NEW YORK -- When I walked into Baltimore's Memorial Stadium on the humid afternoon of July 8, 1958, little did I know this would be the beginning of an All-Star Game journey that would endure for 50 years.

And hopefully more.

As I prepare for tonight's final All-Star tribute to the shrine that is Yankee Stadium, the memory keeps racing back to that lasting impression of 1958.

Memorial Stadium, the stately edifice on 33rd Street, was a victim of the wrecking ball several years ago. And many of the All-Stars who played in the American League's 4-3 victory that afternoon are no longer with us.

But when people ask me to name my most memorable All-Star Game it's difficult to find one that had a more lasting impact. It's like your first girlfriend, your first car -- you just can't erase those memories.

Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who'll skipper the AL tonight, made a haunting comment Monday that's apropos for any year.

"All I can say is something will happen tomorrow night that people will talk about for a long time," he said, admitting he had no idea what it would be.

How true.

The 1958 game was the first major baseball event I covered as a young, very green reporter. I thought my story was superb but, when I think back, terrible better describes it.

Richard Nixon, vice president at the time who told us how he always wanted to be a sportswriter, threw out the first pitch.

I remember asking Casey Stengel, who managed the AL, a question before the game and, in true form, he gave me a rambling, gibber-jabber answer. Instead of using his direct quote, I thought I'd outsmart the "Old Professor." I paraphrased his words into what I thought was a good-English, sensible answer. Ugh!

I ask myself today, how could I sterilize the priceless comments of Casey Stengel?

Warren Spahn started for the NL and Bullet Bob Turley, who would go on to win the Cy Young Award (they just gave one in those days), got the nod from Stengel, his New York Yankees manager.

Willie Mays, the NL's leadoff batter, stroked a single to start the game. Stan Musial laced out another. Mays came home on Hank Aaron's sacrifice fly. Another run scored on a Turley wild pitch and, before many in the sellout crowd of 48,829 got to their seats, the NL was up 2-0.

The AL methodically pecked away, tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth and scored the winning run on singles by Frank Malzone and Gil McDougald.

It took an unheard-of-today 2 hours, 13 minutes to complete the game and, for the first time in All-Star history -- that was the 25th game -- there were no extra-base hits.

Tonight will be the third All-Star Game for me at Yankee Stadium.

The first was July 13, 1960. This was the second of baseball's double feature that summer because, for four years (1959-62), two All-Star Games were held to help bolster the pension coffers of the players.

There were only 38,362 fans at Yankee Stadium that afternoon to see the NL produce an easy 6-0 victory.

The overwhelming theme was the triumphant return of Mays to New York. Two years before, in 1958, Mays and the Giants moved to San Francisco.

Mays, who sparked the NL to a 5-3 win with three hits two days before in Kansas City, didn't disappoint New York fans. He collected three hits, including a home run. Eddie Mathews, Stan Musial and Ken Boyer also homered for the NL, which was managed by Walter Alston.

In 1977, following a $100 million renovation to Yankee Stadium, Joe Morgan and Greg Luzinski blasted homers in a four-run first inning (against Jim Palmer) that carried the NL to a 7-5 victory.

I remember the New York newspapers creating a frenzy because this was the return of Tom Seaver, who a few weeks before had been traded by the Mets to the Cincinnati Reds. Seaver, incidentally, gave up two runs as did Goose Gossage, who was pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates then.

Most of the other games are a blur.

Except for a few that still stand out.

Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium had been open only a few weeks in 1970 when the All-Star Game was played there.

And who can forget that classic?

I doubt there has been one moment in All-Star history played and replayed as much as Pete Rose scoring the NL's winning run in the 12th inning by barreling over AL catcher Ray Fosse. Fosse was left with a separated shoulder, and I remember interviewing Rose on the training table as he had ice applied to his body -- which ached after the collision.

I can't picture any of today's players knocking down or running over an opponent in this era. To Rose, an All-Star game was more than an exhibition.

The 1959 game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh stands out not because the NL won 5-4, but because I shared a cab from the airport to downtown with pitcher Gene Conley, who represented the Phillies and talked about how important making the squad was to him. But NL manager Fred Haney of the Milwaukee Braves didn't put Conley in the game.

I must recall 1964 at Shea Stadium. The World's Fair was next door and in the game Mays, who singled and, yes, stole second, scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Then, the Phillies' Johnny Callison blasted a three-run, walk-off homer to the seats in right field.

I'm sure there are others I've forgotten over the years.

Maybe I should mention the 1967 game in Anaheim, won 2-1 by the NL in 15 innings. That game lasted 3 hours, 41 minutes -- the longest in terms of time and innings.

Mickey Mantle played early, left the ballpark and took a plane to Texas. He used to joke about watching the last inning or two on television -- at home! Of course, I can't skip the debacle of 2002 in Milwaukee, the 7-7 tie after 11 innings when both teams ran out of pitchers.

That prompted the current format, which gives the winning league in the All-Star Game home-field advantage for the World Series.

As Francona so aptly put it, tonight's game will give people something to talk about for years to come.

And I hope it's more than an All-Star farewell to Yankee Stadium.