By Rich Arleo
The 88th MLB All-Star Game is set to take place at Marlins Park in Miami on Tuesday, July 11 (7:30 p.m. ET; FOX); and this time … it doesn’t count. For the first time since 2002, the All-Star Game will not determine home-field advantage in the World Series. What began as an experiment after the ’02 ASG ended in an 11-inning tie when both teams ran out of pitchers, the Midsummer Classic has helped the American League grab home-field in the Fall Classic in 11 of the last 14 seasons.
Now the game will return to its roots as an exhibition of the game’s greats, with an added bonus of $20,000 to each player on the winning team. It will be interesting to see just how serious the players take the game, but if one thing is for certain, it’s that the fans are in for a treat with a plethora of incredible young talent set to take the field in Miami. There are an endless number of exciting scenarios that can play out this year, such as the first matchup between either of the two best pitchers in baseball—Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer—and New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge. We’ll soon find out how the 2017 All-Star Game stacks up in the Midsummer Classic history books, but before that let us take a look at some of the most memorable moments in the storied history of the MLB All-Star Game.
5. John Kruk vs. Randy Johnson – 1993
‘The Big Unit’ Randy Johnson entered the ’93 All-Star Game having struck out 171 batters in 144 2/3 innings (10.6 K/9) with a 10-5 record and .211 batting average against. A few years before Interleague Play began, many National League hitters were enjoying the fact that they got to avoid seeing Johnson—until the All-Star Game rolled around. Despite entering the break with a .350/.477/.531 line, Phillies slugger John Kruk wanted nothing to do with facing Johnson, and the 6-foot-10 left-hander took advantage of that fact by sailing a heater over Kruk’s head to begin the at-bat. Kruk flailed wildly on two strikes to end the at-bat, bowing to the crowd as he was happy to head back to the dugout. Kruk said after the game that he entered the at-bat just trying to make contact, but “after the first pitch all I wanted to do was live, and I lived, so I had a good at-bat.”
4. Torii Hunter robs Barry Bonds – 2002
While the ’02 All-Star Game ended in a flop, it certainly started with a bang. Barry Bonds was coming off his record-setting 73-homer season and entered the break with an absolutely ludicrous .345/.562/.780 line with 27 homers and 57 RBIs. Bonds looked like he got all of a Derek Lowe dealing in the first inning, driving one deep to right-center field. Unfortunately for Bonds and the NL, one of the best outfielders in the game was patrolling center field for the AL, and Hunter timed his jump, raised his glove over the wall and brought back a would-be homer, resulting in a smiling Bonds playfully hurling Hunter over his shoulders as if to say, “good catch, kid.” Playing in his first All-Star Game, Hunter finished the season with his second of what would be nine consecutive Gold Glove awards.
3. Pete Rose barrels over Ray Fosse – 1970
It’s difficult to say that you’ll never see something again in baseball, but this is a moment that, due to rule changes, will certainly never happen again. After the NL shocked AL closer Catfish Hunter with three runs in the ninth inning to send the game to extras, Pete Rose singled with two outs and the bases empty in the 12th inning. After advancing to second following another single, Jim Hickman singled up the middle and Rose sped around third as AL center fielder Amos Otis charged and fired the ball toward home. Rose came in full speed and lowered his shoulder right into AL catcher Ray Fosse, causing him to drop the ball and winning the game for the NL. Fosse suffered a fractured, separated shoulder on the play and Rose was widely criticized for the aggressive move in an exhibition. The play is polarizing to this day, as many look back on it fondly as “the way the game should be played” while many others use it as support for the new rules created to remove home-plate collisions from the game.
2. Ted Williams honored before Pedro Martinez dominates – 1999
A pair of Red Sox legends shared the stage in Fenway Park at the All-Star Game in ’99, one having already cemented himself as one of the greatest of all time, and the other in the process of doing so. In what turned out to be one of his final public appearances before his death in ’02, Hall of Famer Ted Williams threw out the first pitch as part of MLB’s All-Century team to a long, thunderous ovation by both the fans and All-Stars on both teams. Then Pedro took the mound and made quick work of some elite names in the first inning, striking out the side of Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa (the first pitcher to fan the side in the first inning of an All-Star Game). Pedro then went on to strike out Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in the second, facing the minimum six hitters with the help of a caught stealing by Ivan Rodriguez. Pedro earned the victory for the AL in his home ballpark, 4-1 over the NL. In the midst of his second Cy Young Award-winning season, Martinez entered the game already with 15 wins in his pocket thanks to a 2.10 ERA, 0.965 WHIP and 12.5 K/9. His numbers were somehow even better in the second half, finishing the year with a 2.07 ERA and a career-high 23 wins. Martinez was one of just four pitchers with a sub-3 ERA that season as he continued his dominance in an era ruled by offense.
1. Cal Ripken moves to short, homers in final All-Star appearance – 2001
At 40 years old, Cal Ripken knew that his 19th All-Star Game would be his last, and in true ‘Iron Man’ fashion he went out in style. Voted in as the starting third baseman for the AL, shortstop Alex Rodriguez and AL manager Joe Torre insisted Ripken move to shortstop — his original position — for the first inning. Ripken then headed to the plate in the third and hit the first pitch he saw out of the park, giving his team a lead they’d never relinquish and becoming the oldest player to homer in an All-Star Game. He was named the game’s MVP for the second time in his career in a 4-1 AL victory.