All-Star Rewind, Chapter 10: A Bronx Tale–a Grand Sendoff for the Home Office of Baseball

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  Hi all.  This is the 10th and final chapter of the All-Star Rewind series.  I can’t thank you enough for liking these pieces and commenting on them both here and on my Facebook page, also called “Baseball as I see It.”  The way-back machine doesn’t have to go as far back this time, only to 2008.  The game was played on July 15, and in 15 innings the junior circuit took a 4–3 win. 

  After the 1971 All-Star game with Reggie Jackson’s mighty home run, there isn’t much to say about many of the All-Star games since, unless you were there or it was your first one.  There were many reasons for this.  The players stopped caring once their salaries put them into a rarified atmosphere far above mere mortals who buy the tickets and the gear, not to mention the $10.00 beers and hot dogs I can’t even name the price of.  Since cable-TV came along and splintered the viewing public, the major networks didn’t get the ratings they once got, so they did less for the game.  Last, MLB has never done an adequate job marketing its stars as the NBA does.  36 men in tonight’s All-Star game are making their first appearance, and I would have to google some of them to have a clue as to who they are.  After decades of snorefests and an embarrassing tie in 2002, the teams gave us a doozy in 2008, or what Arthur Godfrey would have called “a lulu.” 

  All of baseball knew Yankee Stadium had a date with a wrecking ball following the 2008 season.  Fans with memories of the old stadium correctly figured the new stadium would be a bad version of what Michael Kay called “The Home Office of Baseball.”  Up to now, the stadium had hosted 3 All-Star games-one each in 1939, 1960 and 1977 after the renovations the stadium had to have.  It was pretty clear it would take more time for the Yankees to win another pennant, so the All-Star game would be the final diadem in the crown of baseball’s greatest stadium.  and a shining jewel it was.  A typically raucous Yankee crowd of 55,632 jammed the old stadium.  every living Hall of Famer was invited for the occasion and 49 of them answered the call.  Many paraded down 6th Avenue, officially the Avenue of the Americas.  The Hall of Famers were introduced and took their accustomed positions on the field.  When the All-Stars were introduced, they stood at their current positions beside the game’s best from days gone by.  During the 7th-inning stretch, arguably America’s greatest tenor, Josh Groben sang “God Bless America.” 

  Fox had the TV rights by then and ESPN Radio brought the game to radio listeners as they have for decades.   On TV, Joe Buck and the great Tim McCarver brought the game to fans in this country.  On the newly developed MLB International, Gary Thorne  and Rick Sutcliffe told fans in the rest of the English-speaking world what was happening in distant New York.  On the radio, ESPN chose the voice of the Bluejays on TV, Dan Shulman and Dave “Soup” Campbell, a one-time .213 hitter who was a much better fit behind the microphone than he was as a player.  They were OK, but radio baseball had fallen a long way since Red Barber, Mel Allen, Chuck Thompson, Bob Prince and Jim Simpson called All-Star games. 

  4 alltime great Yankees each threw ceremonial first pitches–Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Rich Gossage and Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.    Clint Hurdle of the Rockies and Boston’s Terry Francona who had faced each other in the 2007 World Series were the managers.  The rosters were up to 32 men from 20 in 1934.  At 32, that’s 7 more men than a regular team can carry.   The need to get everybody in has gotten managers in trouble before.  Gone are the days when managers left some of their players on the bench in the interest of winning the game.  As the game began, the NL hadn’t won an All-Star game since 1996 in Philadelphia.  To try and break the streak, the starting lineup included the Cubs’ Geovany Soto,  Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome (Foo-Q-Domey),  Houston’s Lance Berkman, Chase Utley of the Phillies, Chipper Jones of the Braves,  the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun of Milwaukee and the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols who was a DH even then.  That alone should have warned the Angels about what they were getting when they signed him later.  Available to pitch for the NL were the Rockies’ Aaron Cook,  Chicago’s Ryan Dempster,  Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol,  the D-Backs’ Dan Haren and Brandon Webb,  the Phillies’ Brad Lidge, the Giants’ Tin Lincecum and Brian Wilson,  Ben Sheets of the Brewers, Edinson Volquez of the Reds and the Mets’ Billy Wagner.  Hurdle’s reserves included the Dodgers’ Russell Martin, the Braves’ Brian McCann and Dan Ugla,  the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez, Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs, the Mets’ David Wright, Washington’s Cristian Guzman, Houston’s Miguel Tejada, Corey Hart of the Brewers, the Rockies’ Matt Holliday, Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals and the Pirates’ Nate McLouth.  

  American Leaguers in the starting lineup included the Twins’ Joe Mauer, Boston’s Edwin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the Yankees’ left side of the infield which was Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle.  Among manager Francona’s moundsmen, he had Oakland’s Justin Duchscherer, Toronto’s Roy “Doc” Halladay, the Rays’ Scott Kazmir, the Indians’ great lefty Cliff Lee,  the Twins’ Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox, the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, George Sherrill of the Orioles, the Roy als’ Joakim Soria, and standing above them all, the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera.  Francona’s reserves included the Rays’ Dioner Navarro and Evan Longoria,  Boston’s Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew,  Justin Morneau of the Twins, the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler, Milton Bradley and Michael Young,  Joe Creed and Carlos Quentin of the White Sox, the Tigers’ Carlos Guillen and  Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore.  

 The National Leaguers put single runs up in the 5th, 6th and 8th.  The Al put up 2 in the 7th on a home run by J.D. Drew and scored again in the 8th before walking it off 7 innings later, at nearly 2 A.M.  The Braves’ Dan Ugla had an ugly night making 3 errors, though none of them led to runs by the AL.   Both starters, Cliff Lee and Ben Sheets fired 2 scoreless innings coming out of the gate.   Matt Holliday homered off Ervin Santana in the 5th to break the ice.  Lance ABerkman hit a scoring fly ball in the 6th making it 2-0 NL.  Drew’s shot in the 7th tied things up.  The Reds’ Edinson was Drew’s foil.  The NL took a brief lead in the 8th.   Miguel Tejada singled and stole second.  The throw went  into center field and Tejada took third on the only damaging error by the AL.  He gave his team the lead when Adrian Gonzalez hit a scoring fly ball. In the last of the 8th, Brian Wilson retired the first two men he saw.  Desperate to see that everybody got their turn, manager Hurdle sent in Billy Wagner.  Grady Sizemore promptly singled and swiped second.  All told, there were a record 6 stolen bases that night.  Coming up as a pinch-hitter, Evan Longoria slammed a ground rule double to left, tying the score again. 

  Now the managers were in a spot.  Nobody wanted a rerun of the tie that happened in 2002 when the managers ran out of pitchers.  Hurdle turned to the Rockies’ Aaron Cook, a kid I broadcast in the minors.  Michael Young and Carlos Quentin both reached on the errors I mentioned by Ugla.  Carlos Guillen got a free ticket to load the bases with nobody out.  That didn’t rattle Cook, a veteran of pitching at Coors’ Canaveral in Denver.  Twice he induced grounders when the runner was forced out at home.  Justin Morneau grounded out, ending the threat.  The AL gambled in the 11th sending Dioner Navarro around to try and score from second on a single.  Running like the catcher he was, he was gunned down by Nate McLouth.  Both teams tried and failed in the 12th.  Pitching took charge in the 1 3th and 14th with George Sherrill and Carlos Marmol laying down the law.  In the last of the 15th, Hurdle fired his last bullet, Brad Lidge.  Hardened Phillies’ fans could have said what would come next.   Justin Morneau singled to start things off.  Kinsler would have a hit except for a diving play by Ryan Ludwick.  Navarro singled and Drew walked leaving the bases drunk.   Michael Young, who had driven home the winning run the year before, hit a scoring fly ball driving in Morneau for the victory. 

  The only other 15-inning All-Star game was played in a brisk 4 hours.  This one lasted nearly 5.  Because it started at 8:47 PM, 90 minutes later than the ’67 game, it didn’t end until almost 2 AM, 11 PM on the west coast.  A new record was set by the pitchers with 34 strikeouts.  With today’s style of play, that could be challenged tonight in Cleveland even if 51 or 54 outs are required without extra innings. Ugla not only made 3 errors, he also struck out 3 times and hit into a double play.  No other All-Star can make that statement.  Incredibly, fans in England lost the game in the 12th inning, being played at 6 AAM London time.   The channel said they were obliged to carry a children’s show called “The Wiggles.”  They got a response not unlike how Americans reacted when they saw the kid movie “Heidi” in the final moments of a Jets-Raiders game. 

  It has been a delight to bring you these 10 profiles of great All-Star games.  This one was written under considerable pressure because a computer glitch cost me 90 minutes of time I could have used to give this game the story it deserved.  Tomorrow, I’ll write up what happens starting in about 3 hours in Cleveland.           

 

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