Intended as a one-time event in 1933, the Major League Baseball All-Star game has evolved into one of the hallmarks of summer. Known as the Midsummer Classic, the game annually brings together the best players in baseball to settle bragging rights between the American and National leagues.
While only an exhibition, the All-Star game has witnessed countless great performances and some of the most memorable moments in baseball history.
As the 2012 All-Star game approaches, here's a take on the top 10 key moments in the history of the Midsummer Classic:
First All-Star Game, 1933: The tradition dates back to 1933, when more than 49,000 people attended "The Game of the Century" at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Babe Ruth, at age 38, hit the first All-Star Game HR with a 2-run blast in the third inning, and the AL held on for a 4-2 win.
Five Strikeouts, 1934: The second All-Star game witnessed one of the greatest feats in baseball history. NL starter Carl Hubbell struck out -- in consecutive order -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.
Wartime, 1945: Most years there's one All-Star game played in the middle of the season, and there have even been a few years (1959-1962) when two games were held. But there's only been one year without an All-Star game since 1933. Baseball persisted through World War II, despite depleted rosters, but the All-Star game was cancelled in 1945 due to travel restrictions.
Walk-off HR, 1964: In one of the most dramatic All-Star games, the NL trailed 4-3 heading to the bottom of the 9th. Facing Dick Radatz, Willie Mays started the rally with a walk and a steal, and scored on a single to tie the game. After an intentional walk, and with two outs, the Phillies' Johnny Callison blasted a 3-run, walk-off HR to right. There hasn't been another All-Star walk-off HR since.
All-Star Hustle, 1970: In the bottom of the 12th inning, the game tied at 4-4, Pete Rose attempted to score from second base on a single. The throw home beat Rose to the plate, but he barreled into catcher Ray Fosse, the ball popped loose, and the NL won the game. Love him or hate him, this play by "Charlie Hustle" exemplified how important the game used to be to the players.
Grand Slam, 1983: Through 50 years of All-Star games, none of the baseball greats had ever hit a grand slam. Fred Lynn finally ended that streak, connecting for a bases-loaded HR off of Atlee Hammaker, and the AL went on to a 13-3 romp.
Home Run Derby, 1985: Added to the All-Star game festivities in 1985, the Home Run Derby is no longer a sideshow and has become a highly anticipated event in its own right. Dave Parker won the initial derby in the Metrodome.
The Big Unit, 1993: The Phillies' John Kruk stepped in to face the hard-throwing, 6-10 lefty Randy Johnson -- one of the most intimidating pitchers in history -- only to watch a first-pitch fastball sail over his head. With a smile on his face, Kruk bailed out of the batter's box on every pitch that followed, gladly accepting a strikeout and retreating to the safety of the dugout. The moment lives on as one of the most humorous All-Star game highlights.
The Tie, 2002: It was an exciting game, but 2002 will be remembered as a black eye for the All-Star game. With the score tied 7-7 after 11 innings, with both teams having run through their expanded 30-man rosters, commissioner Bud Selig did the unthinkable -- he ended the game. The only other tie in All-Star game history -- the second 1961 All-Star Game -- was ended after the 9th inning due to rain.
World Series Tie-in, 2003: As a reaction to the tie in 2002, and to address related concerns about trends in how the All-Star game was played and managed, baseball instituted a new twist -- the league that wins the Midsummer Classic is awarded home-field advantage in that season's World Series. The AL rallied to win the 2003 game; the controversial rule is still in effect today.
KW Rosenfeld is a lifelong baseball fan who visited every major league ballpark in the summer of 1991. He has fond memories of attending the 1996 Home Run Derby at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.