Midsummer Throwbacks: The Best All-Star Games Ever Played
The All-Star break has arrived, with Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic set for 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday in Queens. Despite Bud Selig’s attempts to make the All-Star game matter, it has lost much of its fan appeal and excitement over the years.
But the game hasn’t always been a dud.
For much of baseball’s illustrious history—well before interleague play came along—players took as much pride in winning the All-Star Game as they did in winning the pennant. Beating the best players from the opposing league carried a sense of pride that doesn’t seem to exist in today’s game.
I’ll save my suggestions for restoring glory to the Midsummer Classic for another article. For now, let’s look back at the 10 best All-Star Games in MLB history.
No top-10 list would be complete without the first iteration of baseball's Midsummer Classic. More than just a boring trip down memory lane, the game actually featured the first home run in All-Star Game history.
The Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth, gave the American League a little more cushion with a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth inning. Fittingly, Ruth's shot was the last run scored in the game, as the AL held on to a 4-2 victory.
The 1934 All-Star Game was one of the highest-scoring games ever. But it is best known for a historic pitching performance by San Francisco Giants lefty Carl Hubbell.
Hubbell helped the National League jump out to a 4-0 lead by striking out future Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. However, that wasn't enough to prevent the AL from holding on for a 9-7 victory.
In 2007, then-Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki delivered an All-Star Game first in San Francisco. His inside-the-park home run in the top of the fifth inning gave the AL a 2-1 lead.
Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the National League rallied to cut the lead to one run. But the rally came up short, and the AL extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games, including one tie.
The 2009 Midsummer Classic was setting up to be a barn-burner, with the two teams combining for five runs in the first two innings. However, the pitchers took over until Detroit Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson delivered a triple in the top of the eighth.
Adam Jones of the Orioles drove him in with a sac fly that turned out to be the deciding run. Mariano Rivera earned the save in what proved to be the American League's final victory in an unbeaten streak that dated back to 1996.
A then-record crowd of 72,086 witnessed one of the most exciting comebacks in All-Star Game history. The National League scored in four consecutive innings, capped off by Mike Schmidt's two-run homer in the top of the eighth, to secure a 5-4 win.
The NL squad scored all of its runs in the game via the long ball.
The 2008 All-Star Game was the longest in history in both innings (tied with 1967 at 15) and in time (four hours and 50 minutes). Michael Young of the Texas Rangers ended the game with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 15th, allowing Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau to score on a close play at the plate.
The NL seemed on the verge of a shutout before the AL scored in the bottom halves of the seventh and eighth innings to send the game into extra innings. Fans were then forced to endure six scoreless innings before Young's hit ended the affair.
The two leagues tied an All-Star Game record by combining for six home runs hit by six different players. The fireworks were highlighted by a two-run shot by Oakland Athletics outfielder Reggie Jackson in the bottom of the third, a blast that traveled an estimated 520 feet.
The AL broke an eight-game losing streak by winning the game 6-4.
Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles earned MVP honors.
The 1954 All-Star Game is still the second highest scoring game in Midsummer Classic history, proving that runs were being scored in abundance well before the Steroid Era. The 11-9 tilt fest featured 31 hits, including six home runs, two by Cleveland's Al Rosen.
The game featured seven ties and lead changes, capped off by a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth to give the AL the victory.
If you like offense, then the 1949 All-Star Game was definitely your cup of tea. The 11-7, back-and-forth affair was, at the time, the highest-scoring game in Midsummer Classic history. It still ranks among the top five some 60-plus years later.
Besides the on-field excitement, the 1949 game is best noted as the first to feature African-American ballplayers.
Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers became the first black player to start in an All-Star Game. Don Newcombe (Dodgers), Roy Campanella (Dodgers) and Larry Doby (Cleveland Indians) joined Robinson in the festivities.
The 1970 All-Star Game has to go down as the best in history. Not only did the game feature a furious, ninth-inning comeback, but it ended in an epic fashion that you would never see in today's game.
Should-be Hall of Famer Pete Rose gave the NL a 5-4 victory in the bottom of the 12th inning by dislodging the ball from catcher Ray Fosse's glove in a vicious home-plate collision.