In anticipation of the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim on Tuesday, July 13, the CBS Sports MLB Facts and Rumors blog looks back at some of the more memorable editions of the All-Star Game. Today looks at the 1999 All-Star Game.
I sat slack-jawed with a tape recorder rolling and no questions in my head, just a desire for the answers to never stop coming.
It was a hotel ballroom in Boston, and Warren Spahn and I were among four or five stragglers in there. He was telling the story of his epic 16-inning, complete-game performance against Juan Marichal and the Giants at Candlestick Park in 1963. It was at least the second time Spahn had told it that day and likely the 10th, and I'd even heard it once before, but I listened again. Just as he mentioned Willie Mays' homer, someone walked into the room and said it was time for Spahn to go.
He apologized, said he could go on for hours and I told him I could listen for more. An hour before, the room had been full of the greatest major-league players in history. Mays was there, so was Marichal, not to mention Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson -- pretty much everywhere I turned, I bumped into a Hall of Famer.
While All-Star Games are naturally filled with All-Stars, the 1999 game was different. It was filled with bigger stars than just the usual names, even in this, the summer following the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa slugfest before it lost its luster. They were there, as was Ken Griffey Jr. at the height of his popularity. Pedro Martinez was making hometown fans think the curse may be bunk. But still, among all the All-Star Games in the history of the exhibition, this was less about the game and the current players than any other.
The 1999 game was not only at one of the country's most historic ballparks, Fenway Park, it was also coming at the time of an endless stream of best-of-the-century lists. But baseball's list, its Team of the Century, was kicked off in a different fashion than any other.
While other places talked of history, it was on display in Boston. Most people didn't see this part, because it was before MLB had 24 hours a day to fill with TV programming, but baseball announced its 100 greatest players of the 20th century in a news conference with the vast majority of the living members of that club in attendance in a hotel ballroom in Boston.
It was an amazing display of the game's greats, and after an entertaining hour-or-so, the players were brought into another room for one-on-one interviews. It was an hour of baseball geek bliss. At 23, I was slightly intimidated and more than happy to listen in on the conversations of the likes of Willie McCovey, Robin Yount, Mike Schmidt and Yogi Berra, among others.
Ted Williams, Pete Rose and Sandy Koufax weren't there, but it was hard to complain about their absence -- or the two from the dais that skipped the one-on-ones, Stan Musial and George Brett, although with Missouri roots, those were the two I'd hoped to interview more than the others.
By the time the all-time greats were introduced on the field the night of the game, I thought I was goose-bumped out. Until, right in front of my seat in the right field auxiliary press box, came Williams in on a golf cart. He did a lap and ultimately was the center of attention as he prepared to throw the first pitch.
It was a moment. A moment for baseball, a moment for baseball fans across the country to share their memories with another generation of fans -- to share their own stories of seeing Mays or Mantle play. In short, it was the rare moment when the ceremonial first pitch outshines the real first pitch. Even future Hall of Famers like Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn seemed to grasp the special nature of the moment. We all did -- those at Fenway and even those watching at home.
Martinez went on to become the first All-Star pitcher to strike out the side in the first inning, fanning Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Sosa to start the game. He then struck out McGwire to lead off the second, bringing to mind Carl Hubbell's 1934 feat of getting Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin consecutively. It was an impressive display, even after Matt Williams broke Martinez's strikeout streak, reaching on an error. Martinez would win the game and the MVP, but even before he faced Larkin, the game had earned its spot in history.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
More All-Star memories -- 2002: The Tie ; 1949: First integrated edition ; 1941: Teddy Ballagame's walk-off homer
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