All-Star Game, Week make history
Longest Midsummer Classic also one of the most memorable
NEW YORK -- Thanks to what happened in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, it is possible that there could be a World Series Game 6 or 7 at Yankee Stadium this fall, a chance to send out a famous ballpark in ultimate style, maybe a 27th and final world championship, requiring the home tenants to carry out the scenario.
Or we could just look at this as one last bit of history in The House That Ruth Built.
Putting a marvelous and historical cap on an All-Star Week that was beyond belief, the American League survived with a 4-3 victory in 15 innings to extend the National League's winless streak to 12 games. Michael Young of the Rangers provided the decisive blow for the second time in three years, this time ending it with a sacrifice fly off Brad Lidge (the last available NL pitcher) that scored Justin Morneau of the Twins on a slide just inches away from the tag following Corey Hart's throw from right.
The only other time the AL had recorded a walk-off win was in the glorious summer of 1941, when Ted Williams hit a three-run homer off Claude Passeau in the ninth. History was everywhere you looked with this game. It broke numerous records -- most notably time of game (4:50) -- and featured everything from spectacular plays (Ryan Ludwick's diving catch and Nate McLouth's throw from center) to great escapes (Mariano Rivera and Aaron Cook) to bizarre frustration (a record 34 strikeouts and Dan Uggla's record three errors) to stolen bases (an AL-record six) to amazing heart (now you know George Sherrill) to predicting when you might have seen a position player have to move to the mound and pitch (it was a couple of innings away).
Most importantly, it means the AL has home-field advantage once again in this year's World Series. Three of the last four world championships have been AL sweeps that started with home momentum thanks in part to this edge.
"I think what's at stake makes it more important," said AL manager Terry Francona, whose chances of managing a rare repeat world championship did nothing but improve with a possible home-field advantage. "If there's nothing at stake besides the win or loss, it ends up being a little bit of an exhibition game. I know I felt it, I mean the responsibility. I also think the group we had in there, they probably would have cared. They're only ours for a couple days, but it was an honor."
"I kept seeing Ricky Ricardo saying, 'Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do,'" said NL manager Clint Hurdle from the Rockies. "A piece of my heart is broke tonight. We wanted to win this game. But my heart's been broken before."
What a night. What a morning. What a week.
Fans help decide it: Drew wins MVP
In another big online balloting opportunity with the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP Vote at MLB.com, fans were part of the decision-making process that gave J.D. Drew the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award.
And he didn't even have to pitch.
"He might have been a little MVPer if we had gone a couple more innings," Francona said. "He's been bugging me a couple times to pitch, and we were close."
"If he'd've told me to do it, that's what I would have done," Drew said. "I'd have thrown some stuff up there. I've got a little sneaky stuff. I don't know if I'd have gotten anybody out."
Drew became the 15th player to homer in his first All-Star at-bat, going 2-for-4 with a walk that loaded the bases for Young's winner. There were some amazing scenes with Yankee fans shouting at rival Red Sox players (Jonathan Papelbon received the most royal treatment), and in some cases having to applaud Drew. Kind of.
"Yeah, it was brief to say the least," he said with a smile. "It was a little weird."
All-Star Red Carpet Parade
Cliff Lee started for the AL in the All-Star Game, throwing 20 pitches and 16 for strikes. It was one thing to face a lineup of the other league's best players. It was another thing to look at all the legends he was accompanying in the All-Star Game Red Carpet Parade presented by Chevy earlier in the day on 16 blocks of Sixth Avenue.
"I was walking down through there at the start, seeing some of the names on the tops of the trucks. They've got serious Hall of Famers," Lee said while waiting for his Chevy Silverardo ride along with his wife and children. "It's neat because it gives fans a chance to see Hall of Famers and All-Stars up close. Just think, Whitey and Yogi. Serious Hall of Famers."
Whitey Ford, the winningest World Series pitcher, and his longtime catcher, Yogi Berra, who played in more World Series games than anyone, were chosen to ride in the lead vehicle. They were overwhelmed with applause along the way from a crowd estimated at more than a million just after lunchtime.
All-Star Game Hall of Fame Celebration
Those same legends who had filed up Sixth Avenue earlier in the day -- more than 40 Hall of Famers -- gathered on the field prior to the game. It will be one of those treasured moments in the course of a dramatic sendoff to Yankee Stadium. There had to be a lot of moist eyes when Berra received a very prolonged ovation.
"We present to you, in The House that Ruth Built, the greatest collection of All-Stars ever assembled, all on one field," FOX announcer Joe Buck told the crowd.
Wearing their teams' caps, the Hall of Famers emerged from left-center field, just to the right of Monument Park, and took their respective positions on the field. The pitchers -- Goose Gossage, Ford, et al -- stood on the mound, while Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson and others headed for third, and Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith stood at shortstop, and so on.
Lincecum hospitalized, misses game
Tim Lincecum was hospitalized and diagnosed with the flu and dehydration at New York Presbyterian Hospital and missed his first All-Star Game. The Giants' right-hander had not arrived at the stadium when his teammates took the field for batting practice at 6 p.m. ET, and Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca confirmed that he would not be available to throw.
"He's sick," Apodaca said. "He has some kind of stomach flu. He went to the hospital last night. He's not available at all."
Major League Baseball released a statement on behalf of the Giants shortly before game time confirming Lincecum would not be attending the game. Lincecum's Giants teammate and fellow All-Star Brian Wilson said he hadn't spoken to Lincecum, whose phone was off. "I think he caught the flu, so I think he's just getting some medicine for it," Wilson said. Lincecum was released from the hospital to rest.
The commissioner speaks
In his eighth annual Town Hall Meeting, an Internet chat during the day at DHL All-Star FanFest, commissioner Bud Selig answered fans' questions posed via e-mail as well as in person. He basically told fans not to hold their collective breath if they think any asterisks might go next to the statistics of all-time home run king Barry Bonds, currently in that netherworld between waiting to be re-signed and retired.
"I haven't made any decisions on those things," Selig said. "But I can tell you ... I don't really think it's a practical possibility. ... You have to know everything that went on and everyone who participated. I'm just proud that we've corrected our [drug] problem and that we've moved on. We've done well. So I'm not going to worry about it."
Selig also spoke at a Baseball Writers Association of America luncheon during the day. He said a "limited form" of instant replay is still being considered, and that once "bugs" were sufficiently removed, it could be implemented during this season. It was noteworthy that in neither venue was he asked a direct question about steroids or drug testing -- perhaps a sign that a longtime saga is off the front burner in the eyes of fans and journalists.
Record homers, record ratings
It was just another sign of baseball's unprecedented popularity.
MLB announced that the State Farm Home Run Derby, which aired live from Yankee Stadium on ESPN and also via computer with the MLB.TV All-Star Package, drew the largest household audience ever for the event, with an average 6,184,000 homes tuning in to ESPN based on Live + Same Day audience data from Nielsen Media Research. The telecast, which featured Josh Hamilton belting a record 28 homers in the first round before falling to Justin Morneau of the Twins in the final round, scored a 6.4 rating, marking a 25 percent increase over last year's coverage (5.1 rating, 4,778,000 homes).
The average 6.4 household rating, 6.2 million homes, and 9.1 million viewers delivered by this Home Run Derby rank it as the highest-rated and most-viewed telecast of the year on cable television. The contest also ranked as the most-viewed program of the evening on TV in total viewers, Men 18-34, Men 18-49, Men 25-54, Adults 18-34 Adults 18-49, and Adults 25-54. Moreover, it led ESPN to win the night in primetime against all broadcast and cable networks in all of the above demos as well as Males 12-17 and Total teens.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.