07/15/09 3:24 AM ET
From Pujols to Musial, Classic had it all
President's visit, AL victory cap memorable time in St. Louis
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
The Cardinals' chairman, who had worked so hard with his organization to return this event to St. Louis after an unprecedented 42-year wait, was hoping to watch the NL win this time, especially with a current division leader in his charge. It didn't happen, as Mariano Rivera closed out yet another American League victory, by a 4-3 score, extending its unbeaten streak to 13 games.
When all was said and done, though, DeWitt could not have been more proud of the 80th All-Star Game and everything that surrounded it.
"It went extremely well. We couldn't be more pleased or thrilled," DeWitt said from his box seat immediately to the home-plate side of the NL dugout -- where he was coincidentally greeted by Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels club that hosts this event in 2010. "We were really honored to host the All-Star Game and to see how the people of St. Louis have reacted. They really have embraced it.
"I've been to four St. Louis All-Star Games now, and this is clearly the biggest and best. There are so many events now, it's really a celebration for five days. It's the All-Star Game but it's also everything surrounding it."
The 80th All-Star Game will be remembered for yet another AL victory, this one courtesy of All-Star MVP Carl Crawford's classic leaping catch to rob Brad Hawpe, and also Adam Jones' sacrifice fly that scored Curtis Granderson. But it also will be remembered for Going Beyond.
It was the Midsummer Classic that brought President Barack Obama to the field for a ceremonial first pitch that had not been thrown at an All-Star Game by the nation's chief executive in 33 years. It was the video also featuring four other living Presidents who hailed the All-Stars Among Us -- those 30 winners of a competition to find everyday heroes who have embodied Obama's emphasis on public service.
It was the All-Star Week when:
Sheryl Crow and special guest Elvis Costello rocked the park grounds underneath the Arch for the free All-Star Charity Concert presented by Pepsi, raising money and awareness for Stand Up To Cancer;
A field of 8,000 runners took part in the first All-Star Charity 5K and Fun Run presented by Sports Authority and Nike, as founders of Stand Up To Cancer, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Prostate Research Cancer Foundation all addressed them and gathered in an unprecedented gathering;
Prince Fielder of the Brewers withstood the obvious public sentiment toward Albert Pujols and jacked 23 long balls to claim the State Farm Home Run Derby title, helping $665,000 go to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in the process;
The World made a dramatic comeback to beat the USA in the XM All-Star Futures Game, which will be remembered for a four-hour rain delay that only further proved the mettle of local and visiting baseball fans who hunkered down in concourses and then stayed late at night to watch the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrities Softball Game where local musical artist Nelly stole the show.
There was no FanFest during those days of previous St. Louis All-Star Games, either. That one ran five days as they always do in this era, and they were constantly packed for player autograph sessions, clinics such as the one by Cal Ripken Jr. to promote his GetGreat.com service, interactive exhibits, a collector's mecca and more.
"Everybody involved was great -- the players, the people of St. Louis, all of the fans," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "It was a wonderful experience."
"They are great fans here. They showed it," said Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who rode to the ballpark in the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Parade presented by Chevy, showered by applause -- only to put a damper on their festivities by securing the AL's victory over their NL bunch. "The city of St. Louis did a tremendous job hosting this All-Star Game."
The Albert-Star Game
This is Albert Pujols' town, and everyone could clearly see that throughout the festivities. He was at the center of attention for much of the time throughout, with constant demands on his attention and then constant cheering by fans.
It may not have been the dream week for him that many Cardinals fans had hoped -- he reached just the semifinals in the Home Run Derby and then made a first-inning error in the All-Star Game that allowed Derek Jeter to score what became a crucial run (although two great plays in the fifth saved one). But it was a shared connection with the local hero that many people here will remember forever.
"This was unbelievable, a dream come true," Pujols said after being replaced at first base by Fielder, who proceeded to slice a big double in his only at-bat. "This was an unbelievable dream come true. To be in front of these fans, who are incredible, it's awesome. I was in the All-Star Game in my hometown of St. Louis, and I thank God for allowing me to have this opportunity."
|"This was an unbelievable dream come true. To be in front of these fans, who are incredible, it's awesome. I was in the All-Star Game in my hometown of St. Louis, and I thank God for allowing me to have this opportunity."|
|-- Albert Pujols|
"I think last year was more a celebration of Yankee Stadium, and rightly so," Jeter, the Yankees' 10-time All-Star, said. "And I think this year it seems like it's a celebration for Albert, and rightly so once again. What he's done for this organization, how he's handled himself, it's pretty special."
To the AL go the spoils -- again
Did anyone think the AL would win the World Series home-field advantage every single year when it was contemplated and then implemented in 2003? No. But that's how every Fall Classic begins these days. Two games in the AL park. The fact that those six previous World Series resulted in a 3-3 split between leagues would indicate that perhaps it is not so much of an advantage, but it is impossible to find any NL person who would not like his or her team to be able to open a prospective World Series at home.
Right now, the Red Sox have the best record in the AL. That is a fact not lost on their All-Star closer, Jonathan Papelbon.
"Obviously this victory is going to help somebody's ballclub," Papelbon said. "Hopefully it's ours."
It also should be noted that all three members of the NL coaching staff -- manager Charlie Manuel (Phillies) and coaches Tony La Russa (Cardinals) and Joe Torre (Dodgers) are presently managing division leaders. Those are three people to whom this unquestionably meant something.
One of the highlights of the stirring pregame ceremony was the introduction of living Cardinals Hall of Famers, and that included a special moment to pay tribute to the greatest of them all, Stan "The Man" Musial. He rode in from right field on a cart to thunderous applause from the crowd at Busch. Musial handed a baseball to President Obama, and Obama threw the ceremonial first pitch to Pujols.
It was a brief moment of recognition for Musial, 88, but a memorable one for everyone in attendance, including Pujols. Even after nine years of brilliance, Pujols marvels at Musial's career -- especially "The Man's" 24 All-Star Game appearances.
"Unbelievable," Pujols said. "Hopefully I can have half by the time I retire. That's unbelievable. That will tell you the kind of player that he was and the numbers that he has put up in the game. His numbers speak for themselves. I don't really need to speak for him. It's unbelievable, to stay healthy and play for 24 years, to keep himself in shape for 24 years is just amazing."
The Commissioner conducted his ninth annual Town Hall Chat at FanFest, answering questions that were submitted on previous days. He responded at length to a wide variety of questions, such as those about the economy and future collective bargaining with players, about ticket prices, about the candidacy of future All-Star cities.
But here was one that was especially interesting: Selig, when asked about the possibility of lifting a lifetime ban, said the suspension of Shoeless Joe Jackson -- one of the Eight Men Out after the Black Sox Scandal nearly a century ago -- is under review.
"I'm the only Commissioner who has agreed at least to review it, and we have reviewed it and are reviewing it," Selig said. "It's 80-some, 90 years ago now, so there's a lot of history lost. But that's all I can tell you right now. We will review it. Can't make any other comment."
MLB.com created a topic page for the 80th All-Star Game, a convenient way to find one great video after another pertaining to the event. You can see Crow and Sara Evans doing sound checks before their performances in the Midsummer Classic. You can see Pujols addressing media after the game. You can see what Papelbon thought about the AL winning yet again. This is a trend going forward in aggregating video content, so take advantage of it all in one place.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.