The MLB All-Star game, no matter what your feelings are on its merits to determine home field for the World Series, always manages to provide a few truly memorable moments. Last night's fireworks started right away and kept on coming.
Here, I take you for a walk down memory lane and provide the 10 best MLB All-Star game moments from the last 20 years.
Ichiro's inside-the-park home run, 2007
The saying often goes that a triple is the hardest hit to achieve in baseball, but that's not really true. The hardest hit in baseball is an inside-the-park home run. The reason that it gets overlooked is because it happens so rarely. That's what makes Ichiro's inside-the-park home run at AT&T Park in 2007 so damn awesome, and I'm not alone in thinking that. His 2-run inside-the-park job helped him to the game's MVP award.
Also, here's a video of Ichiro pitching in a Japanese All-Star game just for the hell of it.
Norristown native Mike Piazza wins MVP in Philadelphia, 1996
Mike Piazza grew up in Norristown, a suburb of Philadelphia, as a rabid Phillies fan. In 1996, he had the honor of playing in the All-Star Game at Veterans Stadium, the place he learned to love the game. I'll never forget it because Piazza, who is perhaps the greatest hitting catcher of all time, participated in the home run derby the night before and didn't hit a single home run. It was an embarrassing moment, particularly for a guy playing in his hometown.
But Piazza more than made up for it, earning the MVP in the game itself by going 2-for-3 with a home run and RBI double. Not bad redemption.
Larry Walker bats righthanded vs. Randy Johnson, 1997
Larry Walker came into the 1997 break batting nearly .400. After Randy Johnson threw a rocket over Walker's head, he turned around his batting helmet and took his place in the right side of the batter's box, waving the white flag. But it all worked out for Walker, who would up walking in his only at-bat of his career from the right side.
John Kruk wants no parts of Randy Johnson, 1993
No words can do this justice. Just watch.
The tie, 2002
Who will ever forget both the AL and NL running out of pitchers and Bud Selig ultimately deciding to end the game in a tie? Apparently, no one told Selig there are no ties in baseball. This, of course, led to the game deciding who gets home field in the World Series to ensure nothing as absurd as this happens again.
Pedro strikes everyone out, 1999
To this very day, I have never seen a better pitcher than Pedro Martinez in his prime. The man had velocity, control and every pitch in the book.
Pitching in front of his home fans in Fenway Park as the starter in the 1999 All-Star Game, Pedro struck out the side in the first, made it four in a row by striking out Mark McGwire, and then finished the inning with a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play, K-ing Jeff Bagwell after Matt Williams reached on an error. Unreal.
Tony Gwynn embraces Ted Williams for the first pitch, 1999
Before Pedro went out and made everyone in the NL look like a fool, the 1999 All-Star Game featured a brilliant moment when the MLB introduced the All-Century Team. Being in Fenway, the highlight was obviously Ted Williams throwing out the first pitch with the help of Tony Gwynn. I'll never forget that, and I'll never forget the segment with Gwynn and Williams sitting down and talking hitting, two of the greatest hitters of all time reiterating the same things, though Gwynn being hesitant with his answers to make sure he had Teddy Ballgame's approval. Magical.
The Pete Rose-Jim Gray interview
Of course, a lot of the festivities from 1999 were overshadowed by Jim Gray interviewing Pete Rose, who was allowed to attend as a member of the All-Century Team, and taking the opportunity to ask Rose about gambling and his ban from baseball. Caused quite a bit of discussion at the time.
Torii Hunter robs Barry Bonds, 2002
There was no bigger, better or badder hitter on the planet than Barry Bonds back in 2002. He was hitting home runs like it was a joke, and in the first inning of the 2002 All-Star Game, Barry did what Barry was known to do, crushing a ball to right-centerfield. It was a sure home run by the game's best home run hitter. That is, it was, until Torii Hunter came flying out of nowhere, leaped up and brought it back for one of the most incredible catches ever, All-Star Game or not.
Even Barry couldn't resist giving Torii some love for that one.
Cal Ripken's final All-Star Game home run, 2001
The 2001 All-Star was a farewell tour for Cal Ripken, baseball's iron man who had announced his impending retirement, and it got off on the right foot when Alex Rodriguez demanded Cal take his old place at shortstop instead of third, where Ripken had been playing in his twilight. Classy move by A-Rod.
But the moment no one will ever forget is Cal crushing a home run in the third inning, with Charlie Steiner's classic, "WHO WROTE THIS SCRIPT?!?!" call. It really doesn't get any better than that.