AL outlasts NL in marathon 15-inning All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium
BY MARK FEINSAND
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Updated Wednesday, July 16th 2008, 11:20 AM
The All-Star Game said goodbye to Yankee Stadium Tuesday night. It was a long, long, long goodbye.
By the time it ended, at 1:37 Wednesday morning, the Stadium was half-empty, a stark contrast to earlier Tuesday, when a packed house paid tribute to baseball's cathedral with a cavalcade of stars - past and present - on display.
Fifteen innings and four hours and 50 minutes later, the American League did what it always does - it won the game. Michael Young's sac fly brought home Justin Morneau - barely - with the winning run of a 4-3 marathon.
"It seemed like the Stadium didn't want it to end," said Derek Jeter, who stuck around for all 15 innings while Yankee teammate Alex Rodriguez left the Stadium shortly after coming out of the game in the fifth. "That's what me and Mo were talking about."
The win came just in time as both teams were down to their last pitchers.
As a matter of fact, NL skipper Clint Hurdle actually told Mets' third baseman David Wright (who was in the DH spot) he might need him to pitch if the game went on much longer.
Asked how Met owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon would react if he were to pitch, Wright said, "I just hope that they were asleep."
It would be hard to blame them if they were, as the game, at times, seemed as if it would never end, with the American League failing to win it in the 10th despite loading the bases with no outs.
Boston's J.D. Drew, one of seven Red Sox on the AL squad, was named the MVP, even though he didn't enter the contest until the sixth inning. Drew was actually cheered, but his Boston teammate Jonathan Papelbon was vilified when he entered in the eighth for suggesting on Monday that he - and not Mariano Rivera - should close the game.
Drew went 2-for-4 with a home run, stolen base and a walk that loaded the bases in the 15th inning.
That's when Young came up and lofted a fly to right fielder Corey Hart, whose throw barely nailed Morneau.
"I was just praying at that point. I think if I had popped it up to second, he was still taking off for home," said Young.
The game may have ended after nine had Billy Wagner not blown a one-run lead for the NL in the eighth - giving up an RBI double to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria - but thanks to a shaky outing from the Met closer, the teams played seven more innings.
Wagner wasn't the only star to struggle Tuesday night.
Dan Uggla made an All-Star record three errors, doing his best to hand the AL the victory, but the Junior Circuit resembled the Yankees with runners in scoring position, missing out on opportunities in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings before finally coming through in the 15th.
While the NL lost out on home-field advantage and saw its winless streak extended to 12 years, there was little doubt that the night will go down as a memorable one for everyone involved.
With a collection of 49 Hall of Famers in attendance to join the 64 current All-Stars, the Yankee Stadium field was loaded with some of the greatest talent the game has ever seen for the pregame ceremony.
There was one more special guest to help close out the festivities, as George Steinbrenner made his first appearance in the Bronx since Opening Day, riding in from the outfield on a golf cart with his family surrounding him.
The night began with a Hall of Fame celebration, as the 49 members of the Hall emerged from Monument Park, where they had been gathered behind a red curtain in left-center field.
The biggest ovations were reserved for Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken and Willie Mays - at least until Reggie Jackson was announced, bringing chants of "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" that made you think you it was 1977.
The final players introduced on the field were the catchers, giving the fans the opportunity to show Yogi Berra their love with a thunderous ovation. Moments later, following Sheryl Crow's rendition of the national anthem, a golf cart emerged from the curtain in left-center, bringing Steinbrenner onto the field to deliver the balls for the ceremonial first pitch.
Steinbrenner, flanked by daughter Jennifer, son Hal and son-in-law Felix Lopez, was greeted with a nice ovation from the fans, then welcomed to the infield by Jackson, Berra, Whitey Ford and Goose Gossage, who then stepped up to deliver the ceremonial first pitches to A-Rod, Joe Girardi, Jeter and Mariano Rivera, respectively.
"It's my 12th year and by far it's the greatest show I've seen for an All-Star Game. New York knows how to do it best," said A-Rod, who was long gone by the time the game ended.
Pitchers dominated the early going, as the game was scoreless going into the fifth for the first time since 1990.
Matt Holliday, tabbed to replace Alfonso Soriano in the NL's starting outfield, snapped the scoreless tie in the fifth with a solo home run to right field off Ervin Santana of the Angels. The NL added another run to its lead in the sixth on Lance Berkman's sacrifice fly against Oakland's Justin Duchscherer.
Arizona's Dan Haren continued the NL's stellar pitching night, throwing two scoreless innings to match Ben Sheets Carlos and Zambrano. Edinson Volquez was unable to continue the trend, however, serving up Drew's two-run homer to right field with two outs in the seventh that tied the game.
Jonathan Papelbon came in for the eighth, ending the debate over who would serve as the AL's closer. Papelbon came into a chorus of boos from the 55,632 on hand, most of whom erupted in chants of "Mariano!" and "Overrated!" throughout the inning.
Papelbon allowed a leadoff single by Miguel Tejada, who stole second and advanced to third when Dioner Navarro's throw went wide and into center field. That set up Adrian Gonzalez's sac fly, giving the NL a one-run lead and putting the Red Sox closer in position for the loss with the unearned run.
Rivera got five outs, getting the final two in the ninth before pitching a scoreless 10th, but he missed out on a chance to be the winner after Colorado's Aaron Cook escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the 10th.