To commemorate the last of our All-Star Game Throwback series, in which we’ve detailed events and moments from All-Star Games throughout history, we thought it would only be fitting to list what was quite possibly the best Midsummer Classic of all time. However, when choosing the best All-Star Game out of the previous 83 iterations of the event, there are a lot of great games that are up for nomination. We’ve had walkoffs, great pitching performances, and moments of endearment that seemingly baseball can only bring you.
Most baseball fans can tell you about the Bo Jackson All-Star Game (1989) and how he stole hearts much like Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers is doing right now. (Freddie Freeman, really?) We probably all remember Randy Johnson terrifyingly picking on John Kruk like a mean older brother. If only they compared mullet length after the game – with Andre Agassi as the judge – maybe that should have stolen the top spot. Since we know baseball fans love their historical ties, the first ever All-Star Game should probably get the top spot. In this game, Babe Ruth homered and starred in a game that featured some of the greatest players of all-time, including Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Paul Waner, Bill Dickey, and more. Heck, even Connie Mack and John McGraw – the two winningest managers of all-time – were the respective coaches. But, much like many of the other All-Star Games that were not selected, most of these came down to a single person’s relevance or a play that kept them in our minds. Rather, the best All-Star Game of all time belongs to a game that meant so much more.
Coming off of the 1998 baseball season, and the great all-time home run chase, MLB was on a high. They could do no wrong – that is, until they couldn’t figure out how to keep steroids from becoming an epidemic. But, let’s pretend we’re Bud Selig right now and turn our heads the other way. No, in 1999, life was good for MLB. Ticket sales were through the roof, home runs kept rising, baseball rid itself of Marge Schott, and the Yankees were at the beginning of their newest world championship run. But, the most prolific events came at the Yankees’ main rival’s home field during the All Star break – Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.
First off, the Home Run Derby included Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Bagwell, and hometown favorite Nomar Garciaparra. The next night, however, was where the baseball history buffs nearly lost it. Before the season, baseball announced it would be naming an All-Century Team. This was sort of a big deal. Baseball loves its history. But to bring these guys out together, all at one place, was pretty phenomenal. So, preceding the game, all of the nominees were announced before the crowd and brought out onto the field.
If trotting out a bunch of old baseball greats wasn’t enough, compounding that with the emergence of Ted Williams from the tunnel at Fenway Park was too much for most fans. The game, obviously, got a late start, yet it was one of those moments where time stood still and no one seemed to care. As new met with old on the infield of one of the most legendary ballparks of any sport, a collective Giggity Giggity was said across America. By the time we got to the actual game, there was still a little magic left.
The game has been noted as one of the most talent-laden competitions ever, with rosters packed full of legends. For instance, Roberto Alomar, a first-ballot HOF’er, was batting 9th for the American League and Mike Piazza, who is maybe the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, was batting 7th for the National League. Also, on the bench to start the game were guys like Tony Gwynn, Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffiled, and Vlad Guerrero. On top of the HR Derby, the All-Century Team, Ted Williams, and the awesome rosters was then the game itself. Pedro Martinez, channeling his inner Carl Hubbell, took over.
In all, the entire All-Star Game weekend was great. There are very few occasions in life when a current event can make you look back at previous events in a non-cheesy way and this was one of them. To watch this live was putting yourself in a moment. The YouTube videos alone will not do it justice. Sometimes, to be a baseball fan, you have to subject yourself to having an open heart because most baseball fans are romantics and have an emotional attachment to a sport that is sometimes troubling. When Big Papi came out and said, “This is Our F*cking City” when responding to the Boston Bomber incident – on the same field no less – it meant a little more to a baseball fan than to Carly Rae Jepsen. So, to be a baseball fan, you eat, breathe, and live baseball – and this was all three of those at the same time. To quote Carl Yastrzemski, “I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don’t think about it is when I’m playing it.”
Enjoy the game tonight.