Today marked the end of the official All-Star Game festivities, with the National League capping an exciting couple of days off with an 8-0 rout of the American League squad. Last night, Prince Fielder dominated the competition in the Home Run Derby, winning the event for the second time in his young career. Needle Ball is all about the Mariners, however, and since the only Mariner that made the team this year didn’t play (Felix Hernandez), let’s take a look back at All-Star Games in Seattle history.
While Prince Fielder further solidified himself as one of the premier home run hitters in the game, there is work to do before he becomes number one. Having won the competition for the second time, he became only the second hitter to be crowned more than once. The first to do it? None other than Ken Griffey, Jr., who has won the derby three times. Griffey won in 1994, 1998 and 1999. Sorry, Prince. You’re not the king just yet.
The National League won 8-0 with Melky Cabrera earning MVP honors. While his night was impressive, hitting the only home run of the contest, and while Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain and Buster Posey all contributed, the Giants’ presence may only be matched by one other team: the 2001 Mariners.
A record eight Mariners played in the 2001 Midsummer Classic, which was conveniently held at Safeco Field. Freddy Garcia got the start and picked up the win. Ichiro got a hit. Bret Boone, John Olerud and Edgar Martinez all started. Jeff Nelson pitched the seventh without giving up a hit. Mike Cameron came off the bench with a hit. To cap off an amazing night in Seattle, Kazuhiro Sasaki earned the save. Eight Mariners played. The win went to a Mariner. The save went to a Mariner. The All-Star Game might as well have been win #117 for the record-setting Mariner team of 2001.
Even the sendoff, if you will, of one of the game’s greats was more moving in Safeco. Tonight, Chipper Jones played in what would be his last All-Star game before retiring, and he received a well-deserved ovation as he approached the place. He dribbled a grounder just past a hustling Ian Kinsler and reached first base to the delight of baseball fans around the world. 2001 was better, though.
Cal Ripken, Jr. was in the same situation as Jones – elected to yet another All-Star game in his final year. Ripken, who had moved over to third base, took the field and expected shortstop Alex Rodriguez to join him, but what happened next would become one of the most touching moments in All-Star Game history. Rodriguez, who had understandably fallen out of favor with Seattle fans, convinced Ripken to play shortstop, his customary position, and Rodriguez took third base.
Ripken’s night wasn’t over, however. In his first at-bat, the Iron Man took the first pitch he saw from Chan Ho Park and sailed it over the fence in left field (in Safeco, mind you). Ripken went out on the highest note possible, and he did so in Safeco Field.
I guess looking back on fond moments in Mariner and All-Star Game history may be the way that I cope with the less-than-fond moments created in the first half of the Mariners’ season and the lack of Mariner contribution to this year’s game (and the ridiculous amount of ex-Mariners that made the team – R.A. Dickey, David Ortiz, Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera, Adrian Beltre and even Bryan LaHair). I don’t want to be relegated to dwelling on the past in order to feel good about the Mariners, so here’s hoping The Plan starts taking shape sooner rather than later.