Happy All-Star Week! In the many years of compiling stories from baseball legends for #DiamondsFromTheDugout, I ran across seven examples of stories from Midsummer Classics. The book is based on the lessons extracted from all of the interviews, and there were some good ones that came from the All-Star hits. Remember, the central question in our book is: "What hit meant the most to you and why?"
Ralph Kiner: 1950 at Comiskey Park. HR in ninth off Art Houtteman sends game into extras, then NL wins. “We turned the evolution of the American League winning into the National League at that time.”
Maury Wills: 1966 in St. Louis. Walk-off single off Pete Richert as a snubbed pinch-hitter gives NL a 2-1 win in the 10th, and he walks back to Chase Park Plaza hotel and “laughed all the way, with joy.” Wills repeatedly said in our interview that he believes he was blackballed in the 1960s by fellow players who voted for starters then, because of bitterness over his base-stealing. “I’ve never mentioned it. I don’t feel too good about it. It’s the same with the Hall of Fame. . . . I’ll live with it. But I won’t live peacefully with it.”
Tony Perez: 1967 in Anaheim. Doesn’t enter his first-ever All-Star Game until 10th inning, but HR off Catfish Hunter in the top of the 15th wins game and MVP honors. “It’s special because I didn’t start the game. . . . That means from the beginning through the bottom of the ninth, I never was in that game.”
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John Mayberry: 1973 in Kansas City. Double off former Minors teammate Wayne Twitchell and then a standing O from hometown fans. “I had been wanting to play in the All-Star Game my whole life. I dreamed of it. I got into the game, and played the whole game, actually.”
Tony Gwynn: 1994 in Pittsburgh. Two-run double to left off David Cone after anticipating a forkball. In the roundtable interview I did with him and Stan Musial in St. Louis (along with Sporting News editor John Rawlings), Gwynn said: “Lots of times I stand on first or second and just (wonder), ‘Where did that come from?’” Musial replied: “Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.”
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Frank Thomas: 1995 in Arlington. HR off John Smiley, “crushed” to a luxury suite way up the left field line in the Rangers’ new Mall Ball venue, after winning HR Derby. “Coming into the game, you just felt very dangerous. I know I felt dangerous after winning the Home Run Derby.”
Miguel Tejada: 2005 in Detroit. HR off John Smoltz secures MVP. “It meant more to me than the Home Run Derby (which he won a year earlier). The Derby was all for me. The All-Star Game was for my team.”
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