Moments to remember from MLB's mostly dull All-Star Game history
Posted: Thursday July 8, 2004 4:56PM; Updated: Monday July 12, 2004 6:16PM
Cal Ripken Jr. went out in style with this home run off Chan Ho Park.
Baseball's All-Star Games have always been pretty tricky to pull off. Most of the time -- as is the case with Super Bowls, NCAA basketball finals and Kevin Costner movies -- they're forgettable affairs.
But when an institution has been around as long as the All-Star Game (next Tuesday, we'll see the 75th of these things), it's bound to have its moments. Not the ties, necessarily, or the blowouts. Not the yawn-inducing pitching duels with eight pitchers per team. Not the ballot box stuffing of 1957, when Cincinnati fans voted eight Reds onto the team. Not '58, when the commissioner snatched the vote back from the fans.
We're talking good moments, memorable ones. Take these 10, for example:
10. Carl Hubbell vs. the American League, Polo Grounds, New York, 1934.
Lots of Hall of Fame pitchers have blown through the All-Star Game, but no one has accomplished what "King Carl" Hubbell did in just the second All-Star Game ever. The New York Giants' lefty started for the National League and struck out the first five batters he faced: the Yankees' Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx of the Philadelphia Athletics, Al Simmons of the White Sox and Joe Cronin of the Washington Senators. All five victims were later inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 1986, the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela matched the feat of five straight strikeouts, but he didn't enter the game until the fourth inning.
9. Ted Williams vs. Claude Passeau, Briggs Stadium, Detroit, 1941.
Williams once called his performance in this game one of the highlights of his career. Down 5-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the AL scratched out a run when the NL botched what would have been a game-ending, double-play grounder off the bat of Joe DiMaggio. With two outs, Williams slammed a game-winning, three-run homer off the Cubs' Passeau. Williams went on to hit .406 that year. DiMaggio's famed 56-game hitting streak would end nine days later in Cleveland. Passeau went 14-14 with a 3.35 ERA.
8. Williams vs. Rip Sewell, Fenway Park, Boston, 1946.
A year after the game was canceled because of travel restrictions during World War II, Williams got back into the swing by going 4-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs in his home park. His second homer was more memorable. In the ninth, with the victory well in hand for the AL, Williams blasted Sewell's famed "eephus" pitch -- a high-arcing curveball that had confounded much of the NL -- into the right-field bullpen. The AL won 12-0 in the most lopsided All-Star contest.
7. Williams vs. Ralph Kiner, Comiskey Park, Chicago, 1950.
Williams wanted to be known as the best hitter ever, but he made his mark in this game with his glove. Or, more accurately, his elbow. The Splendid Splinter raced back to take an extra-base hit away from the Pirates' Kiner in the top of the first, but Williams collided with the wall and broke his left elbow. The game went 14 innings -- the first extra-innings Midsummer Classic ever -- as the NL won, 4-3. Williams played in only 89 games that season.
6. Pitchers vs. hitters, Astrodome, Houston, 1968.
The Cardinals' Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA and the Tigers' Denny McLain won 31 games with a 1.96 ERA in 1968. They were named MVPs of their respective leagues. That was the last year before the mound was lowered, and the pitching dominance showed in the first indoor All-Star Game. The 1-0 NL victory featured only eight hits and no homers. The lone run came in the bottom of the first after a single by Willie Mays, an errant pickoff attempt, a wild pitch and a double play.
5. Pete Rose vs. Ray Fosse, Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, 1970.
The granddaddy of All-Star Game plays -- and the one that best demonstrates the difference between what All-Star Games used to be and what they are now -- this one came in the bottom of the 12th. The Reds' Rose, running hard on a single by "Gentleman" Jim Hickman of the Cubs, barreled over Indians catcher Fosse at the plate, knocking the ball loose, sending Fosse to the hospital and giving the NL a thrilling win.
4. Randy Johnson vs. Larry Walker, Jacobs Field, Cleveland, 1997.
Maybe the goofiest moment in the history of the game, the .398-hitting Walker came up to bat against a guy he ducked in an interleague game earlier in the year -- and Johnson promptly whistled a fastball over his head. The Rockies' Walker smiled, took off his helmet and turned it around, then moved to the right-handed batter's box. Walker ended up walking in an otherwise lackluster game.
3. Cal Ripken Jr. vs. Chan Ho Park, Safeco Field, Seattle, 2001.
In his 18th and final All-Star Game, Ripken came to bat in the bottom of the third inning and receieved a a standing ovation. Baseball's Iron Man then blasted a fat, first-pitch fastball from the Dodgers' Park into left-center field for a perfectly on-cue home run.
2. Torii Hunter vs. Barry Bonds, Miller Park, Milwaukee, 2002.
The 11-inning tie and subsequent firestorm was the news of this game, but the pizzazz came with what is arguably the greatest catch in the history of the Midsummer Classic. In the bottom of the first with nobody on and two outs, Bonds launched a 3-0 fastball from Boston's Derek Lowe deep to right center. Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki slowed down, apparently giving up on the blast. But the Twins' Hunter raced over, leaped with his elbow above the wall and robbed Bonds of a sure home run.
1. Hank Blalock vs. Eric Gagne, U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, 2003.
With home-field advantage in the World Series riding on the outcome for the first time, the Rangers' Blalock smacked a pinch-hit, two-run home run off of the best reliever in the game, the Dodgers' Gagne, in the eighth inning to give the AL a 7-6 win. The home-field advantage in the Series didn't help the AL, though. The Marlins beat the Yankees in six games.