07/16/2003 2:55 AM ET
All-Star Game one for the ages
From Blalock to little Posada, this had it all
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Now that was entertainment, from the moment little Jorge Posada ran onto the field for player introductions to the moment Hank Blalock belted the game-winning home run off closer Eric Gagne, who hadn't blown a save since last August. The 74th All-Star Game is history, and it not only went down with a winner this time, it also went down as one of the best.
Hank Blalock launches his game-winning homer off Eric Gagne in Tuesday's All-Star Game. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
It was a game that will be remembered for a record 30 players (including Blalock) making their first trips to the Midsummer Classic -- and one that will be remembered as probably the final appearance for Roger Clemens.
As for this whole All-Star week in Chicago, which went off without a hitch, it will be remembered most as another personal showcase by the once-unheralded Garret Anderson. He followed up Monday's Home Run Derby title by going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and being selected as the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player. Fans had a say in that for the first time, and you can still register to win a trip for two to the 2004 All-Star festivities in Houston.
With Tuesday's victory, the American League is starting to look a lot like that old National League powerhouse of the '70s and '80s. That makes it a six-game AL winning streak dating back to 1996, when Mike Piazza led the NL. It remains to be seen if Anderson's Angels can get back to the World Series again, but this much was certain after Tuesday's victory: The AL will have the home-field advantage in the Fall Classic again.
Selig speaks again
Speaking of that home-field advantage, MLB.com's Mike Bauman reports that the topic was the primary focus during Commissioner Bud Selig's question-and-answer session with baseball writers before Tuesday's game. It came a day after Selig answered fans' questions during his third-ever Town Hall Chat on MLB.com, conducted among more than 1,000 people at the nearby John Hancock FanFest. Bauman writes:
"Selig said the decision to go to the home-field advantage format was not a response to the tie in the 2002 All-Star Game, but was made simply to increase interest in the game. The Commissioner also deflected the argument that baseball should award home-field advantage to the team with the best regular-season record. The problem with that concept is that the identity of the Series team with the best record cannot be known until the League Championship Series are completed."
More sights and sounds
If you want to relive Vanessa Carlton's rendition of the Star Spangled Banner or the play in which Ichiro Suzuki robbed Albert Pujols on that deep drive to right, then head for MLB.com's Sights and Sounds page. It is stocked with fresh video, audio and photos from the Midsummer Classic. And, of course, there is that video of Posada's little dude.
Notes and quotes from the ballpark
Mike Sweeney will be back to business soon when the Royals open the second half with a big lead in the AL Central, but he was making the most of this All-Star visit despite being unable to play due to a sore back. MLB.com's Jim Molony talked with the Royals' first baseman for an AL Notebook, and Carrie Muskat's NL Notebook shows you how Dusty Baker prepared his players for those tough AL pitchers.
Blalock had plenty to say after his dream debut in the game. MLB.com also brings you postgame comments from that Angels duo of manager Mike Scioscia and Anderson, as well as quotes from Baker, who said, "I've never seen Gagne get hit like that."
The international look
The All-Star Game had a decided international feel, especially with Hideki Matsui and Ichiro of Japan starting side-by-side in the same American League outfield. Before the game, a long line of Japanese photographers and reporters stood on the left side of the field, watching those players' every move during batting practice. Also on the AL roster was countryman Shigetoshi Hasegawa of Seattle.
Matsui, who singled off Jason Schmidt in his first All-Star at-bat, said that to have three Japanese players on the AL's roster is something he never would have believed just a few years ago.
"We couldn't have imagined Japanese players in the Major League All-Star Game, but we're playing," Matsui said through an interpreter. "It's great. The fans in Japan are very proud of how we have performed here."
The Rocket's last ride
While Matsui was one Yankee enjoying his first Major League All-Star Game, Clemens made the most of his probable last hurrah in his ninth such event. Clemens was a late addition as a replacement for Oakland's Barry Zito, who was not available due to eight shutout innings he had just thrown Sunday. The Rocket pitched a scoreless third inning, playing a key role in the AL victory.
"This is my last All-Star Game and my last year," Clemens said before the game. "I'm going to try to enjoy it as much as I can, but I have to be ready to perform. I hope my family enjoys it, because this was their decision."
Something for everyone
Now that the All-Star events are over and the focus will return to the regular season, you can be sure that few people were going to leave U.S. Cellular Field empty-handed. Certainly not the players. The pregame clubhouses each looked like a preparation for a memorabilia show.
"I got my Phillies jersey signed by everybody, but I really wanted my National League jersey signed," said Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf, who pitched the third inning and gave up an RBI single to Carlos Delgado. "But we only get one. It's a cool jersey."
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.