All-Star Game: Extra, extra, extra innings
By Ronald Blum
NEW YORK ó J.D. Drew wondered whether he’d be pitching soon. Clint Hurdle sounded out David Wright about his mound prowess.
It was the 15th inning of the final All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, and the bullpens were empty. As goodbyes go, this was a long, long one.
“It was just crazy how it seemed like it lasted forever,” Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “It was the last year for Yankee Stadium, the last All-Star game, and it’s kind of fitting that it seemed like it lasted forever.”
Justin Morneau slid home just in time on Michael Young’s sacrifice fly in the 15th inning, giving the American League a 4-3 victory that extended its unbeaten streak to 12.
In a game that began at dusk Tuesday and ended at 1:37 a.m. Wednesday morning, the grand old ballpark was half-empty when Young stopped a 4-hour, 50-minute marathon on the 453rd pitch. Given the ticket prices ó $525-$725 in the lower deck, $150 in the bleachers ó fans deserved something extra. They got it.
Many of the 49 Hall of Famers honored during pregame pageantry likely were in bed by the final out. For Boston’s Terry Francona, the AL manager, this took on the stress of a game that counts in the standings.
“I told Jim Leyland, `I’ll quit cursing, I’ll quit chewing,”‘ he said, referring to the Detroit manager who was part of his coaching staff. “I lied.”
The NL was given a pregame pep talk by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, whose motto is: “Let’s play two!” And they nearly did, matching the NL’s 2-1 win at Anaheim in 1967 for the longest All-Star game.
By the 13th inning, MLB dispatched senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. to remind the managers that the game would be played until there was a winner.
“I was doing Chinese arithmetic from the sixth inning on,” Hurdle said. “I felt like I was in algebra class. It got wild.”
The AL improved to 6-0 since the All-Star game began determining home-field advantage in the World Series and 11-0-1 since its 1996 loss in Philadelphia. And it even ended an old hex ó the AL had been 0-9-1 in extra innings against its older rival.
By the way, baseball’s labor contract makes no provision for homefield advantage if there isn’t an All-Star winner.
Morneau started the winning rally with a leadoff single against Lidge, and the AL loaded the bases on Dioner Navarro’s single and Drew’s one-out walk.
Young lofted a fly to right, and Corey Hart’s throw home bounced and was slightly to the first-base side of the plate. Catcher Brian McCann gloved the ball and tried a sweep tag, but Morneau sneaked his right foot in, barely ahead of the tag.
“It was a little deep for me,” Hart said.
Drew was picked as the MVP, with his two-run homer in the seventh making it 2-all. Being from Boston, he was booed when presented with his trophy.
The teams set records for strikeouts (34), runners left on base (28) and players (63). Young’s fly came on the 453rd pitch.
The pinstriped crowd got to boo Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon and the Mets’ Billy Wagner. The fans showed their love for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and captain Derek Jeter.
Colorado’s Matt Holliday and Drew homered. Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada made a great falling throw on a slow grounder to deny the AL a win in the 10th after a pair of ugly errors by Dan Uggla, who made a record three botches in all.
The AL left the potential winning run at third base in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings.
A sellout crowd of 55,632 had come to honor the 85-year-old ballpark, home to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle. Steinbrenner delivered the balls for the ceremonial first pitches from a golf cart.
And then the game went on and on.
“Yankee Stadium is tough, I’m telling you,” Rivera said. “Didn’t want it to end.”
NOTES: The previous longest game by time was 1967, which took 3:41. … The NL was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, the AL 3-for-22. … The Hall of Fame collected two souvenirs ó Rivera’s jersey and dirt from the pitcher’s mound. … The NL leads 40-37-2 overall.