Recounting 10 favorite All-Star memories
Unforgettable performances from Ripken, Musial among best
PHOENIX -- Was it Cal Ripken Jr. moving back to shortstop and blasting a homer in his final All-Star Game in 2001, or Stan Musial's walk-off shot in the 1955 game?
Millions of fans have cast their ballots, and the winning moment, the greatest moment of the 81 All-Star Games, will be revealed before the first pitch in Tuesday night's Midsummer Classic at Chase Field.
I've been fortunate enough to cover more than half of those games; Tuesday's will be my 45th.
I wasn't on the scene when Stan the Man homered off Boston's Frank Sullivan leading off the 12th inning for the 6-5 win at Milwaukee's County Stadium. I watched it on a snowy black-and-white TV.
But I was at Seattle's Safeco Field on July 10, 2001, for the Ripken moment, dutifully reporting the magical event from the press box.
My top 10 most memorable moments from the 44 games I've covered? No offense to the Iron Man, but he is third on my list:
The 1981 game in Cleveland -- it wasn't played until Aug. 9 -- was important. This was the moment the 50-day players' strike officially ended. Everybody was happy to see baseball back on the field for the first time since June. Mike Schmidt, the NL MVP in 1980 as the Phillies won the World Series, won the game, 5-4, with a two-run homer.
I remember how hot it was in Detroit's Tiger Stadium in 1971. The AL ended an eight-game NL winning streak with a 6-4 victory. That was the night Reggie Jackson hit a gigantic two-run homer that hit the transformer atop the roof in right-center field.
This was in 1960, during the period when two games were played each summer. The second was at Yankee Stadium. A big deal was made of Willie Mays returning to New York (the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958). Mays obliged. He had a homer, drove in two runs and stole a base. Eddie Mathews, Stan Musial and Ken Boyer also homered as the NL won, 6-0.
Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, a virtual sensation the first half for Detroit, came to Philadelphia in 1976 to help celebrate our nation's bicentennial along with President Gerald Ford. I interviewed Mark before the game and wrote "meeting Mark Fidrych is like shaking hands with an unmade bed." He laughed when he saw the column, but didn't do too well as the game's starting pitcher. The NL beat him and the AL, 7-1. It was the NL's 13th victory in 14 games.
This was the 2008 farewell to the old Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built. It was a great night -- and morning, too! The Stadium didn't want to let go. The game didn't end until 1:37 a.m. ET, with the AL finally winning, 4-3, in 15 long innings.
It was 1999, at Boston's Fenway Park. I wouldn't have been surprised had this been a finalist in this year's fan voting. MLB honored 41 baseball legends before the game on the field. Ted Williams, in a golf cart, was mobbed around second base by the other legends and All-Stars. There has never been a more nostalgic on-the-field moment in these games. Many of the players who swarmed around Williams have called it one of their most precious moments.
The 1970 game at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium is one of the most memorable ever. That was the night the Reds' Pete Rose crashed into Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 12th inning, giving the NL a 5-4 victory. I remember going into the trainer's room to interview Rose, who was banged up from the collision. He said he would have run over his mother to win the game. Earlier, I was lucky enough to shake hands with President Nixon, who threw out the first pitch.
Alex Rodriguez was voted the starting AL shortstop and Ripken the third baseman in 2001, although Cal had played most of his career at short. When the AL took the field prior to the first pitch, A-Rod grabbed Ripken and literally pushed him to shortstop, and Rodriguez played third. More than 47,000 fans were at Safeco Field and on their feet, applauding the surprise move as Cal and A-Rod were introduced. It was a storybook scenario. Ripken homered off Chan Ho Park in the second inning to give the AL a 1-0 lead en route to a 4-1 victory. Of course, Ripken was named the game's MVP. At 40, Cal became the oldest player to homer in a Midsummer Classic.
The first All-Star Game I covered was important. You have to have a starting point. It was July 8, 1958, in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. When I look back, I think I was more in awe of the All-Stars than I've ever been -- Casey Stengel managed the AL with the likes of Musial, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays playing for the NL. Oh, yes. The AL won, 4-3.
It came in 1992 and technically wasn't even the baseball game. A few days before the game in San Diego, the White House called, asking if I would like to join President George H. W. Bush aboard Air Force One to talk about the All-Stars en route to San Diego. We sat in a conference room aboard Air Force One and discussed the players and whom he thought should have been chosen and those who weren't. He was well prepared. The fact the American League won, 13-6, was almost forgotten, as was the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. went 3-for-3 with a homer, double and two RBIs.
Maybe the 2002 All-Star Game at Milwaukee's Miller Park should make my list and, yes, it was memorable. To me, it's a footnote because had the 11-inning, 7-7 tie when the managers ran out of pitchers not happened, it's doubtful the format would have prompted the change that gives the winning league in the All-Star Game home-field advantage in the World Series.
Many of my scorecards from the 44 All-Star Games are fading, but not the memories.
Now, we're poised in steamy Phoenix for the 82nd Midsummer Classic. Wonder if it will crack my Top 10.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.