Column: Baseball’s stars come out to shine in heartfelt showcase at Dodger Stadium

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw walks off the field after pitching through the first inning.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw walks off the field after pitching through the first inning for the National League in the MLB All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

On the night baseball royalty returned to Los Angeles, the skies above Chavez Ravine opened and showered Dodger Stadium with stars.

In Major League Baseball’s first All-Star Game at the venerable park in 42 years Tuesday, memories shined, greatness glowed and glitter gloriously spread across the green.

First, there was Denzel Washington, who stood behind home plate during pregame ceremonies wearing a No. 42 Dodgers jersey and honoring the incomparable Jackie Robinson.


“He changed the game of baseball and so much more,” said Washington, later adding, “Beyond the field, Jackie Robinson challenged us to be better versions of ourselves.”

On a night many of the greatest Dodgers ever are recognized and celebrated, Clayton Kershaw makes the most of his long-awaited All-Star Game start.

July 19, 2022

The microphone was then taken by the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts, who led both teams and the sellout crowd of 52,518 in celebrating the 100th birthday of Robinson’s wife.

“Happy birthday, Rachel!” everyone shouted in possibly the loudest party greeting ever.

Next up, Fernando Valenzuela, perfectly throwing out the first pitch in a community that he brought together four decades ago, the most impactful Los Angeles Dodger hurling a strike that elicited a roar evoking memories of Fernandomania.

Then, finally, the biggest current star took over the house — Clayton Kershaw stepping to the mound to an ovation that is still echoing down Vin Scully Avenue.

Making his first All-Star start in his ninth All-Star appearance amid what could be his final Dodgers season, the legend pitched only one inning, but what an inning, setting the tone for an emotional night that ended with the American League’s 3-2 victory.

“Hopefully I don’t screw it up too bad,” Kershaw said beforehand, and he didn’t.

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts leads the players and crowd in wishing Rachel Robinson a happy 100th birthday.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts leads the players and crowd in wishing Rachel Robinson a happy 100th birthday before the start of the MLB All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

He gave up a broken-bat single on the first pitch to the leadoff-hitting Shohei Ohtani, who actually announced to the crowd he was swinging on that first pitch. But Ohtani’s victory didn’t last long.

After three pitches to the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge, Kershaw nimbly picked Ohtani off first base, leaving the Angels star sprawled out on the dirt, frozen in frustration.

Kershaw then struck out Judge on a wild swing, walked the Boston Red Sox’s Rafael Devers, then retired the Toronto Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on a fielder’s choice grounder to end the inning without allowing a run.

Kershaw left the mound to another loud ovation, his work ended after 17 pitches he will never forget.

“I tried to take a minute at the beginning to take it all in and look around … which I usually never do,” he said. “And I think the moment itself, being here at Dodger Stadium, a place where I’ve been now for 15 years, and to get to do something like this with the best in the world, is really fun, and it was also really personal for me and my family, everybody.”

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.

July 19, 2022

Kershaw said that for maybe the first time in his career, he appreciated the crowd, the stadium, the moment.


“Right before the inning … I just stepped on the back of the mound for a second and looked around and that was cool,” he said. “I think it kind of calmed everything down for me, and then I had a lot of fun.”

In all, it was a perfect start to an almost perfect night that contained monstrous homers, dizzying pitching and a behind-the-back toss to start a double play by the Cleveland Guardians’ Andrés Giménez.

Even by Hollywood’s high standards, a midsummer classic indeed.

“It was just a great time,” Betts said. “L.A. came and showed out.”

The real MVP truly may have been Dodger fans, who bared their souls for a national television audience during the pregame introductions.

Lakers great and Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson greets American League manager Dusty Baker.
Lakers great and Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson, center, greets American League manager Dusty Baker, right, and and coach Gary Pettis before the MLB All-Star at Dodger Stadium.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

In a powerful display of a painful memory, they rained boos down upon anyone with a Houston Astros uniform.

Even though only one of the four Astros introduced was part of the 2017 sign-stealing scandal that cost the Dodgers the World Series championship — pitcher Justin Verlander — all four Astros felt the wrath with animosity so strong, one couldn’t even hear them being introduced. Later in the game, the fans even booed the introductions of the Astros anonymous coaching staff.


Beforehand, Astros manager Dusty Baker — who was booed even though he’s a former Dodger — basically pleaded for the fans to show some restraint.

“If they boo my players, I would prefer that this beautiful town of L.A. don’t and kind of forget the past because most of the players that are here weren’t even there during the scandal,” Baker said. “And I just wonder about the forgiveness of … mankind … so hopefully, I hope that they don’t boo them because it doesn’t do any good.”

Before Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, Dodgers’ Mookie Betts promoted the need for more Black fans and led the 100th birthday cheer for Rachel Robinson.

July 19, 2022

Sorry, Dusty. Fans here will never forget. Nor should they.

The same fans gave rousing ovations to former Dodgers Corey Seager of the Texas Rangers and Joc Pederson of the San Francisco Giants while continuing their habit of booing former Dodger Manny Machado, who dogged it when he played here and now plays for the San Diego Padres.

Then there was the pitcher whose work was greeted with only ominous silence. That would be the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin, who was the game’s losing pitcher after being rocked for consecutive home runs in the fourth inning by the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton — the game’s MVP — and the Minnesota Twins’ Byron Buxton.

Gonsolin, who allowed three runs in his only inning, was the surprise success of the first half of the season with an 11-0 record. In Tuesday’s accompanying silence was surely the fear that he is falling back to earth.

Other Dodgers had better luck, beginning with Betts, who made a statement even before the pregame ceremonies, as he took batting practice wearing a T-shirt that read, “We need more Black people at the stadium.”

The clouds glow as the sun sets at Dodger Stadium during the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The soft-spoken Betts said he’s ready to tackle more social activism.

“I’ve grown and matured and I’m in a different stage, and I think I can take on that responsibility,” he said.

Betts then spoke with his bat, knocking in the Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. with a single in the first inning.

Trea Turner, the Dodgers shortstop, also started and singled in the first inning. Freddie Freeman later grounded out in the third amid fervent chants of “Fred-die, Fred-die!” The sixth Dodgers representative, pitcher Tyler Anderson, did not play.

The Angels, meanwhile, had just one All-Star in Ohtani after Mike Trout dropped out of the game with a back injury.

Just as Kershaw helped start the magic, he also put a punctuation mark on it with a sweet postgame encounter in the interview room.

Blake Grice, a 10-year-old aspiring reporter, approached Kershaw with the story of how his late grandfather always wanted to meet him.


“My grandpa loved you … so this moment is important to me because I’m meeting you for him,” Blake said.

“Come here, dude, great to meet you,” Kershaw said.

The big pitcher moved in for a hug, wrapping the slight and tearful boy in his giant arms.

“That took a lot of courage, man,” Kershaw said. “That was awesome.”

Starry, starry night.