2001 All-Star Game
After four consecutive years of American League victories, the National League returned to the role of underdog and was looking for a win. The 2001 script had been written, but the star of this show was Cal Ripken, Jr. The Iron Man had announced his impending retirement earlier in the season and grateful baseball fans thanked him over and over with honors in every ballpark that he played in.
The 2001 Midsummer Classic took on a whole new identity as Cal took the field at third base for his final All-Star appearance. Everyone in attendance and watching at home knew history was in the making. Class-act Alex Rodriguez suggested Ripken move over to his customary shortstop position and Cal reluctantly agreed.
The memories had only just begun for Ripken who came to the plate during the third inning with the theme from The Natural being played over Safeco Fields' sound system. The fans gave Cal one of the longest standing ovations ever bestowed on an All-Star player and he tipped his batting helmet in appreciation. Stepping into the batters box he swung amid a sea of flashbulbs and hit the first pitch he saw from Chan Ho Park over the left field wall.
The final chapter in his story was written before the sixth inning by Commissioner Bud Selig who presented Ripken and Tony Gwynn, who was also retiring after the season, with the Commissioners' Historic Achievement Award. The award, which was created in 1998, is presented at the commissioner's discretion to any player whose body of work is in itself historical or any player who sets a record of historical significance.
In between tributes a game was also taking place. Leading only 3-2 after a fifth-inning RBI single, the American League put the game away with three runs in the ninth. With the victory, the junior circuit cut its overall deficit to 40-30-1. Yankee boss Joe Torre joined Tony La Russa and Tommy Lasorda as the only managers to win their first three All-Star Games.