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07/15/09 1:58 AM ET

Un-D-lievable: Crawford wins All-Star MVP

Rays outfielder's homer-robbing catch seals coveted honor

ST. LOUIS -- When the verdict came down for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award of the 80th All-Star Game on Tuesday, the defense rested.

For the first time in the history of the Midsummer Classic, the award was won by a man who didn't score a run and didn't drive in a run.

Carl Crawford did, however, take away a big run, and it led to the American League pulling out a 4-3 win over the National League at Busch Stadium.

With the score tied at 3 in the bottom of the seventh inning and Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon on the mound, Colorado slugger Brad Hawpe swung at the first pitch -- a 94-mph fastball -- and hit it to left field.

"I thought it was a sure out," Papelbon said. "Then it kept carrying, carrying, and it was an amazing out."

Crawford leapt, stuck his glove over the wall in front of the AL bullpen and brought back the ball to the amazement of the 46,760 in attendance.

"It was a good catch, obviously, especially a catch at the wall," Hawpe said. "For an outfielder, to jump up there ... what a catch."

AL relievers Andrew Bailey and Mariano Rivera, who earned the save, said they had a close-enough view of the play to determine that it definitely would have been a home run.

"I was 15 feet away," Rivera said. "The ball had to be over the fence by a lot if he doesn't catch it. I know. I was right there."

"I was right there, standing right behind the fence," added Bailey. "I saw his glove flip over the wall with the ball in it. He does deserve the MVP. That was amazing."

Papelbon summed up the mood of an All-Star Game with no home runs that turned into a flash of leather.

"Defense wins championships," Papelbon said. "And now, I guess we can say defense wins All-Star Games, too."

It also wins All-Star MVP Awards.

Crawford, the Tampa Bay Rays' speedster, also went 1-for-3 as a reserve in the game, but once the AL rallied for a run on a Curtis Granderson triple and an Adam Jones sacrifice fly in the eighth, everyone knew the real reason Crawford took home the hardware.

"I knew the game was close ... we needed every out and every run," Crawford said. "So I didn't know how things were going to play out at the end. But I knew it was probably going to be important at some point that the run didn't score."

Hardware in hand
The American League hasn't lost an All-Star game since 1996. Below is a list of every All-Star Game MVP during its unbeaten run.
2009Carl Crawford, Rays
2008J.D. Drew, Red Sox
2007Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
2006Michael Young, Rangers
2005Miguel Tejada, Orioles
2004Alfonso Soriano, Rangers
2003Garret Anderson, Angels
2001Cal Ripken, Orioles
2000Derek Jeter, Yankees
1999Pedro Martinez, Red Sox
1998Roberto Alomar, Orioles
1997Sandy Alomar Jr., Indians
Complete list of All-Star Game MVPs >

And once Crawford got word that he was the MVP?

"It feels great," Crawford said. "They totally got me off guard today. I didn't think I was going to win it. This being my third time coming here, it definitely feels good to win the MVP Award. You know, I'm just so happy, I don't really know what to say. I just hope I can come back many times and try to win it again."

Third baseman Michael Young of the Texas Rangers said he wouldn't be surprised, just like he wasn't completely surprised when Crawford hauled in the fly ball.

"That was an unbelievable play," Young said. "I'm not shocked, because in my mind, C.C.'s the best pure athlete in the big leagues. Talk about a blend of speed and power and balance and the whole nine, he's just a stud. It was a great play."

But believe it or not, the consensus from the significant Tampa Bay contingent in the AL clubhouse was that Crawford, for all of his talents, hadn't gone over a wall for a catch before Tuesday.

"I've never seen him do that," Tampa Bay and AL All-Star manager Joe Maddon said. "The way he got to the position on the ball was great, and the catch, obviously, was fantastic.

"I've been talking to everybody all year about this. Carl, he has become a better baseball player since I first met him in 2006. He's a better defender, a better thrower, a better baserunner, a better basestealer, and it's all because of his work. I'm not saying it's our fault he's better. It's because of him. His work ethic is that good.

"And when I first met him in 2006, he came into my office and said something to me about the fact that he wanted to become a better baseball player, and he knew he had some shortcomings. And to his credit, he's really developed in a lot of different areas."

Last year's World Series appearance and this year's All-Star MVP Award are tangible examples of that, and Crawford said he was proud. In fact, he said Tuesday's play was the best of his career.

"It's got to be the top play," Crawford said. "I don't think I've ever robbed a home run before, so I picked a good time to do it tonight. It's definitely probably my best catch I've ever made."

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter summed up the mood of the AL's win up with a nod to Crawford, too.

"A lot of times, it's usually guys hitting home runs and big things like that that lead to a win," Jeter said. "It just shows that defense helps you win games."

And Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay said while it's difficult sometimes to pick an MVP, because All-Star Games often don't provide enough at-bats for hitters or innings for pitchers to make their mark on games, Tuesday's choice was a no-brainer.

"I think whether it's offense or defense, you have to look at the pivotal plays of the game, and that was the game-changer," Bay said. "I'm glad he caught it. Good for C.C."

And good for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which might have to open a Carl Crawford Wing soon.

Brad Horn, communications manager for the Hall, left St. Louis with Crawford's hat from Tuesday night, which he'll add to a Crawford collection that already includes the outfielder's road jersey from last year's World Series and his blue spikes from his tying of a modern Major League record by stealing six bases against the Red Sox in May.

"The cap made the most sense to us, since it was something he was wearing when he made that catch," Horn said. "We've already got a jersey and the shoes.

"At this rate, all we're missing is Carl himself."

A few more All-Star Games and Fall Classics with plays like the one he made on Tuesday and that's not such a stretch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.