Let’s be real, All-Star Games across all sports usually fail to live up to the hype. And by usually fail to live up to the hype I mean they pretty much suck to watch. The concept itself is amazing, gathering the greatest players from the entire sport to face-off in a game pinning the best against the best, but when you’re watching these games it hardly feels like it. And that’s cause 99% of the players don’t give a shit to play hard. No one makes tackles in the Pro Bowl. NHL All-Star Games look like a charity event. And don’t get me started on the NBA All-Star Game where EVERY bucket is either an uncontested dunk or three-pointer. It’s fun watching some crazy slams at the beginning, but after the fifth in the first minute it gets hollow real quick.
There’s no doubt in my mind that baseball has the best All-Star Game. It used to be even better, when the winner of the game would be the league that got home-field advantage in the World Series. That was a bit of a bonkers rule, and if I was a player or GM I’d think it’s the dumbest thing ever to put such high stakes on an exhibition game. But as a fan I thought this was amazing because it made MLB’s All-Star Game unique from the other sports because then it actually meant something. This incentive made it even more important for guys to give a damn, though I can’t get too mad that Rob Manfred removed this rule prior to the 2017 Midsummer Classic. The advantage didn’t really make sense and Manfred’s done far worse during his reign as commish.
This year’s MLB All-Star Game takes place next week and will be hosted by the Colorado Rockies in Denver. That in itself makes this midsummer classic one to watch because you just know the ball’s gonna be flying out of Coors Field. Especially in the Home Run Derby, where eight of the game’s best ball mashers are gonna be sending baseballs that won’t be stored in a humidor into orbit.
— Nick Reid (@Nick1ausReid) July 9, 2021
This edition of the Friday Five counts down the best moments in MLB All-Star Game history. Some obvious ones I left out for that reason, like when Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the game’s history and when the ASG color barrier was broken. I’m also not including those because I’d bet the house that footage of that doesn’t exist on the internet. There’s been some pretty great All-Star moments across the decades, but we still haven’t gotten what will undoubtedly go down as the best moment in ASG history: a walk-off home run. You best believe that’ll be #1 whenever it happens. Maybe we’ll get it this year.
#5: Prince Fielder legs out a triple – 2013
There’s no doubt in my mind that Prince Fielder is one of the faces of his generation of ballplayers. Prince was a dude that absolutely mashed baseballs, just like his father Cecil, and had a larger-than-life presence on the diamond with a fun personality. This moment right here in the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field only added to an already highlight-laden career and is definitely one of my favourite plays from an All-Star game I’ve watched. I remember watching the game with my friends as eighth-graders and we all lost our shit when we saw Fielder slide into third, his batting helmet replaced with a look on his face that showed he was as stunned as the rest of us. Even though the triple was pretty meaningless given the game context it didn’t matter because the reaction he received from fellow players and the crowd in Queens made this such a good moment.
You look at Prince Fielder and think he’s just a tubby guy who hits dingers, but in fact he’s a tubby guy who hit dingers AND could turn on the jets when he wanted. It’s actually kinda crazy that Prince had these wheels with his frame. This just shows you that baseball players ARE indeed athletes.
#4: Torii Hunter steals one away from Barry Bonds – 2002
I wish I could’ve been alive for Barry Bonds’ reign. Even though his career has been marred from the Steroid Era I couldn’t imagine what it would’ve been like watching that guy hit bombs on a nightly basis. Some of the Bonds stats I come across are truly mind-blowing. He was such a threat at the plate that teams would willingly give up a run just so they wouldn’t have to face him.
That’s one of the reasons why I like this highlight so much. Here we have Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader*, connecting on a ball in the All-Star Game that I bet every fan in Miller Park immediately thought was gonna be a homer. Why wouldn’t it be? But then Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter said fuck that, he doesn’t need any more homers, and got up there and made a great leaping grab above the wall to take one away. Just look how far back his arm went beyond the top of the wall to make that snag around the 0:32 mark. Hunter was a class act, and boasted one of the league’s cleanest autographs, and the goofy smile on his face as he’s running in after the play says it all. Barry picks him up at the end which also makes this moment even better and looking back on it I feel like the two shared a conversation that sounded similar to the one MJ and Larry Bird had after the ’98 Finals.
#3: Hank Blalock hits the most Clutch homer in ASG history – 2003
You might not know who Hank Blalock is, and that’s totally fine. I only know him because I’ve played an insane amount of MLB Powerpros 2008 in my lifetime. Blalock had some good seasons as his two All-Star appearances would indicate, but one of the biggest plays of his career came in the midsummer exhibition game in ’03. Pinch-hitting in the 8th inning, Blalock took the lead with a two-run BOMB that caused the home crowd in Chicago to go apeshit. Such a clutch homer that was pumped into deep right off one of the sweetest cracks of the bat you’ll ever hear. Blalock’s nuke gave the AL squad the lead which they held onto the rest of the way.
Keep in mind the context at the time that Blalock hit that homer. On the mound was Eric Gagné, the LA Dodgers closer who won the NL Cy Young award that year, which is NEVER awarded to relief pitchers and shows you just how unhittable he was. And the All-Star Game the year before this one ended in a tie, which was an absolute shitshow and definitely not something MLB wanted for a second year in a row. Could you imagine if they had Twitter at the time of that ’02 ASG? It would have been one of the app’s craziest nights ever.
#2: Pete Rose Goes Pamplona on Ray Fosse – 1970
This clip doesn’t need any words behind it. If someone first started watching Major League Baseball within the last few years, when homeplate collisions have practically become extinct, they’d probably lose it seeing Pete Rose light up the catcher in the ’70 ASG like a gotdamn Chrismas tree. Poor Ray Fosse’s knee imploded and he wasn’t the same player ever afterwards.
Say what you want about Rose’s career, but you’ll have a hard time finding many ballplayers who were as electric as he was. The all-time hit king. Charlie hustle. Rose went balls to the wall on this play because even though it was an exhibition game, he was the tying run. This guy played the game every night like he’d just finished watching a Fast & Furious marathon.
#1: Pedro Martinez Mows ’em down in front of the home crowd – 1999
I think that if I could choose any All-Star Game to attend it’d be this one. You already know that I’m a big fan of Fenway Park, and I feel like this has to be one of the best nights in the stadium’s history. It started with Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams, who was in the bottom of the ninth in his own right, throwing out the first pitch and getting celebrated like the king that he was. That right there makes this Midsummer Classic one of the best of all-time.
But if the Red Sox faithful weren’t satisfied enough with that, their ace Pedro Martinez trots out to the mound minutes later and has the most dominant ASG performance ever for a pitcher since Carl Hubbell in ’34. El Grande goes out there in front of his home crowd and goes six-up six-down, striking out the first four batters that he faced and then finishing his outing with a strike ’em out throw ’em out to end the second inning. Just look at him absolutely mow down the best players of the senior circuit, including some of the game’s best home run hitters in Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Pedro was named the MVP of the ’99 ASG and he deserved it, putting on a show in front of a packed house including a ton of his home fans. Imagine how great it’d be to be apart of that crowd while one of the best pitchers ever retired All-Stars like they were little leaguers.