All-Star tales, Red Sox style

Pedro Martinez reaches the 300th strike outs in Fenway Park.

Pedro Martinez, here about to strike out his 300th batter in the ’99 season, gave an All-Star performance for the ages (Photo by Jack Maley / Boston Red Sox)

 

J.D. coming off the bench. Papelbon’s torment. The lovefest for Ted. Pedro’s whiffs. Roger’s perfection. Yaz’s MVP. The Monster’s nightmare. The fractured elbow. The eephus pitch. The walkoff in ’41.

The Red Sox have had their share of memorable moments in the 86 All-Star Games that precede next Tuesday’s gathering in San Diego. Here are a few  that stand out. We’ll offer them chronologically.

 

2008, Yankee Stadium

Drew, who entered the game in the sixth inning when he replaced Ichiro Suzuki in right field, hit a two-run home run off Edinson Volquez to tie the score at 2 in the seventh, then walked ahead of Michael Young’s game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 15th. Both managers fretted they were about to run out of pitchers in an encore to the 2002 fiasco, which Bud Selig declared a tie in the 11th inning.

Drew, who also singled and stole a base, joked he would have taken the hill for Terry Francona if called upon, even though he hadn’t pitched since high school.

“I’d have been ready,” he said. “I’ve had an opportunity to throw a lot in the outfield.

“I don’t know if I would have gotten anyone out, but I’d have thrown something up there.”

A great night for Drew. Not nearly as fun for Papelbon, who the day before the game had made himself a lightning rod for the scorn of Yankee fans when he made a case for closing instead of Yankee icon Mariano Rivera.

It got ugly. “Papelbum” was the headline on one New York tabloid, and a raucous crowd jeered his appearance on the pregame “red carpet” ride down Avenue of the Americas.

“Brutal,” he said of the coverage. “They missed the point I was trying to make. What kind of closer would I be if I didn’t want to close? But I said I was willing to step aside.

“The whole shebang was messed up. My wife was really upset. We got threats, everything. I wish I hadn’t taken her.”

All of the Sox were booed. “I learned two things,” Francona said of the parade. “They want Rivera to pitch, and I [stink].”

 

1999, Fenway Park

The consensus choice as the best All-Star Game of all. The Team of the Century was introduced, and when a golf cart, with Al Forrester at the wheel, brought out Ted Williams, All-Stars young and old gathered around him in heart-tugging tribute.

“You know, there were a lot of guys out there that were teared up,” Mark McGwire said. “The Hall of Famers out there, and the All-Stars, when you see Ted Williams and he has tears running down his eyes, it’s an emotional time.”

Then, in a pitching performance that rivaled one of the All-Star Game’s most legendary moments — Carl Hubbell of the Giants striking out Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin in succession 65 years earlier — Pedro Martinez struck out the side in the first inning, then struck out two more batters in the second inning, and was a unanimous choice as the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Martinez’s victims were Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa in the first inning, McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in the second. Larkin is in the Hall of Fame. The others ranked among the best hitters of their generation.

“When you have a guy like Pedro, whether he’s throwing the fastball or the changeup, with his arm speed it’s like trying to hit in a dark room,” American League manager Joe Torre said of Martinez.

The night will be remembered by many for one other moment, when four F-14’s flew very low over Fenway, seemingly skimming over the light stanchions, as Dorchester’s Donna Summer finished the anthem, rattling windows–and nerves—throughout the Fens.

“I almost fell to the ground,’’ Walker said. “They scared the daylights out of me.”

The losing pitcher by the way? Curt Schilling, five seasons before he came to the Sox.

 

RED SOX PITCHER THROWS PITCH AT FENWAY, 1986

Roger Clemens went nine up, nine down in outshining Doc Gooden in 1986 game played in front of his home crowd in Houston. (Photo by Peter Travers /Boston Red Sox)

1986, Houston Astrodome

The game’s best two young pitchers, 23-year-old Roger Clemens of the Red Sox and 21-year-old Dwight Gooden of the Mets, squared off in what became a preview of the World Series. This was a homecoming for Clemens, and he set down all nine batters he faced, emerging with a win and the MVP award, just as Martinez would 13 years later.

Clemens, who was pitching on two days’ rest, threw 25 pitches, 21 for strikes. At one point, he threw 14 straight strikes, and set down 4 NL MVP winners:

“It’s been like a fantasy camp this year,’’ he said. “The Red Sox are playing well and I’ve pitched pretty well this season. Coming home and pitching like this in the All-Star game, with my family [here], is like a dream come true.’’

 

1970, Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium

Carl Yastrzemski had three singles and a double while playing all 12 innings, none at his best position, left field. Yaz played six innings in center field, six at first base. The game, attended by President Nixon, is best remembered for Pete Rose crashing into catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 12th.

Dick Radatz at Spring Training in 1964

The Monster, Dick Radatz, gave up a walkoff home to Johnny Callison in the ’64 game **Note: Brearley Collection, donated by Boujoukos family (Photo by Dennis Brearley/Boston Red Sox)

1964, New York’s Shea Stadium

Johnny Callison of the Phillies hit a three-run walkoff home run off “The Monster,” Boston’s hulking reliever, Dick Radatz.

I wrote this while at the Globe in 1999:

Dick Radatz was so close to being named Most Valuable Player of the 1964 All-Star Game that he was already imagining what it would be like to slip behind the wheel of the Corvette that the game’s MVP received.

“But then that son of a gun backed it right out of my garage,” said the former Red Sox fireballer.

“That son of a gun” was Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison, who took Radatz deep for a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the National League a stunning 7-4 win over the American Leaguers, who did not take kindly to losing.

“My locker was in between {Mickey} Mantle and {Rocky} Colavito, and there must have been 30 reporters around me after the game,” Radatz said.

“One of the reporters asked, `What did he hit, Dick?’ Mantle turned around and said, `One of the damnedest home runs you’ve ever seen.’ And he wasn’t laughing, either.”

Radatz was an All-Star in both 1963 and ’64, when he reigned as the AL’s best closer.

“Yeah, I struck out 10 guys in 4 2/3 innings in those games, and all I have to show for it is an 0-1 record and a 7-plus ERA,” Radatz said.

 

1950, Chicago’s Comiskey Park

Ted Williams had often said that he had no intention of running into walls in pursuit of a catch. “What’s the sense of it?” Ted had told Time magazine that spring. “You hit the wall and maybe you don’t get hurt, but you’re out of position to play the ball and the guy takes the extra base.… If you get hurt bad, you’re out for a long time and how the hell does that help your ball club?”

Williams paid a steep price for not heeding his own advice in the first inning of the All-Star Game, when he made a fine running catch of a Ralph Kiner line drive, then crashed into the left-field wall, using his left elbow to brace for the collision. He remained in the game and played eight innings, but was in agony on the four-hour flight back to Boston.

“Ted was holding his hand in his shirt, and he said, ‘This [expletive] thing, I think it’s broken,’’’ Walt Dropo, another Sox All-Star recalled.

His instincts proved correct. Two days after the game, doctors removed seven bone chips from the elbow. Williams did not return to the starting lineup until Sept. 15, when he had four hits, including a home run, in a 12-9 win over the Browns that drew the Sox to 1 ½ games of first place. But over his next dozen games, Williams, the elbow still hurting, batted .159 (7 for 44). The Sox finished four games out of first, and that season would be the last in which Williams was in a pennant race.

 

1946, Fenway Park

There had been no All-Star Game in 1945, because of wartime restrictions on travel, so this gathering in Fenway Park took on the aspect of a grand reunion, with many of the stars having been away at war. Eight Sox players were on the team, which is still a club record.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more festive occasion,” remembered Phillies All-Star Frank McCormick, quoted in the book, The Victory Season, by Robert Weintraub. “Guys who hadn’t seen one another in years were crossing back and forth before the game to shake hands and visit. It was great.”

And here was a fan, Virginia Hanley, recalling the atmosphere in the Melrose (MA) Mirror in 1999: “Everyone was in a relaxed, happy mood. We had won the war and most of our favorite players had come home safely. The men in the stands had fought in the same battles as the athletes and shared memories that they never spoke of to us ‘civilians.’ There was a strong feeling of togetherness in the crowd, both on and off the field.’’

Rip Sewell was a journeyman pitcher who shot himself in the foot prior to going hunting, and in the aftermath of that accident developed a lobbed pitch that became known as an “eephus” pitch. The nickname came from a teammate. Maurice Van Robays, who said that “an eephus ain’t nuthin’ and neither is that pitch.”

The American League was leading, 9-0, when Ted Williams, who already had homered and singled twice, came to the plate to face Sewell, who made no secret he intended to throw his eephus, which supposedly was homer-proof. Williams fouled off the first one, then took a fastball for strike two. Sewell’s third pitch, an eephus, was off the plate.

His next delivery, Sewell would say later, was his “Sunday Super Duper Blooper.’’

“It was amazing how high Sewell threw it up in the air,” Bobby Doerr recalled much later. “It came straight down on you.”

Williams hit it into the bullpen.

“I guess if anyone would hit it out, it would be Ted,”  Doerr said.

1941, Detroit’s Briggs Stadium

The National League held a 5-4 lead with two on and two out in the ninth, with Ted Williams coming to the plate to face Cubs’ ace Claude Passeau. The pitcher describes the moment in “Red Sox Nation:”

“We had an out and a man on first base, and the ball was hit by Joe DiMaggio to the shortstop. He threw over to Billy Herman playing second base, and Herman has been quoted that he kind of showboated and threw to first base and missed it by a foot. DiMaggio was safe at first on the play, and he should have been out, and I would have been out of the inning.

“So Williams got a chance to hit with two on, and that was the second time I ever pitched to him—nobody ever talks about that I struck him out the first time. And I got the ball where I wanted to, inside; that’s where I had to pitch all left-handed hitters. He hit the ball inside the trademark, a fly ball, but it hit the façade in right.’’

That three-run walkoff home run by Williams produced one of the enduring displays of unbridled joy by Williams, who cavorted around the bases like the 22-year-old he was.

This is how Joe Cronin remembered the moment, as recounted by Leigh Montville in Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero.

“I was sitting in the dugout when he hit the home run, and I jumped up and ran as fast as I could to home plate to meet him. As soon as Ted hit the ball, he stood in the batter’s box, watching the flight of the ball. While he was watching it, his arms shot straight over his head like a football referee signaling a touchdown, and as soon as the ball hit the top of the façade, he started clapping his hands and jumping up and down. He did this all around the bases.’’

2 Comments

Great stuff here Gordon.

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Manny and Ortiz hitting home runs in Houston in 2004? Winning that game ended up benefiting the Red Sox in the long run when they had home field advantage against the Cardinals in the World Series.

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