Less than a week from now, the best players in baseball will be on display for the world to see when MLB's 84th annual All-Star Game gets underway at Citi Field.
Since the first Midsummer Classic was held back in 1933, fans have been treated to some truly remarkable All-Star performances by players from both leagues, ranging from all-time greats to one-hit wonders.
With this year's game quickly approaching, what better time to take a look back at the best performances that players from each of baseball's 30 teams have ever had in the exhibition-turned-meaningful game?
I can't think of one.
Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
*Unless otherwise noted, all All-Star statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Arizona sent six players to the 2002 MLB All-Star Game, none more unlikely than catcher Damian Miller, who posted the fifth-highest OPS (.824) for National League catchers in the first half of the 2002 season.
Miller would enter the game in the top of the fifth inning, and he'd stroke a long double to left field off of Mark Buehrle in the bottom half of the inning that scored Jimmy Rollins from first base, giving the National League a 5-2 lead.
He'd pick up his second double of the game in his second at-bat, this one coming off of Kazuhiro Sazaki in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out and Mike Lowell on first base. This gave the National League a pair of runners in scoring position with one out and the American League holding onto a 6-5 lead.
While his Arizona teammate, Junior Spivey, was unable to drive in the tying run, Lance Berkman would drive both Lowell and Miller home with his two-out, line-drive single to center field, putting the Senior Circuit on top, 7-6.
As we know, the game would end in a tie, an event that nearly caused commissioner Bud Selig's head to explode and one that resulted in MVP honors failing to be awarded. It's hard to argue that Miller, who finished the day 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, wouldn't have been the choice for the award had the NL won.
There's no shortage of memorable All-Star Game performances by players on the Atlanta Braves, which makes choosing the greatest performance in team history incredibly difficult.
While serious consideration was given to Brian McCann's game-winning three-run double in 2010 and Andruw Jones' 2-for-2 performance with a pair of runs and three RBI in 2003, what Warren Spahn did in the 1961 All-Star Game gets the nod.
Spahn started the game for the National League, tossing three innings of perfect ball and sending all nine batters that he faced back to the dugout.
Aside from a leadoff fly ball to right field by Johnny Temple, Spahn didn't allow a ball to leave the infield. He also struck out Norm Cash, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in succession, the first two to end the first inning.
Six players have represented Baltimore at the All-Star Game and left with MVP honors, a mark only matched by the San Francisco/New York Giants.
Only one Oriole, Cal Ripken Jr., owns a pair of Midsummer Classic MVP awards, and it's his surprising success in his final All-Star appearance in 2001 that shines brighter than the rest.
At the time, Ripken, 40, was clearly a shell of the player that he once was, hitting a meager .240 with four home runs and 28 RBI on the season at the All-Star Break. Yet the fans elected him to be the American League's starting third baseman in a show of appreciation for the two decades of excellence that he provided.
Before the first pitch could be thrown, Alex Rodriguez, who was voted the starting shortstop in the American League, insisted that Ripken play the inning at shortstop, his natural position and where he spent the bulk of his time en route to breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak in 1995.
The veteran obliged, drawing a raucous ovation from the crowd at Safeco Field, one that was only matched when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning. Ripken crushed the first pitch he saw from Chan-Ho Park over the left field fence, giving the AL a 1-0 lead that they would never surrender.
While it was the only hit that Ripken recorded on the day, he was awarded MVP honors, which was a fitting way for the All-Star career of the future Hall of Famer to end.
The final All-Star Game of the 20th century was held at Fenway Park, a game that saw 49 nominees for MLB's All-Century Team be introduced to the crowd prior to the first pitch of the exhibition.
For nearly half an hour, 28 of those nominees—and all of the active players—crowded an 80-year-old Ted Williams on the mound, prompting multiple pleas from the public address announcer for the players to return to their respective dugouts so that the game could start.
Once the game got underway, Boston's Pedro Martinez toed the rubber for the American League.
This was Pedro at the peak of his dominance, as evidenced by his numbers at the break: 15-3 record with a 2.10 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and an incredible 184 strikeouts in 132.2 innings.
Further evidence of his dominance came in the top of the first inning, when Martinez struck out the side, retiring Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa on 18 pitches.
Mark McGwire became his fourth consecutive strikeout victim to lead off the second inning, but an error by second baseman Roberto Alomar allowed Matt WIlliams to reach base and put a temporary end to Pedro's whiffing ways.
Pedro would strike out the next batter, Jeff Bagwell, with a filthy 3-2 curveball, one that Ivan Rodriguez caught and fired to second base to catch a stealing Williams for an old-fashioned "strike-him-out, throw-him-out" double play.
The American League would go on to win 4-1, with Pedro taking home MVP honors. He also became the first AL pitcher to win an All-Star Game at his home field and tied an American League record with five strikeouts in one Midsummer Classic.
*This pick legitimately came down to a coin flip, as Ted Williams had one of the best offensive performances in All-Star Game history in 1946 and was equally deserving of being the selection here.
When you think of All-Star players in Cubs history, names like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Bruce Sutter, Andre Dawson and Mark Grace are among the first that come to mind.
Phil Cavarretta doesn't come up until much later in that list—if at all. However, he had the greatest performance of them all in the All-Star Game.
While many of the biggest names in baseball were off fighting for their country in World War II during the 1944 season, the 12th All-Star Game was held at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, where Cavarretta was the National League's starting first baseman.
He would become the first player in All-Star Game history to reach base safely five times in a single game, a mark only matched by Ted Williams two years later.
A four-time All-Star and the 1945 National League MVP, Cavarretta would spend 20 years with the Cubs before playing out the final two seasons of his career across town with the White Sox.
It wouldn't be until three years after Gary Peters was named to his first American League All-Star team in 1964 that he'd finally see action at the Midsummer Classic, but the then-30-year-old southpaw certainly made up for lost time.
Peters would enter the game in relief of Jim McGlothlin in the top of the sixth inning with the American League trailing 1-0 and went nine-up, nine-down over the next three innings of play.
He wasn't facing a bunch of first-time All-Stars either. Among the nine batters that Peters sent back to the dugout, he struck out four who might ring a bell: Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente back-to-back to end the sixth inning while fanning Orlando Cepeda and Dick Allen in order to end the seventh.
While the American League would tie the game with Peters on the mound, they were never able to take the lead, eventually falling to the National League 2-1 in 15 innings thanks to a solo shot by Tony Perez.
Other members of the Cincinnati Reds have had better stat lines in the All-Star Game than Pete Rose did in 1970, when he went 1-for-3 with a walk, two strikeouts and a run scored as a replacement for Hank Aaron in the fifth inning.
But none made a more lasting impression than Charlie Hustle did in the bottom of the 12th inning.
With two outs and the game endlessly deadlocked in a 4-4 tie, Rose singled to center field off of Clyde Wright. He'd advance to second on a single by Billy Grabarkewitz, putting himself in scoring position for the National League's next batter, Jim Hickman.
Hickman singled to center field, and Rose steamed around third base looking to score. American League catcher Ray Fosse moved up the line to field the throw, directly in the path of a charging Rose, who would score the game-winning run by barreling into a 23-year-old Fosse, separating his shoulder.
The collision at home plate between Rose and Fosse remains one of the most famous and controversial plays in All-Star Game history, one that is still discussed on a yearly basis as the Midsummer Classic draws near.
*Had the National League won the All-Star Game in 1954, Ted Kluszewski (2-for-4 with a HR, three RBI and two runs scored) would have been my pick.
The last time a pitcher threw more than two innings in an All-Star Game was 1994, when Greg Maddux went three innings for the National League.
Sixty years earlier, in the second-ever MLB All-Star Game, Cleveland's Mel Harder threw five innings of scoreless relief, allowing one hit while walking one and striking out two.
It wasn't easy by any means, especially with Harder entering the game in the bottom of the fifth inning with nobody out and runners on the corners.
Of the 18 batters that he faced, 17 would go on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fred Frankhouse, who was appearing in the only All-Star Game of his career, was the only one of those 18 batters who failed to make the cut.
While he's not a household name, Harder would go on to appear in three more All-Star Games, never allowing a run to score in 13 career All-Star innings. Only four other pitchers in baseball history have thrown at least five innings in a single All-Star contest.
Only six Rockies have ever recorded a hit in the All-Star Game, and of that group, only two—Todd Helton and Matt Holliday—have ever driven in a run.
In 2003, Helton was making his third consecutive start at first base for the National League in what would be the fourth of five consecutive All-Star appearances. After striking out against Estaban Loaiza in the second inning, he stepped up to the plate with the NL trailing 1-0 and Gary Sheffield on first base.
Helton crushed the first pitch he saw from Seattle's Shigetoshi Hasegawa for a two-run blast, putting the Senior Circuit on top by a run, 2-1. That lead wouldn't last, though, as Eric Gagne allowed three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. The National League eventually lost, 7-6.
From 1959 through 1962, two All-Star Games were held in an attempt to increase revenue for the players' pension fund.
In the last year of the two-game format, Detroit's Rocky Colavito appeared in both, going 0-for-1 with a walk in the first game on July 10 at D.C. Stadium.
Roughly three weeks later, however, on July 30 at Wrigley Field, Colavito made his presence felt despite recording only one hit on the day.
With Brooks Robinson on third base, Roger Maris on first and the American League leading 4-1 in the top of the seventh inning, Colavito stepped to the plate against Houston's Turk Farrell with two outs, blowing the game wide open with a three-run blast to deep left field, putting the AL up 7-1.
Colavito wasn't done, as his sacrifice fly off of San Francisco's Juan Marichal in the top of the ninth inning extended the American League's lead to 9-3, giving him four RBI in the game. That is the second-highest single-game RBI total in All-Star history , only behind Al Rosen and Ted Williams, who each knocked in five runs back in 1954 and 1946, respectively.
By the time Cesar Cedeno entered the 1976 All-Star Game at Veterans Stadium, the National League had a 4-1 lead and looked well on its way to winning its fifth consecutive Midsummer Classic.
Cedeno, who had struck out againt Luis Tiant in his first at-bat in the bottom of the sixth, was looking for redemption when he stepped to the plate to face Frank Tanana in the bottom of the eighth with a runner on first and the Senior Circuit ahead 5-1.
He'd deposit Tanana's offering well beyond the right field wall for a two-run shot, putting the National League ahead 7-1, the eventual final score of the game.
A two-sport star for the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Raiders, Bo Jackson made the first and only All-Star appearance of his career at Anaheim Stadium in 1989.
Oakland's Dave Stewart had a rough start to the game, allowing three hits and issuing two walks en route to the the National League taking a two-run lead into the bottom half of the first inning.
That 2-0 deficit could have been much bigger were it not for Jackson, who made a terrific running catch on a Pedro Guerrero fly ball that, had it landed, would have scored two runs and kept the senior circuit's two-out rally alive.
With President Reagan and Vin Scully in the booth, Bo Jackson stepped to the plate to lead things off for the American League, facing San Francisco's Rick Reuschel. After falling behind 0-2, Jackson unleashed a mammoth 448-foot blast that landed in the black, well behind the center field wall.
Boston's Wade Boggs would follow that up with a solo shot of his own, tying the score, and Jackson's groundout against Atlanta's John Smoltz in the second inning gave the AL a 3-2 lead. Jackson's performance led to him being named the game's MVP, the only time a Royal has ever won the award.
The All-Star Game returned to Comiskey Field on July 6, 1983, 50 years to the day that the first-ever Midsummer Classic was played back in 1933, a game which the American League won by a score of 4-2.
In the midst of an 11-year losing streak, the AL was desperate to break its losing ways.
In the bottom of the third inning, the American League put three runs on the board off of Atlee Hammaker to take a 5-1 lead. With two on and two out, Hammaker intentionally walked Robin Yount to load the bases and instead face Fred Lynn, who was making his ninth-consecutive All-Star appearance.
That was a mistake.
Lynn took Hammaker deep down the right field line for the first grand slam in All-Star Game history, giving the AL a commanding 9-1 lead that it would never surrender, eventually winning by 10 runs in a 13-3 blowout.
Making his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance, Mike Piazza's third consecutive start behind the plate for the National League at Veterans Stadium was kind of a big deal. Piazza was born and raised a Phillies fan in nearby Norristown, roughly a 40-minute drive from the Vet.
With the National League already up 1-0, Piazza tattooed the second pitch he saw from Cleveland's Charles Nagy, sending the ball an estimated 445 feet into the night.
He wasn't done either, as his two-out double off of California's Chuck Finley would score Barry Larkin, extending the NL's lead to 4-0. The Senior Circuit would put two more runs on the board and win the game handily, 6-0.
For his 2-for-3, two-RBI performance, Piazza took home MVP honors, the fifth Dodger in history to earn the award and the first since Steve Garvey in 1978.
After being selected for the 1994 All-Star Game to spend the entire game on the bench, Jeff Conine was once again the Marlins' only All-Star representative in 1995, with one small difference this time: National League manager Felipe Alou wasn't going to keep him on the bench.
With the game tied at two in the top of the eighth inning, Alou sent Conine up to the plate to lead things off as a pinch-hitter in place of Atlanta's Ron Gant. Conine then deposited a pitch from Oakland's Steve Ontiveros into the right field stands, giving the NL a 3-2 lead.
After Chicago's Randy Myers closed things out in the ninth, Conine's game-winning blast earned him MVP honors, the only time a Marlin has earned the honor. While he would go on to play for another 12 years, Conine never made his way back to the Midsummer Classic.
Making his third All-Star appearance but his first as the National League starter at first base, Prince Fielder faced a hostile crowd despite the game being played at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and a National League park.
Fielder, who was captain of the Senior Circuit's entry into the Home Run Derby, left hometown hero Justin Upton, who had hit 15 home runs in the first half of the season, off of the squad. This drew the ire of the Diamondbacks fans in attendance.
But all was forgiven in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Fielder stepped to the plate to face Texas' C.J. Wilson. With Carlos Beltran on second base and Matt Kemp on first, Fielder launched the fifth pitch of his at-bat roughly 420 feet into the deepest part of the ballpark.
A no-brainer home run in most parks, Fielder's ball hit off the top of the wall—clearly in the yellow, signifying a home run—before it bounced back onto the field of play. His three-run shot was all the offense that the National League would need en route to a 5-1 victory and MVP honors for Fielder, who remains the only Brewer to ever win the award.
Little did Rod Carew know that his 12th consecutive All-Star Game in 1978 would be his last as a member of the Minnesota Twins—but Carew made it a memorable occasion.
In the first All-Star Game to be held in San Diego, Carew paced the American League to an early 3-0 lead with a pair of leadoff triples off of National League starter Vida Blue in the first and third innings, being driven in each time by George Brett.
Carew would become the first—and only—player to hit two triples in the same All-Star Game.
While Tom Seaver struck out five batters in 1968 and Jon Matlack was named co-MVP of the 1975 All-Star Game, neither was still quite as impressive as Dwight Gooden was in 1984.
Gooden was also only 19 years old at the time.
Gooden entered the game at Candlestick Park in the top of the fifth inning, replacing Los Angeles' Fernando Valenzuela, who put forth a phenomenal performance as well.
"Doctor K" lived up to his nickname, striking out the side and making Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis look foolish in the process.
He'd get Lou Whitaker to hit a weak grounder back to the mound to start the sixth inning before Eddie Murray's pop fly landed in the left-center field gap, resulting in a double and the only baserunner that Gooden would allow. He'd then retire Cal Ripken and Dave Winfield to get out of the inning.
Did I mention that Gooden was only 19 years old at the time?
With as many All-Stars as the Yankees have had in the team's storied history, you'd think that picking the greatest individual All-Star Game performance would be an incredibly difficult task.
Really, the choice came down to two: Lou Gehrig in 1937 and Derek Jeter in 2000. But while Jeter took home MVP honors in 2000, it's the Iron Horse who had the most impressive performance in Yankees history.
Playing in front of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who threw out the first pitch at Griffith Stadium before the game, Lou Gehrig made his fifth consecutive—and final—start at first base for the American League in the Midsummer Classic.
While St. Louis' Dizzy Dean struck Gehrig out to end the first inning, the Yankees captain got his revenge in the bottom of the third, as his two-out, two-run home run gave the American League a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Gehrig once again stepped to the plate with two outs, this time facing off against Brooklyn's Van Mungo. He'd lace a two-run double to deep center field, giving the American League a commanding 8-3 lead.
At the time, Gehrig set a new All-Star Game record with four RBI, a mark that would later be tied by four other players and eclipsed by Al Rosen and Ted Williams, who share the all-time single-game record with five RBI each.
While Reggie Jackson's majestic home run off of Dock Ellis in the 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium still may not have landed yet, Terry Steinbach's performance in the first All-Star Game of his career was the far more impressive performance.
Facing Dwight Gooden to leadoff the third inning for the American League at Riverfront Stadium, Steinbach sent Gooden's second pitch of the at-bat into the crowd for a solo-shot that gave the American League an early 1-0 lead.
An inning later, Steinbach stepoped to the plate again, this time to face Houston's Bob Knepper with the bases loaded and one out. While he failed to smash the second grand-slam in All-Star Game history, Steinbach did manage to loft a fly ball to left field, deep enough for Dave Winfield to score from third base and put the AL up by a score of 2-0.
It would be all the offense that the American League could muster—or need—as they would go on to win by a score of 2-1, with Steinbach taking home MVP honors.
One of the more underrated players of the 1960's, Johnny Callison had one of the great outfield throwing arms in the history of the game and, from 1962 through 1965, averaged 28 home runs and 92 RBI a season.
Making the second All-Star Game appearance of his career at Shea Stadium in 1964, Callison hit a game-winning, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Boston reliever Dick Radatz, who threw heat, to give the National League a 7-4 victory.
Heading into the 1941 All-Star Game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Arky Vaughan found himself slumping.
Making his eighth consecutive All-Star appearance and third as the National League's starting shortstop, Vaughan entered the game having not hit a home run in his previous 16 games. He was also hitting .245 with a meager .638 OPS during the stretch.
That all changed at the Midsummer Classic, though, as Vaughan put the National League on his back and carried the senior circuit to victory.
In the top of the seventh inning, with the American League ahead 1-0 and Enos Slaughter on second base, Vaughan hit a two-run home run off of Washington's Sid Hudson to put the National League ahead, 2-1.
An inning later, with White Sox southpaw Eddie Smith on the mound and Johnny Mize on second, Vaughan went deep again, extending the National League lead to 5-2. He looked very much like the MVP of the game, though there was no official award at the time to make it official.
Ted Williams would ruin the occasion for the American League with his game-winning, three-run blast with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but that doesn't take away from Vaughan's individual accomplishments.
Vaughan became the first player in All-Star Game history to hit two home runs in one game, a feat that only four other players have been able to match.
The only shortstop to achieve the feat, his nine total bases on the day are the second-most in All-Star Game history, tied with Al Rosen and one behind Ted Williams.
One of the few players in baseball history to start the only All-Star Game in which he'd play, LaMarr Hoyt took the ball from National League manager Dick Williams at the Metrodome and trotted out to the mound to get the bottom of the first inning underway.
Hoyt would toss three innings of two-hit baseball, allowing one unearned run to cross the plate—the only run that the American League could muster on the day. The National League went on to win by a score of 6-1, with Hoyt being named the game's MVP.
If you think that today's All-Star Games have formidable lineups, take a look at the American League lineup that New York Giants' ace Carl Hubbell had to face in the 1934 All-Star Game:
- Charlie Gehringer
- Heinie Manush
- Babe Ruth
- Lou Gehrig
- Jimmie Foxx
- Al Simmons
- Joe Cronin
- Bill Dickey
- Lefty Gomez
Hubbell basically had his way with them in front of his hometown fans at the Polo Grounds.
After Gehringer singled to center field and Manush walked to start the game, Hubbell buckled down and struck out Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx in order.
He'd pick up where he left off in the second inning, fanning Simmons and Cronin before Dickey mustered a single, only to strike out Gomez to end the frame.
Two innings, nine Hall of Famers, six strikeouts.
You don't get much more dominant than that, folks.
Making his seventh consecutive All-Star appearance—six of them as a starter for the American League—Ichiro Suzuki put together a MVP-worthy performance at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Despite picking up a pair of singles in the first and third innings off of San Diego's Jake Peavy and Milwaukee's Ben Sheets, respectively, Ichiro found himself stranded on base both times and the AL trailing by a score of 1-0 when he stepped to the plate in the fifth inning for his third at-bat of the game.
With one out and Baltimore's Brian Roberts on first base, Ichiro ripped a Chris Young fastball into the deepest part of the ballpark in right-center field. His former teammate, Ken Griffey, Jr., gave chase, but the ball hit an All-Star Game banner that was hanging from the wall and rolled away.
By the time Junior fired the ball back towards the infield, Ichiro was crossing home plate for a two-run inside-the-park home run, the first (and only) one in All-Star history, giving the American League a 2-1 lead.
If anyone had forgotten why Stan Musial was "The Man", he provided a friendly reminder during the 1955 All-Star Game held at Milwaukee County Stadium.
A high-scoring affair saw the American League jump out to a four-run lead in the first inning and sit ahead of the senior circuit by five runs heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. By the time the eighth inning came to an end, the game was tied at five.
Fast forward to the 12th inning, and Stan Musial, who had yet to record a hit, led things off for the National League against Boston's Frank Sullivan, who was beginning his fourth inning of work. Musial took Sullivan deep to right field for his first hit of the game, a game-winning solo shot that ended one of the most exciting All-Star Games in history.
A quick look at the numbers next to Carl Crawford's name in the boxscore for the 2009 All-Star Game—only one hit in three at-bats and a strikeout—doesn't exactly scream "MVP performance" at you.
But unlike the Home Run Derby, defense counts in the main event on All-Star Weekend, and it was Crawford's leather that gave the American League a chance to eventually win the contest 4-3.
With the game tied at three in the bottom of the seventh, Colorado's Brad Hawpe took Boston's Jonathan Papelbon deep to left field. Crawford moved back towards the wall and timed his leap perfectly, robbing Hawpe of a solo-shot that would have put the National League ahead—perhaps for good.
With three All-Star Game MVP winners in its history, the Texas Rangers have multiple candidates worthy of being considered for the best All-Star performance in team history.
While Michael Young only had one hit in the 2006 All-Star Game at PNC Park, that hit couldn't have come at a more opportune time.
Heading into the ninth inning, the American League trailed the National League by a score of 2-1, and when Young stepped to the plate to face San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, there were runners on second and third with two outs.
Facing an 0-2 count, Young laced a two-run triple into the right-center field gap for what would wind up being the game-winning hit, as Mariano Rivera closed things out in the bottom of the inning.
When Dave Stieb toed the rubber at Comiskey Park in the first inning of the 1983 All-Star Game, he became the first pitcher in Blue Jays history to start the Midsummer Classic for the American League.
Sure, he committed an error on the first play of the game, allowing Steve Sax to reach base and later score on an error by Rod Carew, but that unearned run—and a first-inning walk to Al Oliver—were the only smudges on what was really an excellent performance by the right-hander.
Stieb would toss three innings of no-hit ball, striking out four: Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, Mike Schmidt (all in the first inning) and Tim Raines in the third.
Due to the players' strike that lasted from June 12 to July 31, the 1981 MLB season was split into two halves, and the All-Star Game was the midpoint. The game was held on August 9, only the second time that the Midsummer Classic was played in August (the second All-Star Game in 1959 was also an August affair).
In front of a packed house at Cleveland Stadium, the National League would prove to be rude guests in the American League ballpark, using five solo home runs to win the game by a score of 5-4.
Two of those came off the bat of Gary Carter, who led off the fifth inning with a home run off of St. Louis' Ken Forsch and then led off the seventh with a solo-shot off of New York's Ron Davis.
His performance would find Carter named the game's MVP, an honor that he'd receive again in 1984, becoming one of only four players to win two All-Star Game MVP awards.