By Sean Sylver, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The turn of the century saw Major League Baseball and its players remodeling a sport more dependent on history than any other North American pastime. They erected new ballparks, set new records, and made new memories while carefully honoring the game’s rich and complex past. While the era eventually generated complexities of its own, in the moment, baseball was king again.
The 1998 home run race paid homage to the legacy of the late Roger Maris – his stressful 1961 pursuit of The Babe in New York wallpapered over by a jovial competition between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Throughout the country, cities welcomed new facilities with modern amenities and architectural flourishes that called upon childhood memories. And with the help of fans, MLB sought to construct an All-Century Team of the greatest players in history. Everybody loves a good fantasy draft.
For the first time since 1961, the year after Updike wrote of the “lyric little bandbox,” the Major League Baseball All-Star Game returned to Boston, where things were different but the same as they had been 38 summers before. The hometown Red Sox were in their 81st year of what was largely believed to be a curse that would last five more. Four games up in the AL East were the Yankees, coming off one of the greatest seasons of all-time and in the midst of winning four World Series championships in five years.
But Boston had Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Fenway Park, and one of the most decorated living alumni in all of MLB, Ted Williams. All those elements, and more, would coalesce on July 13, 1999 to create perhaps the most iconic celebration in the history of the game.
Kevin Costner summed up the evening as the night began on the Fox TV telecast: “In this final summer of the 20th century, tonight’s All-Star Game will be played beneath Boston’s giant Green Monster. It just wouldn’t be right anywhere else.”
Matt Williams, Arizona Diamondbacks: What a fantastic place to play. You could feel the presence of everybody who played there. There are few places remaining in baseball where you get that feeling, but certainly at Fenway, knowing that you’re sitting on the same bench as so many guys who came before you who are now in the Hall of Fame.
Marshall Hook, reporter, Forever Baseball: It’s hard to conceive now because this was pre-Tom Brady. The Patriots hadn’t won anything. So you had a team with Pedro and Nomar – with the personality they had, they were absolutely the team in town. The level of popularity the Patriots have now, the Red Sox had it and perhaps more so, because everybody wins now. Nobody else was doing anything in this era.
Honoring Fenway Park and Ted Williams was such a positive thing, nationally, in a way that the local sports teams probably hadn’t seen since the Larry Bird era.
Jon Wallach, Boston sports anchor: Stuff was happening around Boston for the first time in a while. I remember thinking, “The All-Star Game has come to Boston and Pedro is pitching.” It was a big deal.
Dan Roche, WBZ Radio: That week was 24/7 baseball. I was able to tape an interview with Ted Williams. He had that booming, John Wayne voice. We talked about different players and he shared his opinions on the game. He was still sharp as a tack when it came to knowing the game and knowing hitters. It was one of the highlights of my life.
Wallach: The FanFest at the Hynes Convention Center was a huge deal. Nowadays stuff like that is old hat; you’ve got the Super Bowl Experience or something similar at every major event. But I remember walking around like, “Wow, nothing ever comes here.”
Tony Massarotti, Boston Herald: The whole thing was awesome. I’m not a big All-Star Game guy, but the idea of the game at Fenway was a big deal. It hadn’t been there in a long, long time. The Red Sox also had some dynamic players. Nomar was at the peak of his game and Pedro was the best pitcher in baseball, so there were these two enormous stars the organization got to showcase. If you look at the [Dan] Duquette era, the All-Star Game was their way of showing off the new Red Sox.
John Harrington, Red Sox CEO: Whenever the topic of the All-Star Game came up, I always put my dibs in for Boston. Eventually, the Commissioner got the message. I figured it was partly a reward for the work I’d done with the Commissioner’s Office over the years and it was very nice of him to schedule it here, for 1999 in particular. We were very happy, but surprised, because it had been a long, soft sell.
It was also thought to be a sendoff for an 87-year old ballpark, with nearly two-thirds of Major League teams opening new, retro-styled fields between 1992 and 2010. As it turned out, “New Fenway” never arrived, as the team was sold in 2002.
Jerry Trupiano, Red Sox radio broadcaster: They figured, you know, Fenway’s been around since 1912…new parks are being built, and this could be a revenue source.
Harrington: If you look at how Super Bowls and All-Star Games are awarded to cities, it’s usually as a result of building a new facility. It’s a bit of a reward for the community to help clear the way for a new ballpark project. So I figured, let’s build some community spirit for a new ballpark. It was part of my reasoning when I spoke with the Commissioner. The concept of the new ballpark was in the old ballpark.
Massarotti: It was a controversial thing. I was relatively young at the time, so I don’t think I fully understood the impact of it, but I remember thinking the chances of it happening in Boston were slim because of all the political nonsense. The idea was to build it right next to the existing Fenway, save some of the existing structures and turn them into a museum. If you saw diagrams and models of it, it was pretty cool.
Glenn Stout, author, Red Sox Century: I didn’t like the proposal from the beginning. I thought it was a mistake to try to recreate Fenway. No matter what they did, the fans were going to lose that intimacy, which is the only reason to put up with those 17-inch wide seats, because you were really close. You could put up with three hours of physical misery because you had a good view.
Brian Jordan, Atlanta Braves: [The All-Star Game] was my first time playing there. I didn’t know what to expect. The thing that stuck out was the small locker rooms. They’ve upgraded those locker rooms since then. With all those balls we had to sign and the media in there, it was like we were sardines.
David Jauss, Red Sox first base coach: This was the old clubhouse at Fenway, before it was re-done, so all those guys, Ripken, Palmeiro, and so on – you were just shoulder to shoulder with all those guys in there.
Major League Baseball first instituted interleague play during the 1997 season, so it wasn’t as commonplace as it is now. For many, the All-Star Game remained a unique opportunity to interact with and compete against the best from the other league.
Shawn Green, Toronto Blue Jays: It was more of an exhibition then, before they made it have World Series implications [in 2003]. It didn’t have “regular season” intensity; it was more about rubbing elbows with all of these other great players.
Maurice Baxter, Red Sox clubhouse attendant: Honestly, I saw a lot of those players throughout the season. Especially with interleague play. But there were guys I’d never seen before at Fenway, like Sosa, McGwire, and many others.
1999 was also the year Major League Baseball, through expert picks and fan voting, attempted to select their All-Century Team. Pretty much every living nominee was present at Fenway on that July evening.
Dan Duquette, Red Sox general manager: Our objective was to put on the biggest party baseball had ever seen. We thought it might be the last big night of the Yawkey regime. We were told, “You have an unlimited budget,” and to go over it!
We must’ve had 45,000 people there for that game. Everybody who worked at Fenway (laughs) let their whole family into the ballpark.
Harrington: I have to compliment the Commissioner’s office. They do this every year. They have a staff that’s event-oriented, with the All-Star Game, World Series, and whatnot. So they had about a half-dozen staff come up to Boston and I assembled a team of eight or 10 guys and gals in promotions – young people – and they put their minds together with the notion of creating iconic moments.
Duquette: I remember the All-Century players coming out of the outfield wall like ballplayers through the corn (a callback to the film Field of Dreams). Seeing so many of the great players in the history of the game walking across the outfield…it just gave you goosebumps.
MLB again turned to Costner, just as the actor had to baseball in some of his most notable roles, to introduce the All-Century nominees before the packed house. Warm cheers greeted the senior citizens of the affair, like Stan “The Man” Musial and “The Heater from Van Meter,” Bob Feller, contemporaries of Williams who also served in World War II.
While everyone could side with the decorated veterans in attendance, thoughts on Roger Clemens were mixed. The former Boston ace, now wearing Yankee pinstripes, faced a low end of boos beneath the applause. The camera then panned to Dennis Eckersley, who achieved his most notable success with the A’s but spent parts of eight seasons in Boston, and the place erupted.
Carlton Fisk, another Boston icon, drew an extended ovation. Yankee postseason legend Reggie Jackson received a nice hand. Titans of the game like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson got a huge reception.
And then there was Yaz, over near first base, with no hat (the story was he planned to give it to a young fan but put it down and returned to find it missing), wearing the emotion of the evening on his face. He greeted the fans who revered him in his Triple Crown days, crucified him when the team failed, and were positively ready to shower him with praise on an uncharacteristically cool summer night, a throwback to a September afternoon 16 years prior when Yaz took a lap around the field to cap a career of 3,419 hits and 452 home runs, all with Boston.
Then, the starting lineups were introduced – a monument to a spectacular era in league history. As you’d expect, Derek Jeter, David Cone and Bernie Williams of the Yankees received a mixed reaction. Garciaparra got a massive ovation. The camera panned to Ken Griffey Jr., a young Manny Ramirez, Cal Ripken Jr. (who received a big hand), until it was evident that no one was sitting down. The crowd absolutely lost it when Pedro, warming up in the bullpen, was announced.
After music legend and Dorchester native Donna Summer strode to the mound and delivered a powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” four Navy fighter jets buzzed Fenway with a dramatic flyover that topped even the nastiest brushback pitch from the right hand of Martinez.
Harrington: The flyover was timed to the second. The pilots were circling and waiting for the green light to come in at the end of the anthem. That wound up being a few minutes late. To arrive at the appropriate time, they had to dive down and pick up speed. They came in so low, they broke windows all around the Fenway area. One of the pilots joked to the other, “We’re this low, why don’t we go in between the light towers?”
Hook: It was a little bit lower than people had planned. They were way up high, kind of circling around at high altitude, like little specks up in the sky. When it was go time, they came in at a really high rate of speed. Standing on the corner of that roof was scary. I felt like I would almost fall off when they flew over.
The curtain in center field was pulled back to reveal a golf cart, driven by longtime Red Sox employee Al Forester. Public address announcer Ed Brickley set the scene as a star among stars on a legendary night made his first appearance at Fenway in years:
“He wore the Red Sox uniform for 22 years. He wore the uniform of the United States Marines for four and a half more. He owned left field at this very ballpark. He was the last man to hit .400 in a season, and he did it 58 years ago. He hit 521 home runs, including one in his last at-bat. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the greatest hitter who ever lived, No. 9, Hall of Famer, baseball legend, Ted Williams!”
Duquette: (Commissioner) Bud Selig told me at the start of the year: “Get Ted Williams to the All-Star Game.” I was talking to Ted every couple of weeks, keeping him updated on the team. He loved Nomar, he loved Pedro…as much as he could love a pitcher.
So I called him and said, “Ted, you know we’ve got the All Star Game this year.”
And he goes (John Wayne inflection), “Yeah, yeah.”
“You know we’d love to have you throw out the first pitch.”
He goes, “Yeah, yeah.”
“What do you need from us?”
“Well, I need a private plane. You tell whoever you have to that I need a private plane.”
So Ted agreed that we could count on him for the All-Star Game, he just needed a little help getting there. Mr. Selig said it was no problem, because it was a priority for MLB.
Brickley: It’s because of him [Williams] that I love baseball so much. I went to my first game at Fenway Park in 1943. It was during World War II and my grandfather took me. Bob Johnson was the left fielder during the war and I thought he was great because he hit home runs. So I’d tell my dad, my grandfather, my uncles, “I love Bob Johnson.” And they’d all say, “wait ’til you see Williams.”
The Braves were still in town back then, so I’d also go to Braves Field and see the National League guys: Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella. I loved the game, but Williams was the be-all, end-all.
Green: Even though I never saw him play, I idolized Ted Williams. That was the guy.
Brickley: The control room was quite small, and I was in there that night with a bunch of people. The people from the military presentation, Kevin Costner and his group were in there. After I got through with the introduction of Ted, it was very emotional. I turned around and the military personnel were wiping tears off their cheeks.
Williams repeatedly doffed his cap to the home fans as the golf cart rolled steadily along the warning track, the first base line, behind home plate, and around the infield before gliding to a stop between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. Both the American and National League All-Star rosters, plus the All-Century players, clustered around the Splendid Splinter.
One by one: McGwire, Sosa, Ripken, Griffey, Tony Gwynn, came forward to shake Williams’ hand. All-Century nominees like Feller and Juan Marichal leaned in to have a word. And the 80-year ate it up.
Duquette: It was just a magic moment when Ted came out and he held court there on the infield.
Harrington: The players were just enraptured with Ted; they could’ve stayed there all night.
Roche: I remember Ted in his golf cart saying, “Do you smell the burnt wood of the bat when you hit the ball just so?”
Harrington: Williams asked McGwire if he smelled the smoke off his bat when he hit the ball.
Finally, Garciaparra emerged to grasp the hand of the legend. Williams smiled warmly and said “there’s my man, right here. You’re gonna be everybody’s man! I’m sorry I missed your party…we’ve got to get together more often.”
Brickley: It was phenomenal, the adoration they showed to Ted. Nomar and Ted had a great relationship. Nomar would call him on the phone and say, “How should I hit this pitcher? What should I do?” I think Ted loved Nomar, and vice versa.
As old home week continued on the infield grass, Brickley was placed in the awkward position of having to ask the players to leave the field so the actual game could begin.
Harrington: That moment of Ted out at the pitcher’s mound, congregating with the players, caused a bit of concern for the TV people because the delay in the proceedings made them cut a few commercials.
Brickley: Fox TV had the game that year and there was a person assigned by Major League Baseball who coordinated ballpark communications that day. He had a timetable. Because of the way the players gathered around Ted, it was cutting into his commercial time. He said to me, “OK, make the announcement.”
I said, “This is history! I’m not going to make any announcement right now.” The Fox guy asked me again, and I said, “This is never going to happen again!” It probably went on another 30 seconds, though it seemed like a long time, and finally he says, “If you don’t make the announcement, I’m going to get somebody else to do it.”
So, that’s when I made the announcement.
With the help of his son, John Henry Williams (who caught some flak for outfitting his father in apparel promoting a website), Teddy Ballgame descended from his motorized perch and ambled over to Gwynn to deliver the ceremonial first pitch.
Duquette: Tony and Nomar were two of Ted’s kindred spirits. Ted grew up in San Diego (where Gwynn played for 20 seasons). Tony always went to the Hitter’s Hall of Fame and they’d talk hitting day and night. Ted also made it a special point to mentor Nomar, and he found a way to connect with him through their shared heritage.
Williams wound and, midway through his motion, paused to ask Gwynn, “where is he?” With the point of Gwynn’s finger, a set of 80-year old eyes, at one time able to pick up the spin on a baseball out of a pitcher’s hand better than anyone else in the history of the sport, locked on Carlton Fisk standing at home plate. Number Nine lobbed a strike to a thunderous ovation.
Jay Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks: The pregame stuff was tons of fun. So many people crowded around Ted; it was tough to get in there. That was a marvelous moment, but I enjoyed just as much the fact that we had all of the players nominated for the All-Century Team surrounding the infield dirt. That was extremely enjoyable for me because I got to spend some time with guys I grew up around when I was young in the game, like Eddie Murray, Robin Yount, George Brett. The entire experience was amazing.
Jordan: A lot of us didn’t even want to play the game, we just wanted to pick the brains of all the great players that were on the field. It was amazing. Hank Aaron is probably the greatest of all-time in my eyes. Growing up in Baltimore, of course, Cal Ripken and Frank Robinson were there. Joe Morgan. I kind of just took in the history that was there before me and admired the moment. A lot of people were trying to get at some of the greats. I didn’t want to bother them too much.
Williams: A number were contemporaries who I had the chance to play with or against, over time. Over the course of a career, you get a chance to see everybody. I’d spent some time one-on-one with Ted. I also got a chance to sit and talk with Johnny Bench. That was special. To have them all gathered on one field was really cool.
Cameras caught Red Sox coach Jim Rice, a Hall of Famer in his own right, asking Willie Mays to sign an autograph. Later in the evening, Tom Seaver was interviewed for TV, and the legendary ace displayed his own collection of signatures. The current players also spent some time reflecting on the moment.
Green: I got to shake Ted’s hand before that. He’d come over to the clubhouse to say hi to Nomar and some of the guys he knew. I was just excited to be talking to the current players. Clemens had been my teammate the season before, so he congratulated me on making my first All-Star team.
Jose Rosado, Kansas City Royals: I felt like I was living a dream. The number one guy back then was Ken Griffey Jr. Robbie Alomar was a guy who took me under his wing. Manny Ramirez – oh, my goodness.
Seeing George Brett, I didn’t feel alone. It was neat to see a guy with that royal blue “KC” hat, like me. But Ted Williams, that was the guy of the moment. I’ll never forget that.
With the pregame festivities complete, the game was still at hand. And starter Pedro Martinez, in the midst of one of his finest seasons in an unparalleled career, made sure the fans remained standing for the first inning. The spindly ace became the first pitcher to start an All-Star Game with three strikeouts, setting down Hall of Famer Barry Larkin (swinging), three-time batting champion Larry Walker (looking) and 600-home run hitter Sammy Sosa (swinging). The crowd started percolating with Walker down 0-and-2, came to a boil as Pedro buckled Sosa’s knees with a curve, then bubbled over when Sammy found nothing but air to end the inning. The whole thing took about five and a half minutes.
Roche: It was incredible to watch a guy throw 99 miles an hour, then come back and throw a curveball, or a change-up like it was on a string.
Stout: He had a run of four or five years where he had one of the best fastballs in the game if not the best fastball…certainly the fastball with the most life. He had that Bugs Bunny change-up, a great breaking ball … The genius of Pedro was he never threw what the batter was expecting; he was always a step ahead. Even if you somehow knew what was coming, he had three different ways to get you out.
Jeff Frye, Boston Red Sox: I think he was 23-4 that year with over 300 strikeouts. It was unbelievable. I’d be there at second, looking over at Nomar. I’d get the sign from the catcher and I’d relay the sign to Nomar to see who’s covering [second] base. I’d look over at him, and he’s acting like he’s yawning. I’m like “Dude, what are you doing?” We’d just stand there, “That’s 12 strikeouts! That’s 15 strikeouts!”
The second inning started with freshly minted single-season home run king Mark McGwire, who went down, swinging, on four pitches. Four consecutive punch-outs for Pedro. He had the opposition shaking their heads, bewildered looks on their faces, talking to themselves, to the umpire, trying to make sense of the affair.
Green: I always enjoyed facing the better pitchers. It was fun going out and trying to spoil things. It was also fun to see guys you didn’t usually get to see and watch the reaction to how nasty the other guy is.
Jay Bell cracked 38 home runs in 1999 and started the game for the National League at second base. He had the good fortune of avoiding Martinez.
Bell: I had to face him when he was in Montreal. Never had real good success against him. So it was a weight off my back to not have to face him in the game.
Bell’s teammate Matt Williams, however, did. 1999 was the fifth All-Star game of Williams’ career. The third baseman had led the league in home runs, paced the National League in RBI, and would eventually appear in three World Series, winning a ring along with Bell and the Diamondbacks in 2001.
Williams: The primary goal was “don’t strike out.” You look at the guys one through four – those guys were tremendous baseball players. I was just trying to make contact and put the ball in play somewhere.
He did. Williams would be the only hitter to hit a fair ball off Pedro and the only one other than Larkin to even make contact. His grounder to second was booted by Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar and Williams raced into first, safe on an error.
The rally would be short lived. Jeff Bagwell ran the count full but struck out swinging. Number five. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez whipped off the mask, threw a laser to second, and Williams was wiped out as well.
Williams: Of course they threw me out trying to steal second base. I wasn’t known for my speed.
Five strikeouts on six batters. It hadn’t been done since Carl Hubbell in 1933 – the very first All-Star game. At the peak of his dominance, Martinez dialed it up against the very best and made them look foolish. But it would come at a price.
Massarotti: Pedro got hurt in that game. He really threw out his arm.
Trupiano: It messed up his shoulder.
Indeed, Martinez hit the disabled list following his next start, an uncharacteristic shellacking at the hands of the unspectacular Florida Marlins in interleague play. After a couple weeks off, the righty would rebound to win the Cy Young Award and finish second in the MVP voting.
Baxter: He got robbed. It seemed like he won every start and had double-digit strikeouts doing so.
Martinez would also submit multiple iconic performances that October. But his star perhaps never blazed as brightly as it did that night across two dominant innings at Fenway.
In the meantime, the American League plated two runs in the bottom of the first off Phillies ace (and future Red Sox postseason hero) Curt Schilling. With Kenny Lofton on, the righty got Garciaparra to fly out to deep right and struck out Griffey. But Ramirez walked, Cleveland teammate Jim Thome brought in Lofton with a single, and Cal Ripken scored Ramirez with a base hit to right, swinging on the first pitch.
It was up to the rest of the AL staff to preserve the win for the hometown hurler.
Rosado: After Pedro Martinez did what he did the first couple of innings, every time a guy in the bullpen got up to enter the game, the Boston fans were all over him, like, “Don’t screw it up for Pedro.”
The first guy was David Cone and they start screaming at him: “Yankees suck!” And I’m like, “Well, he’s a Yankee.” The next guy was Mike Mussina, who pitched in Baltimore, and they got on him, too, but I’m thinking, “Well, he’s in the same division.”
So I get up, and I pitched for Kansas City, a different division entirely, and they were all over me, too. So I’m thinking, “I need to be sharp for Pedro.”
Williams: I faced David Cone a lot over the course of our careers. Electric fastball, the ability to spin the ball where he needed to for a strike, get you to chase it off the plate when he got you down. Split finger … I think that’s the ball that he got me on, down and in. He was the ultimate competitor. It wasn’t the first time he’d struck me out and it certainly wasn’t the last. But that’s what the All-Star Game’s about: You get to face the best of the best and see how you measure up.
The NL did get to Cone for their only run of the night in the third, as Jeromy Burnitz doubled and chugged in on a Barry Larkin single past the outstretched glove of Garciaparra.
Nomar was retired by Randy Johnson in the bottom of the third on a first pitch grounder, then was lifted in the fourth for a Jeter defensive substitution. In a fitting gesture, the rival shortstops (Garciaparra had narrowly edged Jeter for the start via online voting) embraced during the exchange.
The American League struck again in the fourth, adding two runs against first-time All-Star Kent Bottenfield, who’d pitched the Cardinals to victory in San Francisco on Sunday night and took a red eye to be a part of the festivities. The AL had a 4-1 lead that would hold through the conclusion of the contest.
In the meantime, the usual All-Star boxes got checked off. Griffey against former Mariners teammate Johnson? Check. Johnson whiffing Ramirez on 99 mph heat? Check. Thome going deep to right with first-time All-Star Vladimir Guerrero hauling it in, up against the wall? Check.
On a night when the National League couldn’t get much going, Williams got a base hit off Rosado in the sixth.
Williams: I didn’t punch out against Pedro, David got me and I got a knock, too, so it was a pretty good night.
The veteran would again be erased on the base paths.
Rosado: I got a ground ball to third, Tony Fernandez to Robbie Alomar…5-4-3 double play. If you ask me what I did on every single pitch, I can remember. I remember every second. I looked up in the sky and thanked God for the opportunity, and my family came to mind right away.
Brian Jordan drove in 115 runs in 1999, his first season with the Braves after parts of seven seasons in St. Louis, the last one mostly hitting behind McGwire as he chased the home run crown. Jordan’s Braves would go all the way to the 1999 World Series. The two-sport star made the most of what would turn out to be his lone All-Star Game opportunity, getting on base twice.
Jordan: Just to get a hit in that game was awesome. I was pumped up. Growing up watching, coming this far, and playing in one of the greatest All-Star games ever…
I tease everybody. “Hey I hit 1.000 in the All-Star Game.” I don’t think a lot of people have done that, so I’ve got some bragging rights.
There were no home runs; not a single dent in the Monster. The game itself moved briskly as far as midsummer exhibitions go. But 20 years on, the memories persist – for the organizers, the fans, the players, the families of those involved.
Rosado: About a week before that All Star Game, we had my first child. So she [just turned] 20 on July 4th! My wife stayed home with her and wasn’t able to travel. I have a picture of my baby looking at the TV – she was just a baby, but still.
I invited my parents. They didn’t have the facilities that they have now for after the game. They went the wrong way, so they wound up enjoying the party behind the Green Monster. And they didn’t really have cell phones back then, so I spent a lot of time looking for them! But it was a blessed time for my entire family.
Bell: I thought the Red Sox and MLB put on a fantastic night, something that was memorable for fans, the former players and the current players as well.
Harrington: Ted sat with Maureen and myself during the game. At the end, Pedro is down on the field accepting the MVP Award and Ted says “you know, I’ve never met Pedro. I’d love to meet him.” We called down, and Pedro was very excited to meet Ted Williams.
He came up with his MVP trophy. Pedro and Ted had this great conversation but it started out with Pedro saying to Ted, “Will you autograph this All-Star Game program for me?” So Ted took it and wrote down some wonderful words to Pedro. Pedro took the program and said to Ted, “Thank you. This is more valuable to me than the MVP trophy.”
Of course, they talked about pitching and hitting. Ted is admiring Pedro’s long fingers, saying how he could’ve been a great piano player. Ted, being the great Marine jet pilot, asks Pedro, “When you throw the breaking ball, is the air passing faster over the top of the ball, or beneath the ball?”
Pedro looks at me and I go, “I’m only an accountant!” Ted is of course thinking about airplane dynamics and he went on to give a little bit of a scientific explanation. Pedro was loving every minute of it. Of course, you remember Ted could pick up the spin on the ball as soon as it left the pitcher’s hand.
Brickley: I still work at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have included me as part of their “Legends Suite” team and I get to introduce some of the legends who come in to schmooze with people who pay good money to meet them. Two of the regular legends are Carlton Fisk and Dennis Eckersley, and those guys still talk about that All-Star Game and the All-Century Team all of the time. Fisk said there’s never been anything like it.
Hook: I don’t think All-Star Game has the shine on it that it once did. Back then, people still cared about the All-Star Game. This was pre-Milwaukee, and the tie. Having it “count” ultimately had the reverse effect, instead of people just enjoying the game. So making it matter made it less popular, in my opinion.
This particular game was hugely popular on the merits of itself and the merits of the stars – and not just the Boston ones. Sure, there was a steroid-y way about it, but ’99 was probably one of the high points for baseball as a sport. This game really captured the big personalities the game is so lacking today, and put them all in Fenway Park.
Roche: For a baseball junkie, it was a once in a lifetime experience. It was just tremendous, start to finish.
Massarotti: The theater was awesome. It got rave reviews from all of baseball because it was a throwback night, and I think the Red Sox got a lot of love from it.
Williams: Fenway is a unique place, for sure. To have it there, and to have the chance to interact with all the Hall of Famers, and future Hall of Famers, was pretty special. The interaction between Ted and Tony Gwynn and everybody gathering around the mound…even for an event like an All-Star Game, that was a pretty rare thing. The whole experience was the best All-Star Game I’d been a part of.
Rosado: Players say to me, “Rosie – you pitched in the All-Star Game? So you were around Ted Williams when he was in the golf cart?
Jordan: I’ll never forget the best players to ever play the game, in the middle of that field. I say today that I played in one All-Star Game, and it was the best All-Star Game ever in baseball. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Duquette: I don’t think there’s been a more magical time at Fenway Park.
That July night featured a collection of so many personalities, their common trait a contribution to an array of memories that have shaped America’s pastime. 20 years on, and due to a variety of factors, the NFL has surpassed Major League Baseball in stature, both throughout the country and in New England.
But as a moment in time, the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park will be difficult to surpass in any sport, at any time in history.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.