07/10/09 9:13 AM ET
Many All-Star memories are vivid
A writer's recollections of five decades of Midsummer Classics
I was so much in awe of the legends I'd mostly been reading about being on the field before the game -- well, I had to pinch myself.
Pad and pencil in hand -- we didn't use tape recorders then -- I walked up to Mickey Mantle and asked some dumb question. But, to my amazement, he smiled and gave me a quick answer.
Casey Stengel managed the American League, which would win 4-3. And right in front of me were Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Al Kaline, et al.
Being there that day reinforced my passion -- no, make that obsession -- for baseball and that reporting the sport was my destiny.
By the time you read this, I'll be on my way to St. Louis and my 43rd All-Star Game as a reporter.
Little did I know that day in 1958 that in 2009 I'd be doing the same thing I did then and enjoying it just as much. I've been lucky.
So many of the All-Star Games are a blur -- blame it on age, but many stand out.
That 1958 game was special, but the most memorable came unexpectedly in 1992.
I'd formed a good working relationship with President George H.W. Bush because he was such a great baseball fan. He loved to talk baseball, especially his days as captain of the Yale team. There'd been interviews in the Oval Office and other White House occasions. He had a special respect for baseball journalists.
But little did I know what was in store for me.
A few days before the game in San Diego, the White House called and asked if I would like to join President Bush aboard Air Force One to talk about the All-Stars en route. This was an experience of a lifetime. We sat in a conference room aboard Air Force One and discussed the players and who he thought should have been chosen and weren't. The fact the American League won the game 13-6 was almost forgotten and that Ken Griffey Jr. went 3-for-3 with a homer and a double and two RBIs.
He seemed critical of his son, George W., who owned the Texas Rangers, for firing Bobby Valentine as manager. "Barbara and I really like Bobby Valentine," he said.
Not too many years later I'd be talking to George W. in the Oval Office -- about baseball.
It's amazing how reporting the best sport ever invented has taken me places I never dreamed of.
Nothing will ever equal the 1992 experience, but others come to mind in no special order:
In 1960 it was during the period when they played two games each summer. The second was at Yankee Stadium. A big deal was made of Mays returning to New York (the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958). Willie had a home run, two runs batted in and stole a base. Eddie Mathews, Stan Musial and Ken Boyer also homered as the NL won 6-0.
1964 at Shea Stadium was special because the Phillies, who I covered, were en route to what everybody thought -- until their great collapse -- was their first NL pennant since 1950. It was perfect for me because the Phillies' Johnny Callison hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to win for the NL, 7-4.
It's amazing the All-Star Game is returning to St. Louis for the first time since 1966. There's no better baseball city in the Major Leagues. What I remember most about being there in '66 was the heat -- it was 105 degrees at game time. It was a great game; the NL won 2-1 in 10 innings. I'm sure Tim McCarver, who'll be the FOX analyst Tuesday night, will be bombarded with questions about that game -- I still have my scorecard. He scored the winning run on a single by Maury Wills after opening the 10th with a single and advancing to second on a sacrifice.
The 1970 game at what was Cincinnati's new Riverfront Stadium is one of the most memorable ever -- for me and millions of others. 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. Earlier, I was lucky enough to shake hands with President Richard Nixon, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
At Tiger Stadium in 1971, the AL ended an eight-game NL winning streak with a 6-4 victory. What I remember most that night was a gigantic two-run homer by Reggie Jackson that hit the transformer atop the right-center field roof.
Mark "The Bird" Fidrych came to Philadelphia in 1976 to help celebrate our nation's Bicentennial 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 didn't do well at all in the game. The NL won 7-1.
1981 in Cleveland was important. This was the moment on Aug. 9 that the 50-day players' strike, which began on June 12, officially ended. Everybody was happy to see baseball back on the field. Mike Schmidt, MVP in '80 as the Phillies won the World Series, won the game 5-4 with a two-run homer for his manager, Dallas Green.
There was really nothing special about the 1994 game in Pittsburgh won by the NL, 8-7. But there was enormous significance that day -- July 12 -- because the Major League Players Association met in the morning and set Aug. 12 as a strike date. That approaching dark cloud was a huge distraction. Of course, the players, unable to reach agreement with management, struck. The disastrous work stoppage didn't end until the following spring.
1999 at Boston's Fenway Park was one of the greatest moments ever in All-Star history -- for me and the game. MLB honored 41 baseball legends before the game on the field. Ted Williams, in a golf cart, was mobbed around second base by the other legends and the All-Stars.
I'd just as soon forget 2002 at Milwaukee's Miller Park and so would Commissioner Bud Selig. I spent much of the afternoon with Selig, who was basking in the glory of the All-Star Game coming to his hometown. Then, the managers ran out of pitchers, causing an abrupt end after 11 innings -- and a 7-7 tie! That, of course, prompted the change that gives the winning league in the All-Star Game home-field advantage in the World Series.
And finally, 2008 -- a farewell to Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built. It was a great night -- and morning too. Memories of more than four decades flashed by, not to mention a few yawns. The game didn't end until 1:37 a.m. ET, with the AL finally winning 4-3 in 15 long innings.
Most everyone in the majestic stadium took a sigh of relief, most of all Selig, when the American League broke the tie.
Both teams were virtually out of pitching and that ghost of 2002 was hovering over.
Another debacle wasn't in the books and it shouldn't have been on this historic night/morning.
So, it's on to St. Louis and I'm already wondering if Tuesday's game will crack my most memorable list.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.