In less than 48 hours, the 82nd MLB All-Star Game will be underway down in the desert in Phoenix, Ariz., and the best and brightest of the majors will be on display.
The National League will be looking to capture their second victory in a row after winning the 2010 Midsummer Classic for the first time since 1996, winning home field advantage in the World Series for the first time since the concept was introduced in 2003.
Already this year, we have seen several players who were voted in as starters or picked as reserves who have pulled out of participating in the game due to injury.
Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Ryan Braun, Shane Victorino, Jose Reyes and several pitchers have pulled out for various injury-related issues, and now several players will be playing in their first-ever All-Star games as a result.
Since 1962, the All-Star game has awarded a Most Valuable Player trophy to the most outstanding player in each year’s game, and the leagues are currently tied with 24 winners each. Only twice has the award been given to a player from the losing team (Brooks Robinson in 1966, Carl Yastrzemski in 1970).
However, from 1933-1961, there were several single-game All-Star single-game performance that were worthy of MVP status as well, and a few of those will be covered in this upcoming slide show.
Here then is a ranking of the 25 greatest MLB All-Star game performances in baseball history.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Pete Rose was selected as a reserve for the 1970 All-Star Game for the National League and replaced starter Hank Aaron in right field to start the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of ninth inning with the National League trailing 4-1, they came roaring back with three runs to put the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the 12th, American League pitcher Clyde Wright registered the first two outs before Rose singled to center field. Billy Grabarkewitz followed with another single, and Jim Hickman stepped to the plate.
What happened next has become one of the most-watched baseball videos in history. While Rose didn’t have a particularly great All-Star game (1-for-3, one run scored), the collision with American League catcher Ray Fosse is one that is considered one of the greatest plays in All-Star history and by far the most controversial.
Rose’s comments after the game were no less controversial.
"I just want to get to that plate as quickly as I can. Besides, nobody told me they changed it to girls’ softball between third and home,” Rose said at the time.
Source: Baseball Almanac
When Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward came up with the idea of an All-Star game between the American and National Leagues in 1933, he conceived of the exhibition game to be part of the Chicago World’s Fair and at the time was considered to be a one-time event.
Held at Comiskey Park, the American League started with a lineup that included aging 38-year-old Babe Ruth in right field. While Ruth still hit 34 home runs in 1933, his skills were clearly on the decline.
However, in the bottom of the third, after a walk to Detroit Tigers second baseman Charlie Gehringer, Ruth followed with a two-run home run, marking the first home run ever hit in All-Star history, certainly fitting that the original home run king would be the one to hit the blast.
In 1944, America was at war, and many of its stars had enlisted in the effort to defeat the Axis powers. However, many of the game’s current stars were still playing, and the 12th All-Star game was played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
Chicago Cubs first baseman Phil Cavaretta, who would go on to win the National League MVP award the following year in 1945, became the first player ever to reach base safely five times in an All-Star game, with two singles and three walks.
Cavaretta was a four-time All-Star between 1944-1947 and would go on to play 20 seasons with the Cubs before retiring as a member of the cross-town Chicago White Sox in 1955.
The 21st annual MLB All-Star Game took place at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, and hometown star first baseman Al Rosen stole the show for his team and his legion of fans.
Rosen, who was the American League MVP the year before, was playing the All-Star with a broken finger, something that would likely never happen in today’s world.
Despite the injury, Rosen belted two home runs, becoming the third player to hit two home runs in an All-Star game (Arky Vaughn in 1941, Ted Williams in 1946), leading the American League with a 17-hit assault to defeat the Nationals, 11-9.
On July 14, 1992, the 63rd MLB All-Star Game was played at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, the childhood home of one of baseball’s greatest hitters, Ted Williams. Williams in fact threw out the first pitch to the delight of the crowd of 59,372 in attendance.
For Seattle Mariners’ 22-year-old center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., being selected to the All-Star team was already becoming old hat—it was his third selection in a row by the fans, and in the 1992 Midsummer Classic, Griffey did not disappoint.
Griffey was 3-for-3 with a mammoth home run, and his teammates collected another 16 hits on their way to a 13-6 rout of starter Tom Glavine and the National League. Griffey was selected the game’s MVP.
In 1937, iron man Lou Gehrig, the great New York Yankees first baseman, was on his way to another stellar campaign after winning the 1936 American League MVP award.
With the game being played in the nation’s capital, President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw out the first pitch, and then the American League completely dominated, with Yankee players Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey and Red Rolfe all contributing, with Gehrig going 2-for-4 including a home run off St. Louis Cardinals pitching great Dizzy Dean, and collecting four RBI.
The game became more known for Cleveland Indians center fielder Earl Averill hitting a wicked shot back to the mound that broke Dean’s toe. Dean rushed back from the injury early and in doing so altered his pitching motion, injuring his shoulder and losing his signature fastball.
However, it was the last All-Star game that Gehrig would start, and he made it count.
In 1987, the MLB All-Star Game was played at cavernous Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, without question a pitcher-friendly ballpark. As a result, runs were scarce, even for the best players assembled that season.
Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines was selected as a reserve that season, and in the bottom of the sixth inning, Raines replaced Cincinnati Reds center fielder Eric Davis.
The game remained tied until the top of the 13th inning. With hometown A’s reliever Jay Howell on the mound and two outs with two men on base, Raines ripped a triple, scoring both Ozzie Virgil and Hubie Brooks with the only runs of the game, giving the National League a 2-0 victory.
Raines collected three of the NL’s eight hits and was named the game’s MVP.
The 1981 MLB All-Star Game was only the second game ever be played in August (second All-Star game of 1959 was played on Aug. 3).
Due to the players’ strike that lasted from June 12 to July 31, the season was split into two halves, and the All-Star game was to serve as the kickoff for the second half, which was to start the day after the All-Star game.
On Aug. 9, 1981, a record 72,086 fans showed up at Cleveland Stadium to welcome back the baseball season.
The National League registered all of its five runs on home runs, two of them by Montreal Expos catcher Gary Carter. For his efforts, Carter was named the game’s MVP.
The 2002 MLB All-Star became famous for three reasons—the All-Star Final Vote competition was first introduced, with Johnny Damon and Andruw Jones selected by the fans to take the 30th and final roster spot for the AL and NL respectively (now 34th man).
The second reason was the fact that the game itself resulted in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings, and both teams had run out of players and pitchers.
Finally, there was no MVP selected due to the fact that the game ended in a tie. The following season introduced the first All-Star game that gave World Series home-field advantage to the winner of the All-Star game.
One particular event occurred in the 2002 game at Miller Park in Milwaukee, however that may have been one of the best defensive plays ever recorded in All-Star history.
Minnesota Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, appearing in his very first All-Star game, made an incredible catch to rob single-season home run champ Barry Bonds of a homer in the bottom of the first inning.
Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove award winner for nine consecutive seasons, showed the baseball world why in the first inning.
Click HERE to see incredible catch.
The 1978 MLB All-Star Game was the first to be played in San Diego, and the American League jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, largely on the strength of two triples hit by Minnesota Twins first baseman Rod Carew.
Carew opened the game by hitting a triple off NL starting pitcher Vida Blue, later scoring on a double by Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett.
On Carew’s next at-bat, again facing Blue in the top of the third inning, Carew again led off with a triple to center field and again scored, this time on a sacrifice fly by Brett.
It is the only time in All-Star game history that a player has registered two triples in one game.
In 1963 and 1964, Boston Red Sox reliever Dick “The Monster” Radatz was the most dominant relief pitcher in the AL, with two seasons that actually garnered him consideration in voting for the AL MVP both years.
After a 1963 season that saw Radatz win 15 games as a reliever with a 1.97 ERA, he opened 1964 in similar fashion and was selected as an All-Star for the second straight season.
Radatz came on in relief for the American League in the 1964 MLB All-Star Game in the top of the seventh, pitching two scoreless innings.
In the bottom of the ninth, Radatz came out for a third inning of relief. Radatz quickly got in trouble, allowing one run on a single to Orlando Cepeda to tie the score at 4-4. Radatz got Ken Boyer on a pop-up to third, intentionally walked Johnny Edwards and struck out Milwaukee Braves slugger Hank Aaron.
Up stepped Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Johnny Callison. Radatz delivered, and then Callison delivered, hitting a three-run homer to right field for a 7-4 walk-off win for the National League.
The 1989 MLB All-Star Game, played at Anaheim Stadium, featured two-sport star and former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson starting left field for the American League. Jackson, playing for the Kansas City Royals, was well on his way to hitting 30 HR and 100 RBI for the Royals, and for the first and only time was selected by the fans to start in the All-Star game.
After the National League got to AL starting pitcher Dave Stewart for two runs in the top of the first, San Francisco Giants pitcher Rick Reuschel took the mound to face the AL leadoff hitter, Jackson.
After falling behind in the count 0-2, Jackson took a Reuschel offering and deposited it 448 feet away for a mammoth home run.
The majestic shot by Jackson cut the lead to 2-1, and Boston Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs followed with another home run over the left-center field wall, tying the game at 2-2.
It was the first time in All-Star game history that either league opened with back-to-back home runs. Jackson drove in another run with a run-scoring groundout in the second, finishing the game 2-for-4 with two RBI and winning the All-Star Game MVP.
In the 1941 MLB All-Star Game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, the two stars that shined in 1941, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, were batting third and fourth for the American League All-Star team.
DiMaggio was in the midst of his 56-game hitting streak, which would come to an end eight days after the All-Star game, and Williams was hitting .405 at the break.
With the AL trailing in the game 5-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth, they waged a fierce rally. With Chicago Cubs pitcher Claude Passeau on the mound and the bases loaded with one out, DiMaggio reached first when Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Billy Herman was unable to turn a game-ending double play.
Ken Keltner scored on the play, trimming the NL lead to 5-4.
Williams stepped to the plate and hit a walk-off three-run homer, giving the American League an improbable 7-5 victory.
Williams would go on to hit .406, the last man ever to hit .400 or above in the majors.
For Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, the chance to start in the 1996 MLB All-Star Game in Philadelphia was special indeed. Growing up in nearby Norristown as a Phillies fan, Piazza made his appearance at Veterans Stadium memorable indeed.
Leading off the bottom of the second inning against Cleveland Indians pitcher Charles Nagy, Piazza launched Nagy’s second pitch deep into the night and over the left field fence for a home run.
Piazza’s homer traveled an estimated 445 feet, a monstrous shot indeed. Piazza would later double off Chuck Finley to score Barry Larkin, and his 2-for-3 effort won Piazza the game’s MVP award.
The 1984 MLB All-Star Game, played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, featured two of the National League’s rising stars on the mound—23-year-old Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers and 19-year-old rookie pitcher Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets.
Gooden, who would go on to win the 1984 NL Rookie of the Year award, followed Valenzuela to the mound. Valenzuela struck out the side in the top of the fourth, and Gooden took the mound in the top of the fifth.
Facing the 7-8-9 hitters, 19-year-old Gooden struck out Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and pinch-hitter Alvin Davis in his first All-Star appearance.
Valenzuela also struck out the side in the top of the fourth (Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, George Brett) for a remarkable run for two of the National League’s bright young pitching stars.
In 1971 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Oakland A’s right fielder Reggie Jackson was making his second appearance as an All-Star for the American League. Jackson entered the game in the bottom of the third inning with the AL behind 3-0, and Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis on the mound for the NL.
After Boston Red Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio singled to start the inning, Jackson came to bat as a pinch-hitter for Oakland A’s starter Vida Blue.
With the wind blowing out, Jackson took an Ellis offering and deposited it on the roof of Tigers Stadium into a light tower—the blast was estimated at 520 feet.
It was one of six homers hit that day that accounted for every run scored, and the AL prevailed, 6-4.
To this day, Jackson’s homer is considered the longest in All-Star game history.
While many people equate the 1970 MLB All-Star Game to the Pete Rose-Ray Fosse collision, the game itself was one of the more memorable games in the history of the Midsummer Classic.
The American League held a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth when the NL exploded for three runs to tie it, sending the game into extra innings and resulting in one of the most famous collisions in MLB history.
However, very few remember the fact that American League starting center fielder Carl Yastrzemski, who would go on to lose that year’s batting title by just .0004 to California Angels outfielder Alex Johnson, collected four hits during the game for the losing AL team, becoming only the second player to win the All-Star Game MVP award from a losing team.
AT&T Park in San Francisco is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous parks in the majors, and the outfield fences feature contours that are funky to say the least, none more so than in right field.
In the top of the fifth inning, Suzuki settled into the plate, and taking a Chris Young fastball, ripped it into the deepest portion of the outfield in right-center field. Ken Griffey Jr. chased after the ball, however it caromed off an All-Star banner that was placed on the wall, and just kept on bounding away.
By the time Griffey recovered and overthrew two cutoff men, Suzuki was around the bases for a two-run inside-the-park home run, giving the AL a 2-1 lead and giving Suzuki the game MVP. It was the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history, and the third of three hits for Suzuki on the night.
See the video HERE.
At RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., the 1969 MLB All-Star Game featured a first baseman from the San Francisco Giants who was having a year for the ages. Willie McCovey was on his way to winning the NL MVP award, with 45 HR, 126 RBI and a .320 average. Not bad for a man playing second fiddle to the great Willie Mays.
However, on this night, July 23, 1969, McCovey took center stage. McCovey blasted two two-run homers, helping to power the National League to a 9-3 victory over the AL.
The 1955 MLB All-Star Game took place at Milwaukee County Stadium, the home at the time of the NL Milwaukee Braves. The American League jumped out with four runs in the top of the first, highlighted by a three-run homer from New York Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle.
The AL would tack on one more run and headed into the seventh inning with a 5-0 lead. However, the National League stormed back, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh and adding three more in the eighth to knot the game at 5-5.
The game would drag on to the bottom of the 12th inning. National League left fielder Stan Musial, who was 0-for-3 with a walk at that point, stepped to the plate against Boston Red Sox pitcher Frank Sullivan, who was working his fourth inning and drilled a walk-off home run to right field, ending one of the most thrilling All-Star games in history up to that point.
The 1983 MLB All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the site of the very first All-Star game 50 years previous. The American League had not won a Midsummer Classic since 1971 and were itching to break the streak.
With the game 2-1 in favor of the AL heading into the bottom of the third inning, the AL broke loose with seven runs, highlighted by the only grand-slam home run hit in the history of the All-Star game, by California Angels center fielder Fred Lynn.
For Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams, the 1946 season represented a return to baseball after serving three years as a Marine Corps pilot in World War II. The All-Star game was also returning from a one-year absence due to travel time restrictions in the US during 1945.
Williams played like he had never left, winning the American League MVP that season and leading his Red Sox to the 1946 World Series later on that season. However, the All-Star Game was hosted at Williams’ home field, Fenway Park.
Williams was without a doubt the story of the game, going 4-for-4 with two home runs, the last a towering three-run blast against the infamous “eephus pitch” thrown by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Rip Sewell.
In June 2001, Baltimore Orioles shortstop/third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. announced he was retiring from baseball at the end of the season, and the farewell tour was about to begin, and rightfully so.
With Ripken’s chase of Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record in 1995 following the return of baseball after a prolonged strike, Ripken was instrumental in helping to restore baseball and fans’ faith in the game.
Ripken, at that time 40 years old and only hitting .240 with four homers and 28 RBI at the break, was clearly at the end-stage of his career. However, he was selected by the fans as the starting third baseman for the AL All-Star team, and no one was outraged.
In the top of the first inning at Safeco Field in Seattle, AL starting shortstop Alex Rodriguez went over to Ripken at third base and implored/pushed him to the shortstop position, a position that Ripken had manned so incredibly well during the bulk of his ironman streak.
Ripken played the first inning at short, and in the bottom of the third inning, facing Chan Ho Park, Ripken belted a home run over the left field fence.
It was a fitting way to end a fabulous All-Star game career for one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game.
The 1999 MLB All-Star Game, played at Fenway Park in Boston, was a tribute to legendary Red Sox Hall of Fame player Ted Williams, who tipped his cap to the crowd, something that he had never done during his playing days.
No matter, the Fenway Faithful cheered for several minutes without stopping.
On to the game itself. Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez was taking the mound for the American League. Martinez entered the break with a record of 15-3, a 2.10 ERA and an amazing 184 strikeouts in 132.2 innings.
Facing Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa in the top of the first, Martinez struck out the side, and then opened the top of the second inning by striking out Mark McGwire.
After Matt Williams reached on an error, Martinez then struck out Jeff Bagwell on a 3-2 curve, with Williams being thrown out on a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play.
Martinez was greeted to a standing ovation from the hometown crowd, and would later win the All-Star Game MVP award. Martinez became the first AL pitcher to win an All-Star game at his home field and tied an American League record with five strikeouts.
Oh, and he did it all in front of the All-Century team to boot.
Murderer’s Row, it was called at the time. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, all of them headed to the Hall of Fame, and on July 10, 1934, at the Polo Grounds in New York, New York Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell mowed them down, in succession.
After giving up a single and a walk, Hubbell went through Murderer’s Row, and after giving up a single to Bill Dickey, struck out Lefty Gomez for good measure.
Two innings, six strikeouts, complete dominance. That marks the single greatest performance in MLB All-Star history.