January 4, 2011
Baseball's All-Star Game has often been criticized for being boring and pointless, or for an apparent lack of effort from the players involved. While the Midsummer Classic has certainly offered moments of embarrassment for Major League Baseball (an 11-inning, 7-7 tie in 2002 comes to mind), it has also offered more than its share of intrigue and excitement. Just take a look at last year's game, in which the American League won 4-3 after 15 innings of dramatic baseball.
While last year's game was exciting, it didn't offer any seminal moment to forever be remembered in baseball lore. This was not the case for many past All-Star Games however, as impressive strikeouts, big home runs, and collisions at the plate have cemented their place in the annals of baseball history.
In 1993, at Camden Yards in Baltimore, with two outs in the top of the 3rd inning, the Phillies John Kruk strolled to the plate to face-off against the American League's Randy Johnson, a hard-throwing lefty with a nasty slider. Johnson's first pitch, a fastball, sailed right over Kruk's head, noticeably spooking the Phillies first baseman. Kruk might as well have been sitting in the dugout for the remainder of the at-bat, as he was stepping out of the batter's box seemingly as Johnson went into his wind-up.
Johnson looked mighty impressive in recording one out versus Kruk, but in 1999, at Fenway Park, Pedro Martinez was more than impressive - he was downright dominating. To begin the game, the National League sent six batters to the plate in first two innings to face Pedro: Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Matt Williams and Jeff Bagwell. The results? - Strikeout, strikeout looking, strikeout, strikeout, E4 (erased with a caught stealing), strikeout. Minutes after Ted Williams had driven onto the Fenway field, in what was perhaps the greatest collection of baseball talent ever assembled, Pedro delivered one of the most dominating performances the sports has ever seen. For his efforts, he was awarded the game's MVP.
But pitchers don't always get the best of their matchups in the All-Star Game. During the 1971 contest, life imitated fiction when Mr. October transformed himself into "The Natural." Reggie Jackson's moonshot in Tiger Stadium off a Dock Ellis slider not only landed on the roof; it turned off the lights. Striking a transformer over 100 feet above the field, its projected distance was 530+ feet and remains one of the longest homeruns ever hit.
The All-Star Game has seen some other great hits, walkoff homers, grand slams, and inspired performances by older stars, from Babe Ruth to Cal Ripken Jr. Will this year's game in St. Louis offer a moment special enough to be included among the Top 10 MLB All-Star Game moments? Only time will tell.