07/11/2003 9:48 PM ET
Lynn's slam still All-Star history
'83 bases-loaded blast off Hammaker never repeated
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
FanFest galleryCHICAGO -- Don't pitch around a batter to get to Fred Lynn.
Even today, at age 51 and dressed comfortably in shorts and sandals during Friday's appearance at the John Hancock All-Star Fan Fest at McCormick Place, Lynn looks as if he could drive an off-speed offering to right or line a fastball into the left-center gap. But when Lynn was playing in his prime, it was the powerful left-hander who usually got the free pass in crucial game-deciding situations, not the other way around.
In the entirety of Lynn's career, from Little Leagues to the professional level, he only can remember two instances where the batter preceding was walked to face him. It happened once while he was in college at USC, and National League manager Whitey Herzog ordered the second time during the 1983 All-Star Game at Comiskey Park.
After Robin Yount was walked by San Francisco staff ace Atlee Hammaker to load the bases, Lynn responded. He deposited a 2-2 slider from the crafty left-hander into the right-field stands for the first grand slam in All-Star Game history. The American League scored seven in the inning and cruised to a 13-3 victory.
Twenty years later, with the Game returning Tuesday night to U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago's South Side, Lynn's bases-loaded blast has held up as the only one in All-Star history.
"It's pretty amazing, especially when you consider that we are talking about 74 years," said Lynn of his rare All-Star accomplishment. "You have to understand that you are facing nothing but the best pitchers in this game.
"Even if you get opportunities with the bases loaded, you are going against someone you don't want to see. There are no fifth starters in the All-Star Game. If you do well here, it's a real feather in your cap."
Lynn didn't need the third-inning blast off of Hammaker to validate his career. Playing from 1974 to 1990 for Boston, California, Baltimore, Detroit and San Diego, Lynn hit .283 with 306 home runs and 1,111 RBIs.
He won four Golden Gloves, was named the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in 1975, captured the batting title in 1979 and was the American League Championship Series MVP in 1982. Lynn earned MVP honors at the 1983 All-Star Game, his last of nine straight appearances.
As Lynn reached first base after launching Hammaker's slider, he pumped his fist in the air. It wasn't so much the grand slam, but the satisfaction that the American League was finally going to win an All-Star Game.
"I hadn't won a single All-Star Game in eight tries up until that point," Lynn said, shaking his head with a smile. "That grand slam put us up 7-1, and I knew we wouldn't blow that lead. I didn't care that they walked Robin to get to me. I wanted to win.
"The All-Star Game was serious business in those days. It was not an exhibition in the strictest sense. The National League didn't like us and we didn't like them. With Interleague and guys changing leagues, it's lost some of its intensity in the present day. But not then."
It was an especially poignant moment for Lynn because of the Game's location. Lynn was born in Chicago and still has plenty of relatives living on the Northwest side of Chicago. Most of them are Cubs' fans, by Lynn's own admission.
"I spent a lot of summers here, watching (Ernie) Banks, (Ron) Santo and (Billy) Williams," Lynn said. "It's great memories coming back here 20 years later.
"A lot of people know what happened in the All-Star Game and appreciate the history. They are great fans in Chicago."
Lynn lives in San Diego, is married and the father of two married adult children. He is an independent contractor, working for the Boston Red Sox by hosting a skybox for clientele or for Major League Baseball by speaking or playing golf on a client basis.
For two hours Friday, Lynn reacquainted himself with Chicago fans -- signing autographs, posing for pictures and exchanging polite conversation. Many of the dads in line remembered his All-Star heroics and his great career, but some of the kids were simply happy to be getting the autograph. They might appreciate Lynn's signature more as they learn about his past.
There was no friendship between Lynn and Hammaker prior to the memorable 1983 at-bat. Lynn remembers seeing Hammaker in Spring Training that year and his nasty stuff in Arizona. But on that particular night, Hammaker's slider caught too much of the plate.
The duo ended up as teammates with San Diego in 1990, Lynn's last season. They are forever linked together, similar to Ralph Branca and Bobby Thompson, but on a lesser level.
"We turned him around good that night," said Lynn of Hammaker, who allowed seven runs on six hits in two-thirds of an inning in relief. "He took some good ribbing for it in 1990. He heard about it from the other guys on the team -- I didn't need to say anything.
"I don't think his wife was very happy with me," added Lynn with a laugh. "That's the way it goes in sports."
The grand slam came in the 50th anniversary of the first All-Star Game, also played at Comiskey Park. Babe Ruth hit a home run in the first game, in almost the same exact spot as Lynn's.
"But I always say that mine went a little further," said Lynn with a wry smile.
In honor of the grand slam, Lynn will throw out the first pitch prior to Monday's CENTURY 21(r) Home Run Derby. Lynn does not plan to participate in the RadioShack Legends and Celebrity Softball Game Sunday night.
If he did, the opposing manager would know from past experience that it's better to challenge the hitter in front of Lynn rather than walk him and anger the perennial All-Star. There was the 1983 grand slam as proof and equally solid results during the first occasion in college.
"Texas did it to me in the College World Series," Lynn said. "I hit a three-run home run after the intentional walk.
"It didn't work either time. To be honest, I didn't like that strategy very much."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.