Fenway Park in Boston is considered one of the greatest ballparks in the history of sports. Major League Baseball's decision to host the final All-Star Game of the 20th century there was a perfect choice and as always, Red Sox Nation did not disappoint.
The 1999 Midsummer Classic is probably more known for the pregame ceremony than the game itself.
In 1999, the Major League Baseball All-Century Team was chosen by popular vote of fans. To select the team, a panel of experts first compiled a list of the 100 greatest players from the past century. Fans then voted on the players using paper and online ballots.
The top two vote-getters from each position, except outfielders (nine), and the top six pitchers were placed on the team. Prior to the All-Star Game in Boston, the nominees were introduced and preceding Game 2 of the 1999 World Series, the members of the All-Century Team were revealed. Every living player named to the team attended.
The nominees were announced and took their spots around the infield from first to third base. Those legends that were able and alive attended—legends like Harmon Killebrew, Joe Morgan, Ernie Banks, Mike Schmidt, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller and Warren Spahn.
The PA announcer then introduced two players who were responsible for some of the greatest baseball memories in Red Sox history: Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk. The crowd went crazy as the two Red Sox walked out to the field.
The PA announcer then booms through Fenway's loudspeakers, "Ladies, gentleman and children. It is an honor and a privilege to introduce one of the greatest players to ever grace the field at Fenway Park and any other ballpark. Ladies and gentleman, the great Hall of Famer, Ted Williams."
A golf cart emerges from beneath the center field stands. Sitting in one seat is Williams, the Splendid Splinter, No. 9, perhaps the greatest hitter ever, one of the city's most beloved athletes.
Williams was quite an All-Star himself and lived up to his reputation of being the greatest hitter alive in All-Star play. In 18 All-Star contests, against some of the best pitching that ever threw a baseball, Williams batted .304 with four HRs and 12 RBI. He also scored 12 runs with a .439 on-base percentage and managed to get a hit to every base, as he doubled twice and tripled once.
The Splendid Splinter was 80 years old and not doing well. In fact, Williams would pass away almost exactly three years later but he was sharp as a tack on this night. Considered by many to be the greatest hitter of all time, the last man to hit .400, the man with a .344 lifetime average and two Triple Crowns, was finally at peace on the field at Fenway Park.
Williams had a sour and antagonistic relationship with the fans and media in Boston. Aside from his personal accomplishments, he never led the Sox to more than just one American League pennant in his entire career.
However, this night wasn't about any of the bad times; wounds heal as time passes and this night belonged Williams, Red Sox fans and eventually Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez.
When the game started, Martinez, took center stage. He entered the game with 182 strikeouts, and needed only 17 pitches to record three more, as the National League's Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa struck out consecutively to start the game.
In the top of the second, Martinez continued to sit down NL hitters with the strikeout as Mark McGwire became his next victim. Martinez needed just one more strikeout and he would match the famous feat of Carl Hubbell in the 1934 Classic (Hubbell struck out five future Hall of Famers consecutively; Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin all fell victim to Hubbell).
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, as Matt Williams ended the streak by reaching base on an error by Roberto Alomar.
Martinez shook off the Alomar error and quickly jumped ahead of Jeff Bagwell with two strikes.
The NL sensed that Martinez was on his game and when Bagwell worked the count full, Williams took off for second base hoping his fellow NL star could connect and start a rally.
The plan did not work out as well as hoped. Bagwell failed to make contact and Ivan Rodriguez threw out Williams, completing the strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play to end the inning.
The effort by Martinez (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO) earned him the game’s MVP honors as Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar and Jim Thome all had an RBI in the AL's 4-1 win.
The win by Martinez was the first ever during an All-Star Game by an American League starting pitcher in his own hometown park.