I had been planning a different Ten for Tuesday topic for a few weeks now, but last night's event got me in the All Star Game mood I normally am in but wasn't quite yet this year. Without further ado, here are (in my opinion), the 10 most memorable moments in Midsummer Classic history!
Top 10 Memorable All Star Game Moments
The All Star Game started in 1933, and has been one of the premier events of most every baseball season since. Over recent years, there have been some questionable decisions concerning the significance of the game, and I can't say I'm much of a supporter for the winner taking home field advantage in the World Series. However, it still is enjoyable seeing my favorite players called out one by one in the player introductions and facing off against elite counterparts across the country.
Honorable Mentions -
- Stan Musial's Walkoff Home Run in the 1955 All Star Game
- Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a Home Run in the 2002 All Star Game
- Fred Lynn hitting the only Grand Slam in All Star history in 1983
- Dave Parker throwing out Brian Downing at the plate in 1979
- Bo Jackson's leadoff Home Run in 1989
10 - John Kruk Embarrassed by Randy Johnson, 1993
No matter how many times I watch HOF inductee "The Big Unit" completely overpower Kruk, I still can't stop laughing. I don't know if it's because I'd almost rather gauge my eyes out than have to listen to Kruk and crew call a game on ESPN, but whatever it may be, I'll never get enough of it. Johnson wasn't done though. In 1997, much of the same occurred against Rockies outfielder Larry Walker, who ended up batting from the right side (although he is a left handed hitter) and turning his batting helmet backwards.
9 - Bud Selig Calls a Tie, 2002
Former Commissioner Selig may have been the culprit for all of the issues we currently face with this game. In 2002, both teams ran out of players on their respective benches, and Selig called the game a tie after 11 innings. This decision sparked the idea for the game deciding home field advantage in the World Series, and the game has not been as fun ever since. The Commissioner had his moments along his tenure at the top of the game, but this certainly was not one of them, as he was booed relentlessly by Milwaukee fans. "Let them play!"
8 - Ted Williams Walks Off, 1941
"The most thrilling hit of my life," proclaimed Williams; speaking of his bomb that put an end to the 1941 Midsummer Classic. It was a special year for baseball, as Joe DiMaggio collected the longest hitting streak to this day and a young, 21 year old "Teddy Ballgame" batted .406 over the course of the entire season. He batted .304 with 4 home runs among his 19 career All Star Games, and was one of the faces of baseball throughout one of the dark periods of the 21st Century in the US; World War II.
7 - Pedro Martinez Dominates, 1999
The turn of the century was a great time to be Pedro Martinez. Between 1997 and 2000, Martinez went on a historic stretch that included 3 Cy Young Award victories and some of the best pitched seasons of his time. Keep in mind that this was during the heart of the steroid era, and he was pitching in the AL East, one of the most fiercely competitive divisions during that span. The Yankees were on top of the world, winning the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000, and there was no shortage of energy in baseball during that time.
So when Martinez came to the mound in the 1999 All Star Game, I guess we couldn't have expected any less from the 5'11 Dominican flamethrower. He struck out 5 of the 6 batters he faced, which included now Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, and stars Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Jeff Bagwell. Muy bien.
6 - Cal Ripken Jr.'s Final Moment, 2001
This will perhaps be viewed as Alex Rodriguez's kindest gesture throughout his tumultuous career, but will forever be Cal's moment. Ripken had become a familiar face in the All Star Game, and in 2001 he made his 19th and final place among the elite. Ripken didn't necessarily deserve to be in the game statistically, much as Derek Jeter didn't last year, but out of respect for the man who played more consecutive games than even the "Iron Horse" himself, he was voted as the starting third baseman. As a nod to his excellent years patrolling shortstop for the Orioles, Rodriguez surprised Ripken and switched positions with him. Of course, Rodriguez would go on to play third base just a few years later when the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano for him in one of the bigger blockbuster deals recorded.
But, back to Cal. In clutch fashion, Ripken led off with a home run, and was named All Star Game MVP in response. He couldn't have ended it any better than that.
5 - Babe Ruth Hits the 1st Home Run, 1933
"The Bambino" had his share of firsts. From christening Yankee Stadium with its first home run to really being the transcendent figure in baseball history, Ruth was better at handling the limelight than any of his predecessors. He was exactly what the game needed to become the force to be reckoned with it is today (although it is currently being outshined by several other sports).
In 1933, who but Ruth stepped up to the plate in the 3rd inning against Bill Hallahan in the first All Star Game. He hit a two run home run, the first in All Star history, because, who else? Ruth only played in one other All Star Game before his retirement following the 1935 season, but we all know if the game debuted earlier he would rank among the very best.
4 - Carl Hubbell Makes History, 1934
I could make a case for Hubbell being one of baseball's most underrated pitchers, but I'm going to hold off on that until the next edition of Ten for Tuesday. Instead, let's showcase the best pitching performance in All Star history, which hasn't been topped for almost 100 years. Pedro came close, but nothing could top Hubbell setting down 5 consecutive Hall of Famers by way of the strikeout: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin! Hubbell incorporated his lethal screwball to his advantage, working his way out of trouble and into the record books.
3 - Reggie Towers One, 1971
Chicks dig the long ball. And on that 1971 night in Detroit, everyone dug what Reggie Jackson displayed. Jackson's bomb off of infamous hurler Dock Ellis was the most famous of recent ASG history, as it not only landed on the roof but even turned off a light in the stadium! The ball supposedly traveled well over 500 feet, and was a perfect representation of what Jackson would become years later in New York. He could be a one man show when he was at the top of his game, and he certainly was at this Midsummer Classic.
2 - Pete Rose Collides with Ray Fosse, 1970
Pete Rose was not a dirty player. He played the game the way it was meant to be played. He may have broken the rules towards the end of his career, but nobody could take away from what was a brilliant career. One of his more notable moments came in the 1970 All Star Game, when he proved that the game was much more than an exhibition. In the bottom of the 12th inning, Rose came home at full force and crushed catcher Ray Fosse to win the game for the National League. "Charlie Hustle" missed the next few games with a bruised knee, but he shook it off rather quickly. Meanwhile, Fosse did not. He separated his shoulder and never was the same player again. He was certainly one of the best "What could have been?" players to ever step foot on a baseball diamond.
This year, Pete will be a central part of the All Star celebration. Prior to the game, there will be announcements for each team's "Franchise Four", and it is expected that Rose will be one of the Reds' selections. While he is out of baseball, he is currently seeking reinstatement although he previously signed his name saying he would never reapply to the game he did wrong in the mid 1980's. Fans have said that enough is enough, and despite breaking a cardinal rule of the game that once punished the entire White Sox team in 1919; they generally believe he has paid his dues. I'm not his biggest supporter, and do not always agree with his business decisions, but no player played harder and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame more.
I'm very anxious to see how tonight fares for the Hit King.
1 - All Century Team, 1999
It wasn't perfect. Anything voted by the fans is not perfect. I can imagine Brian Kenny picking apart the team sabermetrically and completely recreating it. But, picking the right guys wasn't necessarily the point of the All-Century Team. The All Star Game has been a celebration of the most enjoyable players to watch for over 80 years, and the All-Century Team was no different. Once again, Pete Rose was at the forefront of discussion when the nominees were revealed at Fenway Park prior to the Midsummer Classic. Rose was nominated, and there was controversy surrounding whether he should be allowed to be in the stadium despite being banished from Major League Baseball.
Sure enough, Pete was allowed to come, but at that point, nothing mattered more than the touching salute given to the Red Sox' finest player, Ted Williams. Williams was not in good condition at the time, and it would go on to be one of his final public appearances before his death in 2002. He had never been graceful to the Boston fans, but being carted out to an unbelievable ovation brought out the emotional side of perhaps baseball's finest contact hitter to ever live. All of the current players watched in awe and eventually joined Williams in the center of the diamond to speak with him. The late Tony Gwynn was right by his side, along with Nomar Garciaparra, Mark McGwire, and several others.
That was what baseball is all about. History embraced in its most beautiful form. Between the crowd screaming and chanting and the players so in tune with seeing their favorite players stand before them; that was a moment even a diehard Yankee fan like myself couldn't argue against.
Here's to a night filled with memories that can hopefully one day join this list.