All-Star Game known for special moments
Senior correspondent has many memories from 45 Midsummer Classics
KANSAS CITY -- Almost from the second Willie Mays climbed out of the National League dugout in the eighth inning, I believe just about every one of the 40,000-plus sitting in Royals Stadium knew it was a special moment.
For me, it's what I remember most about the 1973 All-Star Game, the last time the Midsummer Classic was played in Kansas City.
Ah, yes, Willie Mays -- maybe the greatest player ever. It was his 24th consecutive and last All-Star Game, and sadly, the last season of his Hall of Fame career. At 42, he was ending it with the New York Mets.
He was just a shadow of the Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid, we all knew. With the NL already up 7-1 and en route to its 10th win in 11 games, skipper Sparky Anderson sent Mays up to pinch-hit for Willie Stargell with one out in the eighth. The Yankees' Sparky Lyle struck him out on four pitches.
I still have that K circled in a tattered scorebook.
But that's what I remember most about the 1973 game. This will be the 46th All-Star Game I've covered, and as I look down on the field Tuesday night, I'll still remember that moment when Willie Mays came to bat 39 years ago.
There really wasn't a lot of excitement in the game -- especially for the American League. The San Francisco Giants' Bobby Bonds blasted a two-run homer and stretched a single into a triple with daring baserunning. He was the MVP.
Cincinnati's Johnny Bench and the Dodgers' Willie Davis also hit homers.
Really, this was mostly a showcase for spanking new Royals Stadium, which had opened in the spring. Former Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe, who lives just eight minutes from the ballpark, said Sunday, "They built a baseball stadium where my treehouse used to be when I was a kid. I was devastated at the time. I used to think about that when I pitched here."
The late Royals owner Ewing Kauffman, who meant so much to Kansas City baseball, threw out the first pitch that night. Bill Hallahan, one-time Cardinals pitcher, and Yankees Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez, starting pitchers in the first All-Star Game in 1933, were on the mound with Kauffman that night.
Of course, the refurbished stadium where the 83rd game will be played Tuesday night has been renamed in Ewing's honor.
Because of Mays and Kauffman, 1973 remains special.
After reporting on 45 of these games many of them are a blur, but certain moments stand out.
I've often mentioned nothing will equal the 1992 All-Star Game in San Diego. President George H.W. Bush invited me to join him aboard Air Force One to talk about the All-Stars en route to San Diego. We sat in a conference room aboard the 747 and discussed who he thought should have been chosen out of those who weren't. The fact that the American League won, 13-6, was almost forgotten, along with that Ken Griffey Jr. went 3-for-3 with a homer, double and two RBIs.
My first game is right up there, too.
That was July 8, 1958, in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. When I look back, I think I was more in awe of the All-Stars than I've ever been -- Casey Stengel managed the AL with the likes of Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Mays playing. The AL won, 4-3.
When the 84th game is played at Citi Field next summer, it will be the first time in the Mets' home park since 1964, and that will bring back a ton of memories.
For me, that night at Shea Stadium was special because the Phillies, whom I covered, were en route to the NL pennant until their great collapse. The timing that July was perfect, because the Phillies' Johnny Callison hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to win it for the NL, 7-4.
The 1970 game at Cincinnati's new Riverfront Stadium was a classic. That was the night the Reds' Pete Rose crashed into Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 12th inning, giving the NL a 5-4 victory. I remember going into the trainer's room to interview Rose, who was being treated. He said he would have run over his mother to win the game. Earlier, I was lucky enough to shake hands with President Nixon, who threw out the first pitch.
Then there was the 1976 Bicentennial at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, with his bizarre behavior on the mound for the Detroit Tigers, came to help celebrate the occasion, along with President Gerald Ford. I interviewed Mark before the game and wrote, "Meeting Mark Fidrych is like shaking hands with an unmade bed." He laughed when he saw the column, but he didn't do well at all in the game. The NL won, 7-1.
And what about 1999 at Boston's Fenway Park? Major League Baseball honored 41 legends before the game on the field. Ted Williams, in a golf cart, was mobbed at second base by the other legends and All-Stars.
The 2008 farewell to the old Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built, was the greatest nostalgic moment. It was a great night -- and morning, too! The Stadium didn't want to let go. The game didn't end until 1:37 a.m. ET, with the AL finally winning, 4-3, in 15 long innings.
There was Reggie Jackson's monster home run at Detroit's Tiger Stadium in 1971.
There was Mays returning to New York in 1960 after the Giants had moved to San Francisco in '58. Willie had a homer, drove in two runs and stole a base.
After the 50-day players' strike in 1981, baseball returned with the All-Star Game at Cleveland.
And there was the unbelievable 11-inning, 7-7 tie in the 2002 game at Miller Park in Milwaukee, when both managers ran out of pitchers.
Tuesday night, Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper will be in uniform, at 19 the youngest position player All-Star in history of the Midsummer Classic.
Wonder if he'll give us a moment that lives for years to come? You never know, and that's what makes these games so intriguing.
Like a 42-year-old Willie Mays coming to bat here in 1973.
Hal Bodley is senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.