Now 90 years old, the Midsummer Classic has made two previous stops in Seattle. The first occurred soon after the city got its current baseball franchise and the other shortly following the move into its current ballpark. The MVP performances from those games each stand out among the most notable in the event’s long history.
1979 MLB All-Star Game
The 50th All-Star Game, and the first played indoors, is on the short list of the best.
More often than not, the standout player makes his mark at the plate or on the mound. On this evening, Dave Parker’s defense was clearly the difference. The Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder made his case with two throws that were as spectacular as they were crucial.
In the bottom of the seventh, Jim Rice started it with a high fly that got lost in the roof of the Kingdome. Neither Parker nor second baseman Joe Morgan could catch it. The ball bounced high off the astroturf. Parker gathered it in foul territory. As Rice tried to stretch it into a triple, Parker threw a missile. Ron Cey applied the tag and Rice was denied.
But the biggest and best throw came the next inning. The National League had tied it at six in the top of the inning on a solo homer from the Mets’ Lee Mazzilli. But the AL was threatening again. Brian Downing led off with a single. Reggie Jackson drew an intentional walk. With one out, Graig Nettles laced a hit to right.
Parker played it on one hop. Downing tried to score the lead run. Parker’s cannon arm rifled the ball on a line to Montreal’s Gary Carter protecting the plate. Carter got the throw in enough time to force Downing to alter his head-first slide. The tag beat Downing and the game remained tied.
The lead changed hands six times this night. The final occurrence came in the top of the ninth — and Mazzilli was in the middle of it again. After the NL loaded the bases entirely on walks, Mazzilli drove in a run now by not swinging. He took Ron Guidry’s pitch wide for ball four.
Bruce Sutter shut the door in the bottom half and the decade closed with the NL victorious in nine of the 10 contests.
Nolan Ryan made his only All-Star start while Pete Rose played the last four innings at first base, setting a record for playing in five different positions over the course of his All-Star career.
2001 MLB All-Star Game
You couldn’t have scripted a better All-Star farewell for Cal Ripken, Jr. He and Tony Gwynn, each holding special places with their respective franchises and cities, were honored ahead of their retirements at season’s end.
It was an especially memorable day for Ripken. He was voted as the AL’s starting third baseman, having moved over there as his career wound down. But Texas’ Alex Rodriguez, the elected shortstop, insisted Ripken slide over to his old position when the AL took the field for the top of the first. Ripken reluctantly switched to the delight of the Safeco Field crowd.
If that wasn’t enough, Ripken’s initial at-bat in the bottom of the third was purely storybook. After a standing ovation, he swung at Chan Ho Park’s first pitch and sent it over the left-center field fence.
The MVP Award was basically a foregone conclusion, especially when the American League won 4-1. Back-to-back homers from Derek Jeter and Magglio Ordoñez couldn’t sway the vote.
While Cal provided the dramatics, Tommy Lasorda offered pure comedy. The former Dodgers manager was coaching third base in the sixth inning when the majority of Vladimir Guererro’s broken bat when flying. It struck Tommy and sent him tumbling over. There was thankfully no injury, but definitely a new addition to the blooper reel.
Seattle got plenty of entertainment value, especially with its bevy of hometown All-Stars. The Mariners, on their way to a record-setting 116 regular-season victories, had eight entries on the roster — include soon-to-be Rookie of the Year and league MVP Ichiro Suzuki.