They turned the 71st All-Star game into a Family Affair on Tuesday night as American and National League players emerged from a center-field gate for pregame introductions with their children in hand, ultimately turning the youngsters over to their mothers, who had been seated along the third-base line at Turner Field.
If the kids soon fell asleep from all of that excitement, they didn’t miss much.
With Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. among eight top players sidelined by injury, there was little punch and pizazz to the AL’s 6-3 victory before a crowd of 51,323.
Derek Jeter, replacing Alex Rodriguez as the AL’s starting shortstop, doubled off Randy Johnson, singled off Kevin Brown and singled again off Al Leiter, driving in two runs and scoring one, to become the first member of the New York Yankees to win the game’s most-valuable-player award, a fact Jeter found “hard to believe,” as did his manager, Joe Torre.
“With all of the history books written by Yankee players, with Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio coming almost every year that they played, it is very hard to believe,” Torre said, “but you couldn’t want a more proud individual or a better player to win the first.”
Of course, the award wasn’t presented until 1962, long afterDiMaggio had retired.
Jeter donated his bat to the Hall of Fame. Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones said he would like to see Jeter give them all away. The Yankee shortstop has killed the Braves at Turner Field in interleague and World Series competition.
“I told Jeter after his third hit tonight that if he played in Atlanta all the time he might hit .500,” Jones said. “I’m glad to see he hits other National League pitchers as well as he does the Braves.”
In what was something of a renewal of the Yankee-Brave competition, Chipper Jones homered and singled twice, teammate Andruw Jones had a run-producing single and Atlanta first baseman Andres Galarraga singled after receiving an uplifting ovation from the crowd when he came on the field with his children--another acknowledgment of his remarkable comeback from cancer.
“There are probably no words to explain how happy and excited I am feeling,” said Galarraga, who sat out the entire 1999 season. “Opening day here in Atlanta was one of the best days of my career, but today is even more special, to be in this group, to be with these players.”
As special as it was for Galarraga and the Braves, the bottom line is that Torre beat Atlanta and NL Manager Bobby Cox again, and is now 6-0 as the Yankee manager in Atlanta, counting only World Series and All-Star games.
This one represented the AL’s fourth consecutive victory, cutting the NL’s overall advantage to 40-30 with one tie.
The Angels and Dodgers enjoyed the festivities, if nothing else.
For the Dodgers, Brown needed 33 pitches to survive the third inning while Gary Sheffield walked and grounded out in two plate appearances.
For the Angels, Troy Glaus grounded out in his only at-bat and Darin Erstad grounded out and reached on an error, being credited with an RBI on his ninth-inning grounder that second baseman Jose Vidro bobbled.
“I could care less about an All-Star RBI,” Erstad said. “I mean, I’m trying to produce there, but if I don’t, I’m not going to slam the bat against the wall like I would during the regular season.”
Erstad, of course, is in the midst of a sensational season, intently focused on his and his team’s performance, and while he said it is always an honor to play in an All-Star game, he also said it was almost as if he never left Anaheim or took his eye off Thursday night’s second-half opener against the Dodgers.
“I was thinking about the Dodgers even before this game started,” he said.
Brown, who will start against the Angels on Friday night, will be trying to put his worst All-Star appearance behind him.
He walked three and gave up a single to Jeter as the AL scored once in the third. The damage would have been worse if Jim Edmonds hadn’t borrowed a reel from his Angel highlight film to make an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track of a Mike Bordick drive to open the inning.
“My control was nonexistent,” Brown said. “I’ve pitched in a lot of hot and humid places, but this was about the worst. I just couldn’t get it together. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was coming out of the bullpen [as the third NL pitcher]. I don’t like that relief stuff. It was neat to have the kids on the field for the introductions, but it ran so close to game time that only the two starting pitchers were ready. It snuck up on the rest of us.”
On this sultry night in Georgia, with lightning cracking behind the center-field bleachers, 16 pitchers did a pretty good job of taking the juice out of the baseball. Only Chipper Jones homered, connecting off James Baldwin to become the 13th All-Star player to homer in his own park--"kind of a dream come true,” Jones said.
The AL led only 3-2 in the ninth when San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman gave up consecutive singles to Ray Durham, Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Lawton, leading to three runs and a 6-2 lead, taking the heart out of an NL threat in the bottom of the ninth that Yankee closer Mariano Rivera held to one run.
Next year’s All-Star game will be played in Seattle, with the industry hoping it won’t be hit with an injury wave of the type that decimated the 2000 rosters.
David Wells, who pitched two scoreless innings as the AL starter, suggested later that maybe baseball should go back to playing two All-Star games in a season, giving injured players a chance to appear in the second.
Two? Most of the players’ own children probably couldn’t even make it through one.
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Glaus grounded to short in the sixth against Darryl Kile of the Cardinals.
Erstad was 0 for 2, a run scoring on his grounder to second in the ninth.
Brown was wild in his one inning, walking three and giving up one run.
Sheffield walked and scored in the fifth, then grounded out in the sixth.