By Ross Kelly
MLB’s All-Star Game marks the unofficial halfway point of the season. What started out as merely an exhibition in 1933 has now become one of the staples of the game. MLB was the first pro sports league to organize this event and, in my opinion, they do it better than any other league. They do a great job of honoring the past while still showcasing their current stars and future ones. With 85 previous All-Star games played, there were a lot of moments to comb through in order to compile the list. These may not be the best moments in ASG history but there were certainly memorable. Thus, here is my list of the top 10 unforgettable moments in All-Star Game history:
10. 1983 – Fred Lynn hits event’s only grand slam
In Chicago’s Comiskey Park, Fred Lynn of the California Angels capped a seven-run 3rd inning for the AL by hitting the All-Star games first, and only, grand slam. According to legend, just before the pitch, NBC put on-screen a graphic indicating that there had never been a grand slam in All-Star game history. Talk about impeccable timing.
9. 1946 – ASG returns after World War II
Only once in the 82 year history of the All-Star Game has the game not been played. That was in 1945 due to World War II. The game returned the following year to Fenway Park and Boston’s own Ted Williams was the star of the game. Williams, who served as an aviator in the war, went 4-4 with two home runs and an All-Star record of five RBIs. MLB didn’t award All-Star Game MVPs since 1962 but if they did back then, Williams surely would have won it.
8. 2013 – Mo’s curtain call
Playing in his final All-Star game, Mariano Rivera took the mound in Flushing to a standing ovation, not only from the fans, but also from his peers. Rivera pitched a perfect 8th inning to preserve his perfect 0.00 ERA in All-Star games. He was also named the game’s MVP becoming the first reliever to win the award.
7. 2007 – Ichiro’s historic home run
The focal point of the 2007 ASG was Barry Bonds as the game was in San Francisco and Bonds was approaching the all-time home run record. But it was Ichiro who stole the show as he hit the only inside-the-park home run in ASG history. Ichiro’s fifth inning shot caromed off the right field wall and took an unusual bounce which enabled him to round the bases. The HR was one of three hits for Ichiro in the game and he was named the Most Valuable Player.
6. 1971 – Reggie’s monstrous blast
There have been some big home runs in the All-Star Game but Reggie Jackson’s blast in 1971 was, literally, the biggest of them all. In Detroit’s Tiger Stadium Jackson’s third inning shot hit the light standards on the roof of the stadium. It’s estimated that the home run went 520 feet which makes it the longest home run in All-Star Game history. The homer got the AL on the board and gave them their only win over a 20-year stretch. The NL won every other All-Star Game between 1963 and 1982.
5. 2001 – Cal leaves his mark
The 2001 All-Star game marked the final appearances for both Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn. Ripken slid into his customary shortstop position (with some help from A-Rod) in the first inning and then hit a solo home run in the third. 10 years after winning his first ASG MVP award, Ripken would then claim his second as the AL won 4-1. Gwynn wasn’t an official member of the NL but was still honored for the entirety of his career (which is something I think MLB should make a permanent thing).
4. 1999 – Pedro Martinez shines in Boston
At the peak of the steroid era, pre-Jheri curl Pedro Martinez struck out the first four batters of the game and five of the six hitters he faced. Among the victims were four former MVPs (Larkin, Walker, Sosa, Bagwell) and the fifth was Mark McGwire. Martinez would win the MVP, the first for a pitcher since 1986. 1999 also marks the last time that a starting pitcher has won the All-Star Game MVP award.
3. 1933 – The debut
Originally intended to be a one-time event, the first MLB All-Star Game took place on July 6, 1933 in Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The AL won 4-2 in a game that featured 36 players total. Counting the coaches and managers, the game had 25 future Hall of Famers and the winning pitcher was Lefty Gomez of the Yankees. The event’s home run was, unsurprisingly, hit by Babe Ruth who would play in just one more ASG the following year before retiring in 1935.
2. 1970 – Pete Rose bowls over Ray Fosse
In a game that featured 21 future Hall of Famers (plus Rose), the National League scored in the bottom of the 12th to defeat the American League 5-4. That fifth run was certainly a memorable one as it was Pete Rose in a collision with catcher Ray Fosse at the plate. Fosse ended up dropping the ball and Rose scored as the raucous Cincinnati crowd cheered for their own. The game had a Nielsen Rating of 28.5 and it remains the highest rated All-Star game in history.
1. 2002 – A tie in baseball?
Perhaps the most enduring moment of the 2002 ASG tie was the look of befuddlement on commissioner Bud Selig’s face. After 11 innings and the scored tied at seven, the game was called due to both teams running out of players. On a brighter note, the game is also remembered for the home run-robbing catch by Torii Hunter on a ball hit by Barry Bonds. That play would later be voted the play of the year on mlb.com.