As the countdown continues to the 81st All-Star Game, daydreams of anticipation grip the 68 players and field staffs chosen to represent the American and National Leagues in Major League Baseball's annual midsummer blowout.They all look forward to the experiences and memories awaiting them, speaking in almost-reverent tones of what lies ahead.
For many, the Anaheim memories are already in the past, framed and indelible. On July 13, Angel Stadium will host its record-tying third All-Star Game.Typical of the dynamic Orange County it reflects, the ballpark has had a different configuration each time it has been the All-Star stage -- from the original 43,000-seat Anaheim Stadium in 1967, to the enclosed 64,593-seat Anaheim Stadium in '89 to the present 45,050-seat Angel Stadium. The physical surroundings have changed, but the emotional ties to those unforgettable Southern California early evenings never will for those who lived them. In their own words: July 11, 1967, a new day for the All-Star Game. Rather, a new dusk: To assure a sizable Northeast television audience, the game starts at 4:30 p.m. local, shadowy, time. Joe Torre, NL starting catcher: "I think it was the first twilight game, so they could show it back east at prime time. Ed Runge was the plate umpire, and I think we set a record for strikeouts -- and a good number of them were called." The game went 15 innings -- averaging two whiffs for every one of them, in between all that missing, the Phillies' Dick Allen somehow connecting for a solo homer in the top of the second and the Orioles' Brooks Robinson for a tying blow in the bottom of the sixth. Of the 30 strikeouts, 11 were looking -- or squinting. "Players were complaining about [Runge's] strike zone the whole game," Torre said. "[Carl Yastrzemski] had one called outside and Runge said, `I don't know why they're complaining; they know the strike zone.' And with that, I just moved a little farther off the plate." Tony Perez, the 25-year-old third baseman of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine sitting on the bench as an NL reserve said, "At the start of the game, the hitters were in the sun and did not see the ball very well. So many great players struck out in that game. Roberto Clemente struck out four times, something I'd never seen before. But he had a lot of company." A total of 20 future Hall of Famers were on the two All-Star rosters, 15 of them position players. The Yankees' Al Downing took over in the top of the ninth and pitched two scoreless innings, retiring five of the six Hall of Famers he faced, to keep alive the AL's hopes of only its second win in the last 11 All-Star Games. "The National League was running hot then," Downing said. "Truth is, that was like a moral victory that we went 15 innings with those guys." Each of the 12 pitchers who took the mound had at least one strikeout. Of the 13 future Hall of Famers who batted in the game, nine struck out. Perez joined that list shortly after entering the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the 10th.
"I came up in the 12th inning," he said. "Catfish Hunter was pitching, and I had never seen him before. He started me off with a fastball, and made good pitches and struck me out. But at least I got to see him, I got to see all his pitches."Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda and Clemente played all 15 innings for the NL, and combined to go 2-for-18. Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Tony Conigliaro played all 15 innings for the AL. They, too, were a collective 2-for-18. Hunter, who had entered in the 11th, was in the midst of his fifth inning of work when Perez came up with one out in the 15th. Cepeda had led off with a drive caught deep in the right-center gap. It was getting dark. "I've always been a student of hitting, and now this was my second time seeing Hunter," Perez said. "I thought he'd start me with another fastball. He'd been pitching for a while, and might've lost something off the fastball. I got a hold of the first pitch." Tom Seaver, the Mets' 22-year-old rookie right-hander, came on in the bottom of the 15th to earn a save with a hitless inning that included the 30th strikeout and, incredibly, only the second walk of the 38th All-Star Game. "In picking the biggest thrill of my lifetime, I'd pick the '67 All-Star Game," said Perez. "It was the biggest, personally. It was my first All-Star Game. Top hit that home run to win that game and be the MVP, it was something special. And I would never have even played if the game doesn't go into extra innings. I still remember everything about that day, that week." July 11, 1989, to Bo-ldly go where no man has gone before. Tony La Russa, A's and AL manager, spent the short flight from Oakland to Orange County trying to cull a starting lineup from a roster replete with middle-of-the-order types: "I didn't know what I was going to do." Dave Duncan, La Russa's pitching coach, sitting in the adjoining seat: "I wouldn't want to face [Bo Jackson] leading off a game. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark, get on base, steal a base, hit a double, hit a triple. He seemed like the perfect guy." "It made a lot of sense," La Russa said. "The pitcher's trying to figure out what he's got, and all of a sudden, he makes a mistake, it can be more than a single. [Bo was the] most explosive talent playing at the time." The pregame buzz was deafening over the choice to lead off with the Royals' Jackson, who showed up in Anaheim with 21 homers and 23 steals a few months after having rushed for 580 yards for the Raiders. Kansas City pitcher Mark Gubicza accompanied by his teammate to his second consecutive All-Star appearance: "Oh, yes. The Bo Show. The greatest athlete I've seen, bar none. This was in the midst of the whole 'Bo Knows' campaign, and he was as big at the time as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods -- anybody we have now." But, before the game, a little fun. Workout Day had become an attraction, climaxed by a skills competition among All-Stars showing off arms, legs and bat-control. Barry Larkin, the Reds' 25-year-old shortstop leading the Majors with a .342 average at the break, turned to make a throw as the middle-man on the NL relays team: "I remember hearing something pop like a gun-shot or firecracker when I threw the baseball in the relay race. After a few more throws, I felt swelling and I eventually tore my ulnar collateral ligament. I couldn't throw the ball more than 15 feet.
"At the time, I didn't know the severity of the injury, but unfortunately, it really came at a very inopportune time. It was so disappointing. I was playing well at the time and everything was really coming together. In 1989, I began to really establish myself and things were taking off for me personally. I was on fire, but before you know, it was over."The Show must go on. Soon after Doc Severinsen and his Tonight Show Band performed the last non-vocal rendition of the national anthem prior to an All-Star Game, the NL jumped out to a 2-0 lead on first-inning RBI singles by Kevin Mitchell and Howard Johnson off Dave Stewart. The bottom of the first brought Rick Reuschel to the mound and Bo Jackson to the plate. "I was all pumped up, sitting in the bullpen talking Nolan Ryan's ear off," said Gubicza. "I was saying, 'This is not a good matchup for Rick Reuschel. He's a sinkerball pitcher, and Bo loves the ball down.' Most right-handed hitters like it high, but Bo loved to go down and get it." Vin Scully, behind the NBC mike next to former broadcaster Ronald Reagan: "Jackson does baseball and football, and you did football ... " "Yes, I played the Gipper," Reagan said. "But before that, I also played football. Bo down there, that's a pretty interesting hobby he has for his vacation ... when baseball ends, he winds up playing football." "He's remarkable ... and look at that one!" Scully responded. "Bo Jackson says hello!" "Where the bullpens were located back then, you could hear the crack of the bat," Gubicza said. "Bo had a unique sound when he got into one, and I recognized it. Then you could hear the crowd make this sound that was like, 'Oh, my God.' Nobody moved. Everybody just watched it keep going, thinking, 'This thing is gargantuan.'" "I thought I made a good pitch," Reuschel said. "He just went down and got it. I heard about his power and strength -- and I saw it first-hand." Mike Scioscia, warming up to go behind the plate in his first NL All-Star appearance: "I was down in the bullpen, getting ready to go in the game, when Bo hit that ball about 8,000 feet. It was incredible. It just seemed to travel forever." Larkin watched laid up in his hotel room: "I just remember it being a bomb and wasn't too caught up in the hype around the home run. ... I remember saying to myself that was 'one of the farthest balls I'd ever seen hit.'" "It landed over where the trees are now, way out there," Gubicza said. "It still had some distance to go when it landed. It was awesome to see. Playing with Bo, I was used to him doing incredible things. But that was amazing, even for Bo." Mark McGwire, the AL's young starting first baseman: "The one thing I do remember is that Bo Jackson was the star of the show. He was a stud." There was a lot more All-Star baseball to be played. Wade Boggs, the very next batter, in fact also homered. Nonetheless, Jackson's detonation secured his MVP honors for the 60th All-Star Game even before Nolan Ryan -- 42 and a decade after he'd last worn an Angels uniform -- took the Anaheim Stadium mound in the top of the second. "Of all my All-Star appearances, that was probably my most memorable and the one I enjoyed the most," Ryan said. "I had just signed with the Rangers after all those years in the National League [with the Astros], and a week before that, I had pitched in Anaheim for the first time since leaving the Angels. I received a really nice reception from the fans that day, and it was the same way when I went back for the All-Star Game. At that point of my career, I thought I was done pitching in All-Star Games, so to be able to make it again and to get to pitch again in Anaheim made it a very special moment for me in my career." Gubicza, who followed Ryan's two shutout innings with one of his own: "To follow Nolan to the mound, that was a huge thrill. As soon as I was done with my inning, I went back to Nolan and was chewing his ear off." Don Mattingly, who came off the AL's bench in the sixth inning and in the seventh, delivered a two-out double off Jay Howell for his only All-Star hit in his ninth and final at-bat: "I think it was a breaking ball. He threw me a curveball and it was low, I thought it was low. And I remember the umpire called it a ball, and the whole bench over there was yelling that was a strike. I'm like ... I thought it was down. That's what I kind of remember." The AL's 5-3 victory hardly dented the NL's All-Star dominance, still 37-to-20 strong. But it was a crack. Willie Randolph, the onetime Yankees great who represented the Dodgers in his sixth and final All-Star Game: "We cared about winning a lot. It was around the time that the National League was still kind of dominating the American League and we took it very personally. It was special because I made it in both leagues. To be able to go to go to the National League and make the All-Star team my first year was a special thrill for me." "It was my second All-Star Game and being there was great," said Larkin. "But unfortunately, I don't have too many fond memories of the game because of what happened the day before. I was disappointed, but it doesn't haunt me because injuries are a part of the game." As are memories, of which many more are on-deck.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.