Clayton Kershaw makes most of All-Star moment on a night dedicated to Dodgers greats

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the first inning of the All-Star Game.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the first inning of the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In a game celebrating stars past and present, it was the man at the intersection of the two who shined brightest Tuesday night.

From the moment he walked out of the dugout, beginning his warmup for the first All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium since 1980, Clayton Kershaw was met with applause.

When he was introduced during a pregame ceremony while getting loose in the bullpen, a hometown crowd of 52,518 erupted in one of its loudest cheers of the night.


And before he toed the rubber for the first All-Star Game start of his career, taking the field to his usual entrance song of “We Are Young” by Fun, he took a step back and let himself gaze at the surroundings — a rare moment of sentimentality from the 34-year-old pitcher.

Home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and Byron Buxton carry the American League to a 3-2 win over the National League at Dodger Stadium. Stanton, who attended Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, was named the game’s MVP.

“Knowing that I’m not going to get to start an All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium ever again,” Kershaw said, “it was just really cool for me to kind of take that all in at once.”

The American League won baseball’s 92nd All-Star Game, prevailing 3-2 on back-to-back, fourth-inning home runs Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees and Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins hit against Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin.

Kershaw, however, was feted at his home ballpark and treated like the game’s biggest star.

“I can’t say enough good things about Dodger fans, people in L.A. in general, just how much these last few days, how much they wanted me to do this,” said Kershaw, who has spent his entire career with the Dodgers and will be a free agent at the end of the season. “It meant a lot to me too. So that was really cool.”

There were other players, personalities and pulsating recognitions Tuesday night.

Fernando Valenzuela prepares to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Fernando Valenzuela prepares to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the MLB All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

During team introductions, former Dodgers fan favorites Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Albert Pujols were showered with cheers. Representatives from the rival San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros were greeted with boos. And as each of the Dodgers’ other five All-Stars was announced, the ovation crescendoed in raucous celebration.

“It was amazing,” Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts said. “Anytime I can be a part of an All-Star Game, it’s going to be amazing, but especially in your backyard.”

Historic figures were honored, as well.

Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The team’s retiring Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrín was honored with a mid-game video. And the late Jackie Robinson was remembered 75 years after breaking baseball’s color barrier.

Actor Denzel Washington gave a speech memorializing Robinson’s pioneering life. Betts was surrounded on the field before the game by both teams as he led the stadium in wishing a happy birthday to Robinson’s widow, Rachel, who in a happy coincidence turned 100 on Tuesday.

“That tribute there is probably the thing I’ll remember the most,” Betts said. “It was very special for me to be able to be on the mic and say it; it meant a lot.”

But when first pitch finally arrived, all eyes returned to Kershaw, who had never started an All-Star Game in his Hall of Fame-caliber career.

“I’m gonna throw as hard as I can,” Kershaw said in an on-field pregame television interview. “It’s gonna be 91. We’ll see what happens.”

His first pitch indeed clocked at 90.9 mph, Kershaw gave up a leadoff single to Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who swung at the first pitch as he’d promised during his own pregame television interview.

Angels star Shohei Ohtani, left, singles off Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw during the first inning.
Angels star Shohei Ohtani, left, singles off Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw during the first inning of the MLB All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

But then the left-hander picked off Ohtani, the first pickoff in an All-Star Game since 2008. Kershaw struck out baseball’s home run leader, Aaron Judge of the Yankees, one pitch later, sending the crowd into pandemonium again. And he finished his outing by stranding a two-out walk, exiting to one more standing ovation after a scoreless inning.

“I actually had a lot of fun pitching,” Kershaw said. “Usually, I don’t have a lot of fun until we win.”

For a while, it seemed like the NL would not only win, but that Kershaw also would be the pitcher of record.

The All-Star Game offers a nice distraction, but the Dodgers have set the standard of the World Series being the ultimate prize every season.

In the bottom of the first, Betts opened the scoring with an RBI single, driving home Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. after his leadoff double.

AL second baseman Andrés Giménez of Cleveland turned a double play in the next at-bat with a behind-the-back flip, but then St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt made the NL’s lead 2-0 with a home run to left.

In the top of the fourth, however, Gonsolin gave up back-to-back blasts: a 457-foot, game-tying shot to Stanton, the former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High standout who was named most valuable player, then a solo blast from Buxton to left to give the AL a 3-2 lead.

The NL couldn’t rally, going without another hit until the eighth inning en route to its ninth consecutive All-Star Game defeat. Gonsolin took the loss.

Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin delivers for the National League in the fourth inning of the MLB All-Star Game.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Betts left the contest after the top of the third. Trea Turner singled in two at-bats in his first All-Star start, while fellow Dodgers teammate Freddie Freeman grounded out as a pinch-hitter, then smiled at the “Fred-die!” chants serenading him from the crowd.

“We all do this for memories, and these are memories that we’re gonna have forever,” Freeman said. “So having my name chanted at Dodger Stadium in an All-Star Game, I don’t think it can get much better than that.”

But on a night that tied together baseball threads old and new, the most memorable moments belonged to Kershaw — the 15-year veteran, nine-time All-Star and Los Angeles icon who embodied both.

“I don’t know if I have the right words for it right now,” Kershaw said. “But it was such a unique experience for me that I think I’ll look back on it and think, ‘Man, I’m so glad I got to do that.’ I’m really thankful I got that opportunity.”