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NEW YORK -- The Commissioner of Baseball's words echoed in a nearly empty Yankee Stadium on what was a Tuesday night turned into Wednesday morning.
"This game was going to be played to its conclusion," Commissioner Bud Selig said about the 79th All-Star Game. "I hope you understand that. I know everybody understood that. There was no doubt about it. All's well that ends well. It was a terrific evening and I feel pretty good right now. But we were going to keep playing, and both managers knew that."
Its conclusion came in the 15th inning, when the American League prevailed over the National League, 4-3, on Michael Young's sacrifice fly off reliever Brad Lidge.
Like 2002 in Milwaukee, when both teams ran out of pitching and Selig had to call the game after 11 innings with the score tied at 7, all the same nightmare scenarios began to play themselves out.
Lidge, the closer from the Phillies, was the last of the NL's pitchers, considering that the Senior Circuit was one shy of the requisite 12 hurlers because San Francisco's Tim Lincecum had the flu and couldn't participate. The AL was down to its last of 12 twirlers in Rays' starter Scott Kazmir.
Selig didn't really want to play out the what ifs -- what if Lidge had to pitch more than two innings? What if the AL had to go beyond Kazmir?
"You know what? Then they would have had to use the last pitchers as long as they needed," Selig said. "But it turned out we didn't have to do it. And we can talk about those scenarios forever."
Still, managers Clint Hurdle of the NL and Terry Francona of the AL were briefed before the game and told to use their pitching wisely. After the AL came back to tie the score at 3 in the bottom of the eighth on Evan Longoria's double off Billy Wagner, again the managers were advised that the game would be played until one team won it.
Jimmie Lee Solomon and Joe Garagiola Jr. of MLB baseball operations were the conduits.
"When the game was tied late we touched base with both managers to make sure they worked with their pitchers accordingly," Solomon said.
Upstairs, Selig was pacing back and forth in his box as the game grew longer. Next to the AL dugout, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, remained in their seats to the excruciating end. Beside them, Francona was fretting the night away.
"You wait a lot of your life to do something like this," he said. "And in the last two hours, it wasn't a whole lot of fun. I was very nervous."
Asked what his plans were for Kazmir, who entered the game in the top of the 15th inning, Francona said: "We were going on hours, not pitches."
"Kazmir was OK to go out there for a little while longer," said Francona. "And the only thing I could think to do was put Longoria in the game and pitch J.D. [Drew]. But we were still a little ways away from that."
Drew was unsure if he would have gotten anybody out.
"If he would have told me to do it, that's what I would have done," said Drew. "I would have thrown some stuff up there. I got a little sneaky stuff here and there."
Across the way, Hurdle was trying to manage what was turning into a difficult situation. Lidge also made his appearance in the fateful 15th.
"I was doing Chinese arithmetic from the sixth inning on," he said. "I felt like I was in Algebra class. It got wild. You knew going in that you had the rules. Everything's laid out. We had what we had. And I'm so proud of the way the pitchers we gave the ball to showed up."
Lidge had warmed up five times prior to entering the game, and Hurdle thought Lidge may have been able to go just one more frame.
"I spoke to David Wright," said Hurdle. "I told David, 'You were the last pick, I went and got you. Have you ever pitched in an All‑Star Game?'
"I said, 'You wanted to be in this thing, that's all I've read, all I've heard for the last three days. You won't believe how much you might be in it here real quick.' He said, 'Let's go.' He's good to go."
The latest rules were implemented after the 2002 debacle when managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly had to advise Selig that their pitching staffs were shot. That year, the AL had a staff of nine pitchers and the NL had 10. Afterwards, rosters were expanded from 30 to 32 players each, including a mandatory pitching staff of 12. Of the dozen, the players pick eight -- five starters and three relievers. The managers add the other four.
Plus, home-field advantage in the World Series began to be awarded in 2003 to the winning league, and for the sixth consecutive year since then the AL will have it.
"Everybody understood the ground rules," Selig said. "There was no misunderstanding. There was no contingency. We were going to play the game to the end. That was the contingency. What happened in Milwaukee will not happen again. I really believe that the things that we implemented worked. If we hadn't done them back then there's no question we would've had a problem tonight. But it worked out. In the end it didn't matter."