Each July we celebrate and commemorate baseball's greatest over three select nights, remembering the greats of America's national pastime. Those celebrated are not only today's All-Stars, but the stars of tomorrow, and the stars of yesteryear.
During this timespan, all cities across the nation send forth their best players to join together for one night only to compete in the All-Star Game. Fans choose representatives as the players from each league join together in hopes of gaining the home field advantage in the World Series
The game is always an emotional experience, but on the eve of tonight's All-Star Game in Saint Louis, I look back at the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park, possibly one of the greatest ever.
It was a warm summer's evening in Boston. The American League team was led by Yankees' skipper Joe Torre as all 37,187 fans in attendance would proceed to boo several Yankees, including Torre himself, throughout the night.
Boston was represented very well with their superstars, Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, both starting the game, and with Jose Offerman among the reserve corps.
With everything else put aside, emotion certainly played the biggest factor in this game factor in this game.
"Last game of the century. Boston. Fenway Park. A lot of nostalgia," AL manager Joe Torre said. "The weather cooperated. It was great."
This game was remembered by many as the greatest moment of their careers as well.
"My most memorable baseball moment would have to have been the 1999 All-Star Game," Ken Bottenfield said in an interview after his career had ended. "Most every kid dreams of playing in a World Series or an All Star game. I never got to the series but the all-star game was beyond description. I got to be a part of the best of the best for a short time."
The ceremonies that preceded the game had been very heartwarming. Fans all over the nation had given their tributes to some of the greats such as Hank Aaron, Willy Mays, and Stan Musial.
However, the one man that received the greatest ovation was the one that brought tears to our eyes in Fenway Park: Boston's own, Ted Williams.
Williams had taken a ride in a golf cart around Fenway Park to give his last hurrah to the fans as he approached the pitcher's mound one last time.
The emotion created by Williams was so great because all fans throughout the nation knew that, due to his aging, this would probably be Ted Williams' last All Star Game in the stadium that he had dominated for his entire career.
As Williams approached the mound, all the players and staffs had mobbed him, as if he were a god coming down from the heavens. Truth be told, he was a god of baseball that was on his way to the heavens.
"Gods don't answer letters," John Updike wrote of that moment 10 years ago.
Fans had been ecstatic as they paid tribute to the legend with a standing ovation. All fans alike—Red Sox fans, Yankees fans, and every fan in between—were touched by this legend.
"When I got up there, tears were coming out of Ted's eyes," Larry Walker (NL All-Star) said. "I kind of turned away, it almost brought tears to my eyes. The greatest player in the world is surrounded by more great players. I know Ted was extremely touched by it."
After Williams would give a speech to all the players surrounding him, he would be later be pronounced as, the greatest hitter that ever lived.
"I can only describe it as great," said Ken Griffey Jr.
"Hell, I haven't had a base hit in 30 years, and I'm a better hitter now than I've ever been in my life," said the Splendid Splinter, now 80.
Ted would then get to throw his first and last pitch at an All-Star Game at Fenway Park, which would also close this century and lead us into Y2K.
Immediately after the first pitch was thrown to his longtime friend, Carlton Fisk, the fans, who were still on their feet, gave one last ovation to Williams as he left the field on his golf cart.
Nobody in attendance was left untouched as Williams departed from Fenway Park. It would be hard to follow up that performance; but still, there was an entire ballgame ahead.
With the start of the game behind schedule because of the ceremony, all players and staff were ordered to go back to the dugouts, but they ignored the call to instead honor Ted for a little while longer.
"It was kind of funny," Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said. "When the announcer asked everybody to go back to the dugout, everybody said no. It didn't matter. What time was the first pitch? Nobody cared."
As the ballgame initially started, all fans and players alike were still trying to hold in tears and try to play a great baseball game, with Boston's ace Pedro Martinez due to start the game for the American League.
"I think it makes it a little more special, being here in Boston," Martinez said after winning the MVP award. "Representing the decade, the last one of the century. Being there with all those players around us, I never, never expected it."
Martinez knew he had high expectations to live up to, and fortunately he showed us why he was arguably the best pitcher of his era.
Pedro would first face Barry Larkin, who finally struck out after an eight-pitch duel with Martinez. Pedro brought the heat to Larkin, now walking back to the dugout in disbelief as fans were giving their hometown hero the ovation that he deserved.
Pedro would easily waltz through the next five batters in the game as he finished his All-Star start, working two innings of completely dominant ball. He stuck out five of the six batters he faced.
After the celebration of Williams that night, Pedro clearly fed off of the emotion and delivered the best effort he could muster. He would later go on to win the MVP of the game.
Throughout the night, pitching was the American League's key to success in this game as the pitching staff, led by Martinez, had only allowed one run to the National League's best.
Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero, and Mike Piazza were just a few of the NL's All-Stars.
Especially after the Home Run Derby, Martinez had shown some fear when it came to this group of elite hitters that he was set to face.
"After seeing the guys in BP and in the home run contest, I knew I had to get my pitches where I wanted or else I was going to get hurt," Martinez said.
Unlike the National League, the AL would come out with a fast start, as they scored two runs in the first inning.
Although the damage was done, this could have been a much bigger mess as the bases were all loaded when Rafael Palmeiro grounded out to end the inning, getting future Boston hero Curt Schilling out of an early jam.
After Martinez was pulled from his dominant performance, the rest of the AL pitchers followed suit, allowing just one run, which came in the third inning when Barry Larkin drove in a run.
The game was already going great for the AL fans, but when they thought it wouldn't get any better, Joe Torre added some Red Sox-Yankees flavor when the fan favorite, Nomar Garciaparra, was taken out of the game and was replaced by Derek Jeter.
As Jeter came onto the field to a chorus of boos, he would embrace Nomar as well as emulate Nomar's batting stance as part of a tribute to Garciaparra. Nomar leaving reminded the fans of Williams' leaving, as two Red Sox legends would leave the field as heroes.
After that one run had scored for the NL, the AL held the NL to only eight hits in the entire game and to less than two hits per inning for the rest of the game. Though somehow neither team hit a home run or produced any real offense, fans were on their feet this entire game because it had been so competitive.
After John Wetteland made the save, sealing the 4-1 victory for the American League and sending the Fenway Faithful into a frenzy as the American League would keep their winning streak alive, everyone was driven by the emotion of the great Ted Williams.
Alongside everything that happened in this great game, tears were still shed amongst many over the touching opening ceremony that stole the show.
As Sports Illustrated said, "It was baseball—past and present—at its best."
Afterwards, Pedro Martinez had won the Most Valuable Player Award as well as the win in his dominant performance. Pedro was also the first man to win the All-Star Game in front of his home fans.
Afterwards, the game was looked back by many as a very competitive game.
"You'd almost think it's a regular season game because that's happened a lot this year," Torre said.
To this day, we still look back 10 years and see one of the most heartfelt and emotionally driven games in recent memory. A tribute such as the one in 1999 had closed out a century of this pastime.
From Cy Young to Pedro Martinez, we all paid tribute to that historic era in Fenway that night. We honored those from our past, celebrated the greats of today, and then looked toward our future.
Afterwords, Williams, who was spectating the game, spoke to the media about his comeback as well as how he tipped his cap to the fans, which he did not do in his career after home runs, earning himself a reputation as tactless in his career.
This return had been different as we remembered all the good things he had done, how he served our country, and how he inspired both teams (especially the AL) to give it their all that night.
"Wasn't it great!" Williams said. "I can only describe it as great. It didn't surprise me all that much because I know how these fans are here in Boston. They love this game as much as any players and Boston's lucky to have the faithful Red Sox fans. They're the best.
July 13, 1999 was arguably the most emotional All-Star Game in recent memory, only rivaled by the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. That night showed what the Midsummer Classic is all about.
We celebrate and cherish the superstars of our past and present as we look to build a stronger future. Tonight, we will once again celebrate the All-Star Game in St. Louis as we will be treated to a night of memorable baseball and a night of remembering the stars who built the legacy of this sport.
Statistical information, quotes, and anecdotes that I partially used for my article can be found at: