2002 All-Star Game
The 2002 All-Star Game will always be remembered for all of the wrong reasons. It started out as one of the most celebrated, but ended unexpectedly as one of the most disappointing. Baseball had fallen on hard times as alleged steroid abuse and an impending strike over revenue sharing threatened to distance even more fans from the game. Even worse, baseball had lost one of its greatest players the week before as The Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams died at the age of 83.
The opening ceremonies were spectacular as baseball highlighted thirty of its greatest moments and featured several of its greatest living participants. Never before had such an elite gathering of new and old talent been brought together on the same field at the same time. Legends of the game including Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays shared the spotlight with future Hall of Famers like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Barry Bonds. The stage was set for a wonderful exhibition as baseball's best took the field.
The game itself had everything, great pitching, excellent fielding, powerful hitting and phenomenal response from the fans. However it finished amid a sea of boos in a 7-7 tie after eleven innings when both teams ran out of pitchers. American League manager Joe Torre and National League skipper Bob Brenly had used all nineteen hurlers in an effort to get everyone in the game. Their efforts to be accommodating would backfire and set a precedent for future changes. Even with all of the controversy, the 2002 Midsummer Classic offered some great moments.
With two outs in the first, Barry Bonds launched a long drive to deep right-center field. Torii Hunter glided into the gap, timed his leap and reached far over the fence (his elbow was well above the eight-foot wall) to pull the ball back into the park. Bonds, who had five-hundred ninety-four career home runs, and the fans could hardly believe that he'd been robbed of another shot. As Hunter came jogging off the field, Bonds playfully intercepted the Gold Glove winner in the middle of the field, hoisted the Twins star with two hands and put him over his shoulder.
Lance Berkman, leading the majors with twenty-nine home runs and eighty-one runs batted in, hit a two-out, two-run single off Kazuhiro Sasaki in the seventh inning that rallied the National League to a 7-6 lead. The Houston outfielder delivered after Byung-Hyun Kim blew a lead in the top half. But Omar Vizquel, making a rare appearance at second base because the American League had five shortstops on its roster, made it seven-all with a RBI triple in the eighth off Giants closer Robb Nen.
Then it happened. After two extra innings the game was called at a tie. Commissioner Bud Selig was left with little options and made the ultimate decision to call the game. It was the first tie in All-Star play since a game in 1961 was stopped by rain. Even worse, there was no Most Valuable Player picked. Bad timing, too, since the trophy was renamed to honor Ted Williams, the Hall of Famer who died July 5. While the sport's most memorable moments were shown earlier on the board, baseball also paused to remember St. Louis pitcher Darryl Kile and Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck. Kile's No. 57 jersey hung in the National League dugout and Buck's widow was in attendance.
The end result left intact the American League's five-game winning streak. The National League led the overall series 40-31 and now had two ties. The game took three hours twenty-nine minutes. Five other All-Star games had lasted longer than eleven innings, the most recent being the National League's 2-0 win in thirteen innings in 1987. Commissioner Bud Selig stated that, "This will never happen again."