Coolest Jerseys in Recent MLB All-Star History
Baseball's All-Star Game has many quirks to its credit. The so-called Midsummer Classic actually takes place near the start of summer, which begins only three weeks prior in late June. And despite some pegging it as the midway point of the regular season, most teams will have already played about 60 percent of their schedule.
And then there are the painstakingly designed uniforms produced for the All-Star Game each year, only to see players take the field for the actual game clad in their respective boring team duds. Arguably, the best thing about the monotonous Home Run Derby consists in getting to see players wearing the unique AL and NL jerseys designed for that year.
Of course, as with alternate jerseys, spring training uniforms and batting practice gear, the goal is to sell more MLB-licensed product. But in the past 15 years, some of the uniform designs have distinguished themselves as stylish, elegant tributes to the host city. These five designs, listed chronologically, comprise the coolest All-Star jerseys from the millennium so far.
The sleeveless abominations of 1999 gave way to the sleeveless improvements of 2000, as the jerseys proudly proclaimed the dawning of a new and possibly arm-baring millennium. This was a bold move for those two years, as the last guy to rock a sleeveless jersey in the MLB was Ted Kluszewski of the Cincinnati Reds back in the '50s.
2001 mercifully returned the sleeves along with a Seattle theme that thankfully eschewed the obvious opportunity to go "Sleeveless in Seattle." The AL uniforms' muted green perfectly conveyed the lush vegetation of the Pacific Northwest tempered by dreary gray clouds that so often block out the sun.
The game itself was notable for a first inning move where shortstop Alex Rodridguez switched positions with 40-year-old third baseman Cal Ripken, Jr. to start the game. It resulted in Ripken setting the record with his 15th All-Star Game at shortstop. Ripken also homered and claimed his second ASG MVP in the AL's 4-1 victory.
Seattle Mariners rookie Ichiro Suzuki—who batted .350, accrued 242 hits and stole 56 bases to claim the AL MVP award that season—thrilled the fans at his home park with a hit and a stolen base in the first inning off ex-Seattleite Randy Johnson. M's closer Kazuhiro Sasaki bookended that showing from Ichiro by nailing down the save in the ninth.
2001 also brought the first Home Run Derby in the A.G. era (after Ken Griffey Jr.), as Luis Gonzalez beat Sammy Sosa in the finals, though Jason Giambi stood out for belting 14 long-balls in the first round before getting bounced from the semifinals due to the unfortunate bracketed format.
2007: San Francisco
The 2002 All-Star Game produced a much-maligned 7-7 tie, which precipitated the more maligned winning-league-gets-home-field-advantage-in-the-World-Series rule. The jerseys for the event also slid into distaste after '02, ranging from the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest monochrome of 2003 to the glowing tangerine of 2005 to the airport-employee yellow of 2006.
Fortuitously, San Francisco restored sartorial coolness to the All-Star jerseys with this pleasant ochresque orange. And they worked the Golden Gate Bridge into the design. See what they did there?
Ichiro Suzuki claimed the MVP award in the AL's 5-4 win, but a shaky appearance by J.J. Putz and couple of Frankie Rodriguez walks loaded the bases with two out in the ninth. With Albert Pujols still available on the bench, Aaron Rowand flied out to end the game.
Vladimir Guerrero nipped Alex Rios in the Home Run Derby finals by a lackluster 3-2 margin, but the Dominican contingent didn't care and celebrated Guerrero's victory with gusto. In retrospect, the free-swinging Guerrero should only have been allowed to hit pitches out of the strike zone.
2008: The Bronx
With the New York Yankees moving across 161st Street to a new billion-dollar ballpark, MLB gave The House That Ruth Built one last All-Star hurrah. Before there was the "moat" around the best infield seats or a batter's eye cafe that blocked views of the opposite outfield for some fans in the bleachers, there was the original Yankee Stadium, resplendent in all it's cramped, decrepit glory.
The uniform design used the rich navy blue favored by the Yankees and incorporated the ballpark's famous facade (actually, it's a frieze, but those lacking an architecture degree don't have to concern themselves with that), which moved across the street to the new stadium as well.
Josh Hamilton gave the ballpark a memorable farewell by smacking 28 home runs in the first round, with 13 of them coming after he had already made eight outs. All that swinging tired Hamilton out, and he lost 5-3 in the finals to Justin Morneau despite out-homering him 32-17 through the first two rounds.
The next evening, the AL prevailed 4-3...in 15 innings! The game lasted four hours and 50 minutes and tied the 1967 All-Star Game for the most innings at a Midsummer Classic. Michael Young's sac fly off Brad Lidge finally scored Morneau to end the marathon. Coincidentally, J.D. Drew of the Boston Red Sox claimed the game's MVP.
The NL also committed four errors with three of them by second baseman Dan Uggla—all in extra innings! He also struck out three times and grounded into a double play.
Not a whole heck of a lot happened at the 2010 All-Star Game in Los Angeles of Anaheim, which turned out to be less entertaining that the Danny Glover classic Angels in the Outfield.
However, the uniforms were nice. The halo over the "A" in American was clever, though the one over the "N" in National looked a bit odd. And ultimately, the AL just looked like they were wearing Angels jerseys, but seeing as the city had only hosted the game once in the previous 40 years, they can be forgiven.
With the AL leading 1-0 in the top of the seventh, Brian McCann slapped a bases-clearing, three-run double off Matt Thornton (eventual New York Yankees teammates by 2014), earning McCann the game's MVP in the NL's 3-1 win. Yankee-at-the-time Phil Hughes took the loss for allowing two of those baserunners.
David Ortiz clubbed his way to happiness in the Derby and beat Hanley Ramirez in the final. Really, HanRam? OK. Jose Bautista hit 54 dingers that year, but he didn't participate in the Derby. Toronto Blue Jay and eventual Angel Vernon Wells did participate, for whatever reason, but launched only two homers.
2012: Kansas City
The AL was feeling blue after losing the game, but they wore regular jerseys for that. The Home Run Derby and batting practice, on the other hand, saw some truly sweet duds.
Observe the subtle crown over the first letter, making each All-Star feel like royalty for the day. The powdery-blue beauty of this kit evokes the elegance of those classic San Diego Chargers unis, as opposed to Jeff Daniels' tuxedo in Dumb and Dumber. This blue is as refreshing as a dip in the Kauffman Stadium fountain on a sweltering afternoon.
The game, however, stunk. Melky Cabrera won MVP honors in the NL's 8-0 romp, which delivered home-field advantage to Cabrera's San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Ironically, Cabrera did not play for the team after his PED suspension in August.
Prince Fielder delighted the crowd by outswinging Jose Bautista with a dozen dingers to claim the home-run crown. However, the more significant Derby footnote was the lusty boos received by AL captain Robinson Cano after he did not include Kansas City slugger Billy Butler on his team. Cano, who had won the competition in 2011, failed to hit a single home run.