known as a "defensive" position, Juan brought some extra "pop" to the outfield along-side Sierra in right and Kevin Reimer in left. Together, they formed one of the most powerful outfields in baseball that season.
The other issue for the Rangers that season was that they had a lot of power, but struggled getting men on base. As a team, they batted nine points below the American League batting average of .259, and fell seven points below the league average OBP of .328. So despite hitting the fourth most home runs as a team that year, they scored 18 runs fewer than the league average.
González was not immune to that, belting an MLB-best 43 taters that year, yet 27 of them came with nobody on base. Another 11 came with one man on and the remaining five came with two runners on board. He had no grand slams that season.
But looking back at that 43rd homer, it came in somewhat dramatic fashion. Having battled back-and-forth with Oakland slugger Mark McGwire for the majority of the year, González entered the final game of the season tied with McGwire at 42 long balls. The A's slugger had gone yard the day before to tie it up with González.
But in the third inning with the Rangers already up 2-0, Igor would break the game open with a two-run blast. Texas would win the game, but finish with a modest 77 wins. But Juan took home his first home run title, also becoming the first Rangers player ever to do so, and he won his first Silver Slugger award.
#5 -- July 12, 1993: Juan wins the Home Run Derby
Growing up a Texas Rangers fan, to this point there hadn't been much about the All-Star game to get excited about. Sure, Major League Baseball has historically done a good job of guaranteeing every team representation for the Mid-Summer Classic. But at the end of the day, the players still had to go out and actually put on an All-Star performance.
Before the rules changed about the uniforms, there was always something special about watching the lineups announced and seeing the guys representing the Rangers in their home whites or road grays, depending on the host city's league affiliation. But not many Texas players had performed well enough to remember prior to the 1993 All-Star week festivities. But Igor changed things that Monday afternoon at Camden Yards.
Excitement began building the week before. Word trickled out that Gonzalez had accepted the invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby, four years after Rubén Sierra had tied Eric Davis in the 1989 contest. González had his work cut out for him, too. He faced a lineup that included Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds and Cecil Fielder. In fact, Griffey had already recorded seven long balls in his first-round entry to set the high water mark for the group.
Things started out slowly though, for Gonzo. He'd gotten two outs (out of a possible 10) before belting his first shot over the fence in left. It was a rocket, too. It bounced off the facade of the second deck and left the bat with a crash, traveling approximately 445 feet.
His second blast didn't come until he'd already recorded his fifth out. But this one looked like an even bigger blast than the first. You could just feel that something big was coming.
One out later (now at six) he would sneak one over the center field wall for his third homer. His fourth came immediately after, with much more authority than the other, bouncing off the second deck facade in left yet again. Now, Juan was cookin'!
His next piece of contact barely slid foul into left. But then came the signature shot of the round. Yes, Griffey later reached the right field warehouse, which is the one that most remember from this derby. However, Igor sent his fifth rocket into orbit, 473 feet into the upper deck of left field, igniting the Baltimore crowd.
He then popped up for his eighth out of the round, leaving just two to go and standing at five home runs. Number six, like number three, would skim over the wall, but this time to left field on a frozen rope. He followed that up with his ninth out of the competition. He then uncorked a round-tying exclamation point shot to dead center, landing above the ivy on the batter's eye that stood several feet behind the wall. He then recorded his final out of the round to finish tied with Griffey at seven home runs, setting the stage for a five out playoff between the two.
Griffy posted four on his turn, the final one being the infamous "warehouse shot." But Juando started with an out and then two quick, long blasts to cut Griffey's lead in half. He followed that up with out number two and then a deep blast to left center field that hit the rear wall in center field towards the bottom for his third homer. His competition-tying fourth tater came right after that. He then recorded two more outs, followed by a blast that just didn't quite make it far enough to end the round in a tie.
Both men would take to the dish again for a second playoff round, only this time each one would get just three outs. And despite having just left the batter's box, Gonzo would go right back in to lead things off.
He lined a rope to left, which would have likely been a solid single in a real game but counted as an out in the derby. Then, he hit a deep blast to the upper deck in left that traveled further than most of his first-round shots. One out later, he almost hit a second, but it fell just short, ending his round with one.
However, one would be all he needed to take down a clearly-gassed Griffey. Junior hit three solid line drives to right, but they just didn't have the "oomph" needed to even contend as homers and Ranger fans across the Metroplex celebrated as Juan González became the first and only Rangers player to win the Home Run Derby outright.