MLB’s Greatest, Most Unforgettable All-Star Weekend Moments
In the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season, the All-Star Weekend brings a much-needed breather for the players.
While the majority of the league gets to go home and kick back on the couch and watch the game they love to play, the cream of the crop slugs it out to determine whether the American League or National League is the true dominant force in baseball.
The Futures and Legends night is a fun start, the Home Run Derby never disappoints, and the jaw-dropping moments of the MLB All-Star Game always seem to deliver to make All-Star Weekend an unforgettable event.
Home, Where Stars Collide (1970)
The 1970 All-Star Game went to a whole new level of intensity that will, almost certainly, never be repeated again.
There have been, and will surely be, other close games, but this one played out like an all-time classic.
It looked like the game was over heading into the bottom of the ninth with the American League up 4-1, until a three-run rally tied it up to send the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the 12th, with two outs, Reds star Pete Rose, playing in his team’s hometown of Cincinnati, singled to keep the NL team alive.
Another single put Rose on second base, which is what set “Charlie Hustle” up for the iconic example of why he earned the nickname. A single up the middle gave Rose an opportunity to score, and the third-base coach waved him on to go for it.
Protecting home plate was Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse, who had entered the game in the fifth inning.
All at once, Fosse reached out to catch the relay, the ball came hurtling in and Rose lowered his shoulder, barreling in like a freight train.
Rose smashed through Fosse to score the winning run. Fosse got a fractured and separated shoulder, and many point to this play as the turning point downward in his career.
Sending No. 2 Off with Two (2014)
Derek Jeter served as the face of Major League Baseball for years and years, so when he played in his 14th and final All-Star Game, it was a special occasion, to say the least.
Time and again, Jeter gave the crowd at Minnesota’s Target Field reason to get on their feet.
Before he stepped up to the plate as the leadoff hitter for his first at-bat, the crowd rose to give The Captain a round of applause.
Two pitches later, the crowd was roaring again, as Jeter ripped a shot to right field.
After becoming the third 40-year-old to leadoff and top that stat off with a hit, he followed up just as strong. Mike Trout delivered a shot off the wall that brought Jeter in full speed for the score.
The second time around, Jeter worked a full count until finally finding his sweet spot, knocking another shot into shallow right field to go 2-for-2 for an unforgettable three innings before being subbed out for his final All-Star sendoff.
Off the Warehouse (1993)
It’s amazing the entire city of Baltimore wasn’t shut down after the bomb Ken Griffey Jr. set off at the 1993 Home Run Derby.
The ball Griffey cranked out of Camden Yards sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy.
This dinger left the park with ease, but what was so unbelievable was how effortless Griffey’s swing was, like a casual practice swing just gliding through the motion.
The crowd in the outfield immediately went nuts, but the ensuing announcement even left Griffey with a look of disbelief.
Griffey sent the homer out of the park and across the street, and DEEP. In fact, it went so deep that the Baltimore skyline backdrop became part of the park, as it came crashing in hot straight into the warehouse overlooking right field.
When walking by the warehouse on Eutaw Street, keep an eye out for a little bit of added history, as a baseball-sized plaque now marks the point of impact.
Someday there will be stories of how the city of Baltimore survived this epic meteor strike.
Everyone Loses (2002)
The 2002 All-Star Game at Miller Park marked what would end up being one of the most memorable Midsummer Classics in history, though this was for far more infamous reasons.
The fun night ended so poorly that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig found himself being booed in his own home of Milwaukee.
The AL and NL pulled out all the stops in this slugfest, as the high-scoring game saw both teams enjoying more than their fair share of success at the plate. Heading into the seventh, the NL led 5-2 – by the end of the inning, the NL led 7-6.
After the AL finished their at-bat in the eighth, the game was knotted at 7-7. With all of the hits and runs put on the board, the pitching turnover was high… enough so that it became problematic.
The game went into extra innings, but both teams had run out of available pitchers. When no one scored at the end of the 11th inning, Commissioner Selig called the game.
A thrilling back and forth only to end in a tie. Devastating.
This unfortunate ending proved to be the deciding moment that led to the winning league in the All-Star Game earning home-field advantage in the World Series — “This time, it counts!” — starting in 2003, though that rule was axed in 2016.
A-Rod’s All Right (This Once) (2001)
There’s no doubt that Cal Ripken was one of the most beloved players across the nation in the modern era of the MLB. After 21 years playing for the Baltimore Orioles, a very special final farewell was due for the 40-year-old.
The 2001 All-Star Game in Seattle marked Ripken’s 19th consecutive All-Star appearance, and Alex Rodriguez, then with the Texas Rangers, did something incredible to honor the moment.
Really, the fact that this was A-Rod makes the gesture as stunning as it was heartwarming.
In the first inning, A-Rod elected to move from his shortstop position to hand it out off to Ripken, who was at third.
Since Ripken had played shortstop for the majority of his career before switching to third base in his final years, Yankees manager Joe Torre Ripken (managing the AL team) gave them the okay.
Fans recognized what was happening, and A-Rod’s sentimental gesture resulted in a standing ovation for both players. One iconic young shortstop handing the position off to an older legend made for touching moment representative of the purest side of sports.
The gesture also cemented Ripken’s record 15 All-Star appearances at the All-Star Game. And the moment likely lingered in Torre’s mind. When the Yankees needed a third baseman after Aaron Boone’s knee injury before the 2004 season, the Yankees traded for A-Rod and moved him to third, next to Derek Jeter.
Four Times the Fun (1983)
The Midsummer Classic has featured its fair share of home runs, but there has only been one of this magnitude and it went down at the 1983 All-Star Game.
In the third inning, California Angels center fielder Fred Lynn stepped to the plate.
It’s important to note that before Lynn stepped up to the plate, his American League teammates had already loaded the bases.
Lynn sent the fans at Chicago’s Comiskey Park into a frenzy, as he cranked out a grand slam off the Giants’ Atlee Hammaker.
The grand slam helped kick off what would turn into a 13-3 romping. It was an important win for the American League, since the National League had won the last 11 meetings dating back to the 1972 game.
To date, Lynn remains the only player in the history of the All-Star Game to rip a grand slam.
Lynn ended up winning the MVP for his efforts and couldn’t have asked for a better All-Star sendoff with this being the last of nine straight appearances.
Fifth Time’s the Charm (1986)
The 1986 All-Star Game, hosted by the Houston Astros in the Astrodome, was stacked to the gills with Hall of Fame talent on both teams, but it was one National Leaguer’s individual accomplishment that shined among so many greats.
Pitcher Dwight Gooden led off the first three innings for the National League, putting his team in a two-run hole by the time he left the mound.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lefty ace, Fernando Valenzuela, took over, he had his work cut out for him.
Valenzuela wasted no time going to work. He struck out Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken Jr., Jesse Barfield, Lou Whitaker (who had hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat) and Teddy Higuera. His five straight Ks tied the record first set in 1934 by Carl Hubbell.
By the time Valenzuela was taken out, he’d allowed just one hit in an incredible outing. Though the American League would go on to beat the National League 3-2, the five consecutive strikeouts made for an unforgettable night for Valenzuela.
Bo Knows Baseball (1989)
The stars truly aligned in 1989 for the ultimate ad campaign for iconic two-sport athlete Bo Jackson. The commercials for Jackson’s “Bo Knows” campaign was to promote his Nike cross-trainer for multi-sport athletes, as Jackson was playing for the MLB’s Kansas City Royals and NFL’s Oakland Raiders.
In his one and only All-Star appearance, Jackson led off for the American League in Anaheim. To add to the moment, Ronald Reagan, only months removed from his presidency, was up in the broadcast booth, speaking about how unbelievable of an athlete Bo is when he was suddenly interrupted.
As the former POTUS was hyping up the superstar, Jackson went up and cranked a mammoth homer to right-center off Rick Reuschel. The moment couldn’t have been drawn up any better… especially for the people at Nike.
The very next commercial break, the first ever “Bo Knows” commercial aired.
The American League went on to win the game by a score of 5-2 and the MVP award was given to none other than Bo Jackson for an outstanding effort on both offense and defense.
One thing is for sure, Nike better have given Bo one big fat bonus.
Pedro Does His Thing (1999)
It’s always going to be a rowdy night at Fenway Park when the Red Sox are in town, but Boston was especially loud when the city played host to the 1999 All-Star Weekend. There was better reason for Bostonians to cheer than simply hosting the festivities.
Boston also had their beloved strikeout assassin, Pedro Martinez, starting on the mound. As Martinez is always prone to do, he put on a show for the people.
It only lasted two innings, but what a two innings it was.
For Pedro, it was six up and six down. Of the six batters Martinez faced, five of them went down on a strikeout, including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bagwell.
That strong start kicked off a dominant AL performance, as they beat the NL 4-1.
The amazing outing earned Martinez the Most Valuable Player award, making him the second player in MLB history to be awarded MVP as a member of the host team.
Going Ham-ilton (2008)
The 2008 All-Star Weekend marked a particularly special occasion, with New York playing host in its final season at the old Yankee Stadium.
This season also marked the remarkable return of controversial slugger Josh Hamilton, who was playing in his first full season with the Texas Rangers.
The young Hamilton, whose name tied up to his notorious battle with alcoholism and drug addiction, was finally getting a chance to show why he was the No. 1 overall pick at the 2000 MLB Draft with his prowess at the plate for the Home Run Derby.
It’s safe to say that when Hamilton’s name was called and he stepped up to the plate, the man was dialed in.
With 71-year-old Clay Council – the man who had pitched to him at batting practice growing up in North Carolina – at the mound, Hamilton geared up for a monster first round.
By the end of the round, Hamilton had blasted a staggering 28 home runs. The previous record, set in 2005 by Bobby Abreu, was 24. Giancarlo Stanton repeated Abreu’s feat in 2016, but no one has touched Hamilton’s inhuman slugfest.
The Hunt for Mr. October’s Homer (1971)
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson may be known as Mr. October for his sensational clutch play in the playoffs, but this memorable moment came like an early Christmas present.
Turn back to 1971 when Detroit hosted All-Star Weekend at Tiger Stadium.
The Home Run Derby sluggers had nothing on what Jackson did to the ball. Down 3-0, Jackson, then playing for the Oakland Athletics, stepped up to the plate and squared up against Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis.
Ellis set him up for a shot.
To say that Jackson crushed the ball would be a disservice to home run hitters throughout the league. There are bombs and then there was this supersonic blast.
Jackson smashed the ball over the upper deck of right field into a light tower.
It has been estimated that the monster homer would have traveled a projected 532 feet. Even in a stadium of All-Stars, fellow players swore it was the hardest hit shot they had ever witnessed in person.
Not a bad way to spark a comeback victory, as the AL went on to win 6-4.
One Last Battle in the Bronx (2008)
Yankee Stadium really did get a fitting sendoff in 2008 when hosting its final All-Star Weekend before moving to the new stadium across the street in the Bronx.
Along with Josh Hamilton’s jaw-dropping clinic at the Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game proved to be a classic.
After some stirring ceremonies to celebrate all of the great baseball moments that had taken place on the historic field, the National League and American League followed suit with a battle for the ages, starting with a defensive standoff.
Four scoreless were followed by four straight innings of runs driven in, resulting in a 3-3 tie heading into the ninth. Neither side could close the deal, and what was already an incredible night now had extra innings as an added cherry on top.
By the game’s end, the National League had tallied 13 hits to the American League’s 14. That one hit proved to be the difference as, after 15 long innings, the AL scored in thrilling fashion to give the Yanks the (metaphorical) win on their final All-Star night at home.
Hometown Hero (2015)
The arrival of the 2015 All-Star Weekend was an important moment for Cincinnati, for a number of reasons. The location was at the Great American Ball Park, marking the first time that the Cincinnati Reds were the host team since 1988.
To make matter even more exciting, the Reds had three players representing the city: Third baseman Todd Frazier, pitcher Aroldis Chapman and pitcher Johnny Cueto.
Frazier, who was returning for his second straight All-Star appearance, had a big surprise in store for Cincy fans at the Home Run Derby.
In the first round, Frazier faced Rangers heavy hitter Prince Fielder, knocking him out 14-13. In the second round, it was the same story against Blue Jays slugger Josh Donaldson, beating him by one run (10-9). The thrills continued in the finals.
Facing Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson, Frazier once again narrowly came out on top, winning 15-14 to claim the Home Run Derby in front of an electric home crowd.
This season would end up being Frazier’s last in Cincy, making it a perfect sendoff for the All-Star.
Bow to the Big Unit (1993, 1997)
Randy Johnson made five different All-Star appearances in his time pitching for the Seattle Mariners and left two of those games with two all-time classic memories.
Both of these ridiculous moments take the cake as two of the funniest moments in All-Star Game history.
The first came in 1993, when Johnson was pitching against Phillies first baseman John Kruk.
After a wild pitch launched over Kruk’s head, the terrified batter barely held himself together, tapping his heart to check for a pulse, before Johnson mercifully retired him on three pitches that featured two ridiculous eyes-closed swings.
Johnson’s next victim came at the 1997 All-Star Game when Rockies right fielder Larry Walker stepped up to bat. Like Kruk, Walker was batting lefty when a wild pitch by Johnson whizzed over his head.
Once was one more time than Walker wanted to see, so he slyly flipped his helmet backwards, walked to the other side of home plate and took a ball (where his body would’ve been had he not switched)… This was also the man who would win the 1997 NL MVP award.
As much as these two All-Stars laughed at the moment, there are no two clearer examples that even the greatest of the greats feared the Big Unit.
Going Out with a Bang (2001)
The touching moment shared between Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken Jr. at Rip’s last All-Star Game wasn’t the only incredible part of the night.
The 40-year-old still had something extra special in store for all of the fans watching his sendoff.
Through the first two innings, the game had remained scoreless. After the top of the third, the National League still couldn’t string anything together.
When the Iron Man stepped to the plate at the bottom of the third, that all changed in an iconic way.
Ripken ripped a bomb, finally putting the first run on the board. Of course, such an out of the blue bomb by the grizzled vet after such a defensive standoff once again put the crowd on their feet, sending the Orioles’ hero off with another standing ovation.
The American League went on to win 4-1 and Ripken capped off an incredible 19th All-Star Game, as he was named the MVP.
It was an unbelievable night that proved to be a fitting depiction of a man’s unbelievable career that defied the test of time.