The prelims were over and it was time for the main event.
The 2013 All Star Game, the 84th Mid-Summer Classic since a sportswriter in Chicago named Arch Ward brainstormed the idea in 1933, was met with great fanfare last night. With 39 first time All-Stars on both squads, an All-Star record among others set, the players were as eager to participate as were the sellout audience that filled Citi Field.
By the way, it was the 84th All-Star Game, even though its been just 80 years since the first one, as two games were played per season from 1959-62. And it was before TV execs took over, as both games each year were played in daylight!
Mets starter Matt Harvey broke the ice on this new classic at 8:19 P.M., just minutes after legendary Mets hurler Hall of Famer Tom Seaver threw out the first pitch to the other Met All-Star, David Wright.
Harvey first serve resulted in a double down the right field line by the Angels’ Mike Trout.
It wasn’t a pretty first inning, as Harvey next plunked the Yankees’ Robinson Cano on the knee. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was soon sent in to pinch run. Harvey then settled down by striking out reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera swinging. Harvey got out of the inning unscathed by punching out Toronto’s Jose Bautista swinging.
Harvey became the first Met to start an All-Star game since Doc Gooden in 1988, and one of only 11 pitchers to start an All-Star Game in their home park. This list includes Roger Clemens in 2004 (Houston), Pedro Martinez in 1999 (Boston), Whitey Ford in 1960 (Yankee Stadium), Don Drysdale in 1959 (LA Coliseum), and Carl Hubbell in 1934 (Polo Grounds).
As the starter, Harvey got to complete two shutout innings. He sat down David Ortiz and Joe Mauer on flyouts and got Adam Jones swinging.
And Harvey’s All-Star appearance creates a Mets connection factoid as the answer to a future trivia question. The last time the Mets hosted an All-Star game in 1964, and the only time it was held at Shea Stadium, the Mets’ first elected starter to the lineup was second baseman Ron Hunt. The Harvey-Hunt connection? Both wear/wore #33!
Wright led off the second against Chicago’s Chris Sale and grounded to third.
The Mets’ team captain also captained the Home Run Derby held the previous night. He didn’t fare well there, either, accumulating just five home runs in his first round appearance. Cano preceded Wright with just four longballs.
Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes topped Washington’s Bryce Harper with a final round comeback to win the annual Home Run Derby crown. Cespedes wowed the sold out audience with a blazing first round set of 17 homers, many of which reached the rarely struck third deck in Citi Field’s left field.
This was the ninth All-Star Game to be played in New York, which gives the Big Apple the title for most All-Star Games hosted. The Mets’ original home, the Polo Grounds, layed out the figurative red carpet for the second game in 1934.
Prior to this year’s celebrated exhibition, the National league held the all-time edge, 43-38, with two ties, the most famous of which going back to 2002 in Milwaukee, when both teams ran out of pitchers in extra innings. The AL, however, has been prevalent more often in the past 25 games (18-6-1).
Ex-Met Carlos Beltran was met with mixed cheers and boos during the introductions, but mostly cheers with his first at-bat. He grounded out and singled in his two at-bats.
Harvey spoke midway through the game about his appearance and his touch of wildness which found cano’s knee.
“Obviously, that was the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly injure somebody. I apologized and made sure he was okay. I think he understood it wasn’t intentional.”
As for the whole All-Star experience, it lived up to Harvey’s expectations. “It was, absolutely. It was so much fun. Just being in the locker room with all the guys, the Red Carpet in New York, starting. I don’t think you could have dreamed of doing something like that. It was a tremendous honor and something I’m very thankful for.”
The highlight for Yankees fans was seeing their hero, Mariano Rivera, come in to “close” the eighth. The stadium gave him a very unique introduction/sendoff in his last All-Star Game. First, you heard his music, “Enter, Sandman.” The entire field was devoid of players or personnel. Mariano Rivera trotted in from the bullpen to thunderous applause. And even all the players in the NL dugout came to the top step and applauded.
Rivera began warming up with just a catcher until the rest of his AL mates joined him halfway through. And with typical resolve, Rivera settled his inning one-two-three, with groundouts from Milwaukee’s Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, and the Cardinals’s Allen Craig was retired on a liner to left.
The only odd thing about seeing Rivera was that it was the eighth, and not the ninth, since the AL was leading, 3-0, at the time.
Texas Rangers’ closer, and Long Island native, Joe Nathan, drew the assignment of closing it out for the AL in the ninth.
AL skipper Jim Leyland admitted it was a predetermined plan to get Rivera into the game, even if it wasn’t his usual ninth inning stint.
“For obvious reasons,” Leyland said after the game, “in case something freaky happened in the eighth and they scored some runs and there wouldn’t have been a ninth, I brought him in for the ninth.”
And he didn’t want to infuriate any Rivera fans in case he “messed up.” “I wanted to make sure I was going to get out of here alive tonight,” Leyland joked.
The AL made up for losing the last three All-Star games as Nathan put the 3-0 win “in the books.” The NL was held to just three hits. AL fans are happy they now get home field advantage in the World Series.
Rivera, perhaps more so as a “lifetime achievement award,” was named the game’s MVP, and was handed the keys to a brand new Corvette.
As always, Rivera was humble and respectful in the postgame conference. Surrounded by family, he was grateful and thankful for the win. “That’s the most important thing.”
He was not surprised by the eighth inning appearance, as Leyland had notified him before the game that he was getting no matter what.
Warming up on a lonely field, however, felt odd.
“That’s not baseball,” Rivera commented, but not in any demeaning way. “It felt so weird, all alone with my catcher. At that moment I didn’t know what to do, so I thought just (to keep warming up).”
Along with All-Star teammate Torii Hunter, Rivera gave the team a pre-game pep talk.
“I just said it was a privilege and an honor to play with them. This was my 13th All-Star team. I said, enjoy it, cause it goes so quick.”
And just like that, the 84th all-Star Game went by so quick and is now history. next year, the 85th Mid-Summer Classic will be played in Minnesota.
It’s a Home Run
The 2013 Home Run Derby was won by Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes, who banged out nine home runs in the final round to surmount Washington’s Bryce Harper for the annual crown.
Eight participants battled the heat and humidity to thrill the sold out crowd at Citi Field. Local products Robinson Cano, both captains of the their respective AL and NL HR lineups, didn’t fare as well. Cano clipped just four home runs in the first round. Wright clobbered five.