“DIARY OF A WINNER”
THE ALL STARS
& PEDRO'S HISTORIC YEAR
July 11, 1999 ... It was as if your old baseball cards had come to life. There, in the flesh, walking through the gates that separated the hoi polloi from the paying customers at Fan Pier's huge white tents were the legends: Al Kaline and Norm Cash of the Detroit Tigers, Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians, Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, George Brett of the Kansas City Royals, and so many more All-Star baseball players, in various stages of midlife but looking "swell," as Yogi Berra would say.
Along with 3,600 others who came from around the country for the festivities leading to the game at Fenway Park, they gathered on this perfect night overlooking Boston Harbor for the "All-Star Gala of the Century," an event that showed the city at its summer best.
You couldn't even see a girder or a pile of dirt from the Big Dig as the guests for this, the biggest of the All-Star Game bashes this week, walked by a string quartet playing Beethoven in the parking lot next to the US Courthouse and bellied up to a dozen or so al fresco bars and tasted morsels from Boston's best restaurants. The guests schmoozed with the likes of Gretchen and Gene Budig, president of the American League, and Bud Selig, commissioner of baseball.
Red Sox executives past and present were on hand. Lou Gorman of Weston, executive consultant and former Sox general manager, joined Haywood Sullivan, formerly a Sox catcher and general manager, Dick O'Connell, another former general manager, and John Harrington, president and chief executive of the Sox.
Everyone stopped to listen as singer Kenny Rogers introduced a new song called "The Greatest," about a baseball-crazed little boy, and then sang a song about heroes as he faced the group of All-Star players behind him on the stage overlooking the waterfront. He missed the spectacular laser and water and fireworks show presented for the benefit of the gala, which had all the pizazz of the Hatch Shell on the Fourth of July, minus the "1812" Overture.
July 12, 1999 ... The All-Star Futures Game was designed to showcase the players still to come, not those who already have arrived. And the Red Sox were well-armed with unbeaten Japanese righthander Tomo Ohka (11-0) and Korean righthander Sun Woo "Sunny" Kim on the international squad that faced the best US-born players in this exhibition of baseball's best minor league talent.
The Futures Game, added to the All-Star menu this year, took place this afternoon at Fenway Park. Ohka (Triple A Pawtucket) and Kim (Double A Trenton), worked successive (first and second) innings for the World squad, with the latter getting credit for the win. And former Red Sox farmhand Tony Armas Jr., traded to Boston for Mike Stanley and then by the Red Sox to Montreal in the Pedro Martinez deal, also went unscathed in an inning of work.
There were familiar chants of "Loo-wee, Loo-wee," for Luis Tiant, who threw out the first ball at the All-Star Futures Game, and "Dew-ey, Dew-ey," for Dwight Evans as he stepped into the batter's box for the All Star Celebrity Hitting Challenge.
But it was Jim Rice, who tattooed the left-field wall and also dented a Boston Police cruiser parked on the street beyond the wall during the hitting contest, who really turned on the crowd on All- Star Sunday. The Red Sox hitting instructor sent two shots over the screen atop the Green Monster and another into the net to lead his "Yawkeys" team (with actor Matt Damon and Dodgers great Steve Garvey) to victory and one of his drives had a harried Boston Police sergeant racing into the park to fill out the damage report for the bruised cruiser.
For the record, Rice, Fred Lynn (around Pesky's Pole), and Andre Dawson all cleared the yard and local favorite Doug Flutie looked as comfortable with the bat as he does throwing a football.
It was a nostalgic and impressive afternoon for Rice, who was also joined in the contest by former major leaguers Alan Trammell, Rico Petrocelli, and George Brett as well as Jim Lonborg, who tossed a few pitches and didn't appear any the worse for wear. Actors Kevin Costner and Mark Harmon filled out the cast.
The Home Run Derby ... The show Mark McGwire put on will be on the enduring list of Fenway lore. McGwire, who forever will be remembered for the record 70 homers he belted last year, socked a record 13 homers in his first at-bat during the home run-hitting contest that is part of Major League Baseball's All-Star jamboree.
In the end, it was the Mariners' Ken Griffey who won the Derby and defeating Milwaukee's Jeromy Burnitz, 3-2, in the third and final round. But it was the goateed McGwire, tearing through the ball time and again with his thick, piston-like arms, who will be remembered for his multitude of moonshots, one of which measured 488 feet. In all, those 13 drives in McGwire's first plate appearance traveled slightly more than a mile, an average of 438 feet each. He surpassed the mark of 12 homers hit by Cal Ripken Jr. in the '91 contest.
Yet all that is only the math of the amazing feat. More remarkable was the trajectory, the near-surrealistic scope of the drives. One rattled off the top of the light tower in straight-away leftfield. Another, the 13th, soared into the night, just to the left of the light tower in left-center -- a clout that was three-quarters of the way up the stanchion. It was reminiscent of Roy Hobbs stepping up in "The Natural," missing only the broken bulbs.
In fact, long after McGwire's explosion in the first round, the ball from one of McGwire's longer blasts was lying on the railroad tracks between the Mass. Turnpike and the parking garage behind the left-field wall. Witnesses said the ball landed on top of the garage and hopped onto the tracks.
In Round 2, McGwire muscled only three balls out of the park, preventing him from reaching the finals. It made for an anticlimactic Round 3. The mighty McGwire had to settle for his total 16 homers, equaling Griffey for the high on the night.
Griffey also put on an impressive performance, recovering from a first round when he hit only three. The Seattle star has been slowed of late by a troublesome knee, which threatened his participation last night. (He didn't make up his mind until just prior to batting practice.) In Round 2, he came out ripping, after connecting only once with five outs remaining. He then belted nine more, with a handful of drives sent screaming into the bleachers over the bullpens.
In the final round, Griffey was pitted head to head with Burnitz, who opened the championship round by hitting two homers. Griffey had to deliver three to win it, and he did so promptly, flipping his black bat into the air when No. 3 went into the bleachers.
Griffey was the only American Leaguer to make it beyond Round 1. He went up against Boston-born Jeff Bagwell, Burnitz, and McGwire in what amounted to the semifinal round. Burnitz finished with 14 homers, second behind the 16 hit by Griffey and McGwire.
In his own way, McGwire provided a
headstart tonight, wielding his bat like a wrecking ball. He turned Home Run
Derby into big man's tee ball. With the sounds of booming cannons and strains of
the 1812 Overture still resonating along the Charles, Big Mac went deep, deeper,
and then deeper.
July 13, 1999 ... The All Star Game ... After an emotion-draining prelude that left the greatest players past and present awash in tears around Hall of Famer Ted Williams, it was difficult to imagine that anyone playing in the 70th All-Star Game could make this stage his alone.
In a pitching performance that rivaled one of the All-Star Game's most legendary moments -- Carl Hubbell of the Giants striking out Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin in succession 65 years ago -- Pedro struck out the side in the first inning, then struck out two more batters in the second inning, and was a unanimous choice as the game's Most Valuable Player, as the American League beat the National League, 4 to 1.
Pedro's victims were Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa in the first inning, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in the second, all arguably future Hall of Famers. Sosa is the biggest star in Pedro's native Dominican Republic, and a close second here to McGwire, whose Home Run Derby performance Monday night will forever remain a part of Fenway lore.
Pedro became the first pitcher in All-Star history to strike out the game's first three batters. He also tied an American League All-Star record, shared in part by Dick Radatz of the Red Sox.
Pedro joined Roger Clemens as the second Red Sox pitcher to be the winning pitcher in an All-Star Game, and the second to be named MVP. Clemens was here last night and drew boos when introduced as one of the century's top players, the reaction no doubt inspired in part by the Yankee cap atop the Rocket's head.
Pedro set the tone on a night that the two teams, playing in what was supposed to be hitter-friendly environs, set a record for most strikeouts with 22. The record-setting whiff came in the ninth, when Texas Rangers closer John Wetteland of the AL fanned Dave Nilsson of the Brewers in the ninth.
There were no home runs, meaning the National League went 0 for the century in going deep in the three All-Star Games played at Fenway. This was the 14th All-Star Game in which neither side hit a home run, and first since 1990, when the game was played in a rain- swept Wrigley Field.
Perhaps the game's biggest swingers lost their edge during the nearly hour-long pregame ceremonies, which climaxed with Ted Williams surrounded at the center of the Fenway Park diamond last night by the greatest collection of baseball stars -- past, present and future -- ever assembled in a single setting. Feller to Mays to Garciaparra, a century's time line arcing into a single circle.
The Hall of Famers in suits, which included Hammerin' Hank, the Say Hey Kid, and Yaz, and the All-Stars in full uniform blended into an emotional tableau of applause, hugs, and tears around the golf cart transporting Williams, the 80-year-old Red Sox icon who, as someone observed, is being transformed before our eyes from Teddy Ballgame into Father Baseball.
As Dorchester's Donna Summer was finishing her elegant rendition of the national anthem, four F-14s thundered overhead, seemingly skimming across the tops of the Fenway light stanchions.
On this night, a clear, 67-degree midsummer's delight, the complaints would be few, although there may have been some minor grumbling that Pedro only worked the first two innings. Pedro allowed one base runner to reach, Matt Williams, who got on board on Robbie Alomar's one-out error in the second. Williams, running on a full-count pitch, was erased trying to steal by AL catcher Ivan Rodriguez when Bagwell whiffed, ending Pedro's stint.
The National League scored its only run in the third against Pedro's replacement, David Cone of the Yankees. First-time All- Star Jeromy Burnitz, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger, lined a one-out double to right, and after Jay Bell looked at a third strike for the second out, Larkin of the Reds grounded a single up the middle, Burnitz scoring to make it 2-1. Walker was retired on a comebacker to the mound, ending the inning.
Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who had missed the last nine Sox games with a strained left groin, played three innings. He lined to right against National League starter Curt Schilling in the first, then swung at Randy Johnson's first pitch of the third and lifted a high fly to shallow center, where Sosa of the Cubs gathered it in.
Torre sent Garciaparra out for the fourth, but just before play resumed, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter emerged from the American League dugout and met Garciaparra just in front of second base. The two shook hands in front of second base and embraced, and then with his usual stiff-legged gait, Garciaparra trotted off the field to sustained applause.
The AL gave Pedro a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, as three of the four Cleveland Indians in the starting lineup, plus Iron Cal Ripken, combined to ambush Schilling.
Leadoff man Kenny Lofton, taking advantage of Schilling's tardy arrival at first base, beat out an infield hit to McGwire at first base. Two outs later, Lofton stole second and Manny Ramirez of the Indians drew a full-count walk. Thome lined a 1-and-0 single to center, scoring Lofton with the game's first run, and Ripken hit Schilling's next pitch to right field, scoring Ramirez to make it 2- 0.
The AL scored twice more in the fourth off Cardinals pitcher Kent Bottenfield, who opened by walking Thome and hitting Ripken with a pitch. Texas's Rafael Palmeiro singled home one run, and the fourth run scored when Williams missed Alomar's groundball.
Pedro already was in street clothes when he learned he'd been named MVP. As one fan in the sellout crowd of 34,187 in Fenway Park shouted from the grandstand "This is your house, Pedro," and Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez once again staked his claim on Yawkey Way's most precious property.