Top 7 MLB All-Star Game Moments Since 2000July 5, 2021
Top 7 MLB All-Star Game Moments Since 2000
We're only a week away from the 2021 MLB All-Star festivities.
After the league was forced to cancel the event last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Midsummer Classic is making a triumphant return from Denver's Coors Field. Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani will be the main attraction in this year's event. The Los Angeles Angels pitcher and designated hitter will become the first Japanese-born player to participate in the Home Run Derby, as well as the first player named an All-Star as a position player and pitcher.
And if his performance in Friday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles (two homers to take the league lead with 30 on the season and stole a base to score the go-ahead run from second on a single) is any indication of what he might do in the All-Star Game, then we're in for some memorable moments.
Each edition of the game brings moments we won't forget and ones we would like to forget, like when the 2002 game ended in a tie. That said, when compiling a list of the best moments of the MLB All-Star Game, it's important to note that it's subjective.
These are seven moments that stand out as memorable over the past 20 years of All-Star Games, organized in chronological order.
Cal Ripken Jr. Homers in Final All-Star Game in 2001
With Cal Ripken Jr. having already announced he would retire after the conclusion of the 2001 season, the Baltimore Orioles third baseman was on a farewell tour. It was his 21st season and his 19th straight All-Star Game appearance.
The game was held at Seattle's Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), and there were numerous activities to honor Ripken's final appearance. Alex Rodriguez, then a shortstop with the Texas Rangers, changed positions with Ripken prior to first pitch so Ripken could take over the position he had played at the start of his career.
But the theatrics hit a fever pitch when Ripken homered on the first pitch he saw. Before the sixth inning, former commissioner Bud Selig honored Ripken and San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award, and Ripken was named the game's MVP.
It was a fitting farewell for MLB's ironman.
Torii Hunter's Catch to Rob a Barry Bonds Homer in 2002
San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds slugged 27 home runs and slashed .345/.562/.780 over the first half of the 2002 season. He had an OPS of 1.342. This all came at a time when opponents were reluctant to pitch him.
But Torii Hunter was one of the premier defensive outfielders in the game at the time. The two might have played the same position, but they couldn't have possessed skill sets that were more different.
The 2002 game was held at what was then called Miller Park in Milwaukee (now American Family Field). In the first inning, Bonds hit a towering fly ball to right-center field. Hunter tracked it down and made a leaping catch at the wall. Bonds then light-heartedly confronted Hunter, slinging the laughing Twins star over his shoulder in faux outrage.
However, Bonds hit a towering shot into the second deck in the third inning. It gave the NL a 4-0 lead in a game that ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings.
Ichiro Suzuki's 2007 Inside-the-Park Home Run
The 2007 edition of the Midsummer Classic was held in San Francisco at AT&T Park. Vladimir Guerrero, then of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, won the Home Run Derby, but Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki had the most historic home run of the All-Star festivities.
It was his inside-the-park homer that made history, as the first and only in the MLB All-Star Game. Facing Padres ace Chris Young, Ichiro lined a shot into right-center field where it caromed off the wall toward right field.
Ken Griffey Jr., then of the Cincinnati Reds, has authored some great All-Star moments himself, but this wasn't one of them. Griffey expected the ball to bounce toward center field and was out of position when it went the opposite way. He wasn't able to recover and make a play in time to get the lightning-quick Ichiro out.
Ichiro went 3-for-3 to help the AL earn a 5-4 win.
Josh Hamilton in the 2008 Home Run Derby
Technically, we might be breaking the rules with the inclusion of this one. After all, this story is about the best All-Star Game moments, not the best Home Run Derby moments. However, it was an unforgettable All-Star event, and quite possibly the feel-good baseball moment of the year.
Outfielder Josh Hamilton was in the midst of a spectacular season with the Texas Rangers, only his second season in MLB after being selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the first round of the 1999 draft. After struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and injuries for years, he was finally emerging as a the player many thought he could be back in 1999.
The left-handed batter belted 28 home runs in the first round, including 13 on 13 straight swings. His former American Legion coach, Clay Council, pitched to him. Hamilton had been out of baseball for three years prior to making the majors with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, and now he was starring in the biggest show in New York. Fans were chanting his name, and he was grinning in the batter's box.
Eventually, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau edged him in the final round with five homers to Hamilton’s three, but Hamilton did out-slug Morneau overall, 35-22.
Final All-Star Game at the Old Yankee Stadium in 2008
Games at old stadiums are always special, but this one had a different feeling because it was the last All-Star Game at one of baseball's most historic parks. The old-timers always show up to these games, and it was no different in 2008, when every living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame was invited to the game. A total of 49 members showed up, with a few Yankee greats able to play big roles.
A pregame parade went up Sixth Avenue from Bryant Park to Central Park. Hall of Fame players took their positions on the field. George Steinbrenner delivered balls to the four players who would deliver the ceremonial first pitches: Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra.
The game itself almost seemed secondary to the celebration of a place no one wanted to see close. And it nearly didn't close that night—the 15-inning game went four hours and 50 minutes, for what was then the longest All-Star Game in history.
Mariano Rivera's 2013 All-Star Farewell
Mariano Rivera's last All-Star appearance may not have come at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, but it did come in New York at Citi Field. He was named the MVP of the game after retiring all three batters he faced, marking the first time a pitcher had earned MVP honors since Pedro Martinez in 1999.
Rivera, the first player to unanimously be voted into the Hall of Fame, arrived on the field to "Enter Sandman", as he always did, and was greeted with a standing ovation by the Citi Field crowd and by both teams in each dugout. Everyone applauded MLB's career saves leader for nearly two minutes.
Rivera, who was in his final season in the league, tipped his cap to the crowd to acknowledge the reception, the last one he would ever receive at a Midsummer Classic.
Mike Trout's 2016 Hit and All of His Other Big All-Star Moments
During the 2016 All-Star Game at San Diego's Petco Park, Mike Trout hit a single off Johnny Cueto in his first at-bat to become the first player to register a hit in the first plate appearance in five straight editions of the game. Trout's previous four first-at-bat hits were a cycle all their own, with a single in the 2012 All-Star Game, a double in 2013, an RBI triple in 2014 and a leadoff homer to open the 2015 Midsummer Classic.
He's had a few other great moments as well, including a home run off Mets' ace Jacob deGrom in 2018 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Trout was recently named to his ninth consecutive American League All-Star roster, though he won't play in the 2021 game because of a calf injury. However, the three-time MVP is still in his prime, so he's sure to author more great moments as the years go on.
During media day for the 2018 event, Trout said, "I want to play as long as I can." We all want that, too, so we can continue to watch him break more All-Star Game records each summer.