As next Tuesday's All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium approaches, we're moving through the Stew's Most Memorable Memory Tournament: All-Star Edition. (Click on the link for winners of the previous matchups.)
Continuing the action, here's two faceoffs from the Leonard Coleman Regional. Cast your votes below each matchup. Polling for both closes around 12 p.m. CT on Thursday. If you're trying to follow along, don't worry. We'll be unveiling an updated bracket as soon as all 32 of our All-Star moments are revealed.
Leonard Coleman Regional3. A-Rod defers to Cal at short, Cal wins MVP
When: July 10, 2001
Where: Safeco Field, Seattle
What happened?: Thanks to the fan vote, Cal Ripken was scheduled to start at third in this one. But everyone suspected that wasn't going to happen and when Alex Rodriguez started playfully shooing Cal toward short — perhaps preparing for his career with the Yankees — a memorable All-Star moment was born. A-Rod ultimately convinced Ripken to trade with him, allowing the great Oriole one more chance to play his old position. "It was an opportunity to let everybody reminisce about what a great career he had as a shortstop," Rodriguez said at the time.
Ripken responded by hitting a home run off a
grooved first pitch from Chan Ho Park over the left field wall in the third inning. No surprise, either ... Cal won the MVP award in his last All-Star Game, which also featured the moment of Tommy Lasorda being bowled over by Vladimir Guerrero's broken bat.
"That's the kind of magic that Cal brings to the field," NL starting pitcher Randy Johnson said. "That's what he has brought to the field. It would have been very fitting for it to be a 1-0 game, with Cal getting the game-winner." (Seattle P-I)
-- Vs. --6. Mays' 24th and final All-Star Game
When: July 24, 1973
Where: Royals Stadium, Kansas City
What happened?: The 40th anniversary of the All-Star game was the last hurrah for a player who had played in over half the years the event was in existence. In 24 All-Star appearances, Mays hit .307 with 23 hits and three homers. He won two All-Star MVPs, an award that didn't exist for his first 10 All-Star appearances. Mays shares the honor of playing in the most All-Star games (24) with Stan Musial and Hank Aaron. (Cal Ripken ranks next with 19 All-Star berths while Ivan Rodriguez is the current active leader with 14.)
"They invented the All-Star game for Willie Mays." — Ted Williams (Baseball-Almanac)
UPDATE: A-Rod/Cal advance with 74 percent of the vote.
Leonard Coleman Regional
When: July 15, 2003
Where: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago
What happened?: As Bud Selig would like us to remember, this homer counted. Because of the All-Star tie debacle in Milwaukee the previous year, Selig decided to award homefield advantage to the winner of the All-Star Game and Hank Blalock made himself one of the most popular players in AL clubhouses that year by smashing a pinch-hit home run off the Dodgers Eric Gagne in the eighth inning to give the AL a 7-6 victory over the NL. "Certainly, our guys in the clubhouse are going to be in the World Series, so I'm glad that I could help them out," Blalock said.
What made the feat more impressive was that it came in the middle of Gagne's record 84-straight save streak. It was also the first pinch-hit home run in an All-Star game since 1995.
"I'm sure whoever reaches the World Series in a Game 7 or something like that will send him a 12-pack of something," said Jason Giambi, who was part of a Yankee team that thanked Blalock by losing Game 1 of the '03 World Series at Yankee Stadium. (SI.com)
When: July 9, 1946
Where: Fenway Park, Boston
What happened?: For the first time since World War II ended, the All-Star Game was back at full strength. According to players on the scene, it was the most festive atmosphere they could ever remember for an All-Star Game. Playing in front of his home fans, Ted Williams went 4-for-4 with five RBI.
The most memorable memory came, however, when Williams slugged his second homer of the day, a ninth-inning blast off Rip Sewell, who was famous for his junk "eephus" pitch.
From Sewell's obituary in the NY Times: "Sewell wasn't expected to pitch because of an elbow injury, but with the American League leading by 9-0, the National League's manager, Charlie Grimm, asked the right-hander to warm up 'and throw that blooper pitch and see if you can wake up this crowd.'
"With two runners on and Williams shaking his head in a 'don't do it' appeal and Sewell nodding to signal, 'Yes, I am.' Sewell worked the count to two balls and one strike with two bloopers and a fastball. Williams then hit what Sewell described as a 'Sunday Super Dooper Blooper' into the right-field bullpen."
It is said to be the only homer ever hit off Sewell's eephus.
UPDATE: Ted moves on with 84 percent of the vote.
- Ted Williams
- Cal Ripken