This year’s All-Star Game retrospective won’t be quite as exhaustive as some in the past have been. By the time S. was home from a meeting and the girls were in bed, it was the top of the third. Fortunately, it was still 0-0 so with the exception of Robinson Cano getting plunked, I saw just about all the best game action.
Obviously the story of the game was Mariano Rivera’s final ASG appearance. I don’t like Yankees. At all. I’ve had grudging respect for the home grown members of their most recent dynastic run – Jeter, Pettite, Williams, Posada – but I was always quick to hate in those guys as well. But Mo is something else entirely.
I’ll admit it took awhile with him, but he’s become the only true Yankee I’ve ever liked, or even loved1. The greatest relief pitcher in MLB history, a truly fantastic man aside from baseball, and a man who despite his fame and dignity, never took himself too seriously. I loved how he good-naturedly tipped his cap and waved to the massive cheers he got in Boston on Opening Day 2005 as the Red Sox fans mocked cheered him for blowing the save in Game Four of the previous fall’s ALCS. Or his wonderful reaction to his teammates <a href=’http://www.thegreedypinstripes.com/2013/05/royals-have-little-fun-with-mariano.html’>chalking an outline of his body</a> on the warning track in Kansas City this year, a season after his career nearly ended a year early there. And then the stories of how he’s handled his retirement tour, taking extra time to thank the folks who support players in each park. I’m sure he’s not perfect and has pissed someone off over the years, or has misbehaved at some point, but from what we see of him, he sure seems to genuinely understand how to put the game in its proper perspective.
Thus it was a truly fantastic moment when he entered the field Tuesday night, and the other All Stars let him walk out alone and soak up the hometown adulation. Baseball especially seems to revel in these valedictory moments. Last year Chipper Jones received a lot of love as he wound down his career with a final ASG appearance. But Mo’s was extra special since it came in the city he’s spent his entire big league career in. Even for someone as cynical about sports as I am can’t help but be moved by the emotion of moments like Mo’s last night.
Mo’s entrance came at the perfect time, to rescue the game from the incredibly awkward Neil Diamond performance of “Sweet Caroline.” There was the collective “What?!?” followed by noticeable boos as the New York crowd let baseball know they didn’t appreciate a Boston tradition being thrust upon their All-Star Game. There was the tepid reactions by the players in both dugouts. And Neil doesn’t exactly have the same chops he used to have, making it extra uncomfortable. But, it was “Sweet Caroline,” and even the hard-ass New York crowd softened and couldn’t help but sing along by the second chorus.
Worth noting unless something unbelievably strange happens, there will never be another Major League All-Star older than me. Sigh.
Second-best moment of the night was Prince Fielder’s triple in the ninth. Good times. Raise your hand if you thought, two years ago, Fielder would still be raking and playing terrific ball while Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton were sucking.
How about the Royals sending three players to the All-Star Game? Shame it’s not because the team had a hot first half and is, like Pittsburgh, playing some of the best baseball in the league and thinking about who they can add to make a pennant run. But it was still cool to see Holland, Perez, and Gordon all enter the game together in the seventh, and Perez provide an insurance run in the eighth. The great sadness, of course, was Sal’s hit was the first by a Royal in the ASG since Bo Jackson’s MVP performance in 1989, which was before Sal was born. Trust the process!
Holland wasn’t sharp, but still got shafted when Jim Leland decided to channel his buddy Tony LaRussa and get pitcher-changing happy in the seventh.
When we were kids, it was always fun to see which players would don white shoes for the All-Star Game. Looking at shoe styles now, and all the neon colors that were shown off last night, it seems awfully quant that we were excited when Frank White would wear white Nikes and we wondered why the Royals didn’t wear white shoes all the time. And I dug Jose Fernandez’s Day-Glo orange glove.
Speaking of Fernandez, All-Star games are traditionally dominated by established stars. In general that’s still the case, but how about two 20 year olds and two 21 year olds highlighting a fantastic crop of young players who made appearances last night? Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado are going to be playing in this game for a long, long time.
Finally, <a href=’http://dsnotebook.me/blog/2013/7/9/sports-notes’>it wasn’t that long ago</a> when I said the Royals might re-earn my interest if they closed out the first half strong and didn’t do something dumb like lose four of six. Then they lost their final five games before the break and are closer to fourth place than second. Naturally.
- Rickey Henderson was not a true Yankee. ↩