NEW YORK (AP)—J.D. Drew wondered whether he’d be pitching soon. Clint Hurdle sounded out David Wright about his mound prowess.
It was the 15th inning of the final All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, and the bullpens were empty. As goodbyes go, this was a long, long one.
“It was just crazy how it seemed like it lasted forever,” Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “It was the last year for Yankee Stadium, the last All-Star game, and it’s kind of fitting that it seemed like it lasted forever.”
Justin Morneau slid home just in time on Michael Young’s sacrifice fly in the 15th inning, giving the American League a 4-3 victory that extended its unbeaten streak to 12.
In a game that began at dusk Tuesday and ended at 1:37 a.m. Wednesday morning, the grand old ballpark was half-empty when Young stopped a 4-hour, 50-minute marathon on the 453rd pitch. Given the ticket prices—$525-$725 in the lower deck, $150 in the bleachers—fans deserved something extra. They got it.
Many of the 49 Hall of Famers honored during pregame pageantry likely were in bed by the final out. For Boston’s Terry Francona, the AL manager, this took on the stress of a game that counts in the standings.
“I told Jim Leyland, `I’ll quit cursing, I’ll quit chewing,”’ he said, referring to the Detroit manager who was part of his coaching staff. “I lied.”
The NL was given a pregame pep talk by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, whose motto is: “Let’s play two!” And they nearly did, matching the NL’s 2-1 win at Anaheim in 1967 for the longest All-Star game.
Winner Scott Kazmir and loser Brad Lidge were the last available pitchers. Some started to worry this would replicate 2002’s 7-7, 12-inning tie in Milwaukee, which caused the commissioner’s office to expand the rosters.
Drew has reminded Francona that he could pitch in an emergency.
“Just give me a holler out here,” the Red Sox right fielder remembered saying. “After it started to come to fruition, I was a little bit nervous.”
Hurdle sought out Wright, the New York Mets third baseman who was a late addition to the roster as an injury replacement.
“I told David, `You were the last pick, I went and got you. Have you ever pitched in an All-Star game?” Hurdle said. “I was doing Chinese arithmetic from the sixth inning on. I felt like I was in algebra class. It got wild.”
The AL improved to 6-0 since the All-Star game began determining home-field advantage in the World Series and 11-0-1 since its 1996 loss in Philadelphia. And it even ended an old hex—the AL had been 0-9-1 in extra innings against its older rival.
Kazmir, the record 12th AL pitcher, thought he could have pitched one more inning. Lidge, the 11th NL hurler, was unsure of his endurance.
“I’ve been in a lot of one-inning situations this year, so I’m not sure how long I could have gone,” he said, “I know nobody would have wanted to start marching position players out there to decide who has home-field advantage in the World Series.”
Morneau started the winning rally with a leadoff single against Lidge. After Dioner Navarro singled with one out, Drew walked to load the bases.
Young lofted a fly to right, and Corey Hart’s throw home bounced and was slightly to the first-base side of the plate. Catcher Brian McCann gloved the ball and tried a sweep tag, but Morneau sneaked his right foot in, barely ahead of the tag.
Plate umpire Derryl Cousins made the safe call, and the AL players left in the dugout rushed out to celebrate.
“It was a little deep for me,” Hart said. “I was just trying to get it as close as I could.”
Drew was picked as the MVP, with his two-run homer in the seventh making it 2-all. Being from Boston, he was booed when presented with his trophy. The only other AL player with an All-Star ending RBI was Red Sox great Ted Williams, who hit a three-run, ninth-inning homer in 1941.
“One of those indescribable events,” Drew said.
The teams set records for strikeouts (34), runners left on base (28) and players (63). This one had nearly everything a fan could ask for—a Yankees fan, that is.
The pinstriped crowd got to boo Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon and the Mets’ Billy Wagner. The fans showed their love for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and captain Derek Jeter.
Colorado’s Matt Holliday and Drew homered. Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada made a great falling throw on a slow grounder to deny the AL a win in the 10th after a pair of uggly errors by Dan Uggla, who made a record three botches in all.
The AL left the potential winning run at third base in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings. Uggla twice stranded what would have been the go-ahead run on third.
Colorado’s Aaron Cook wiggled out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 10th. Grady Sizemore and Evan Longoria grounded into forceouts at the plate, and Tejada made a charging, flying throw to get Morneau on a slow grounder.
In the 11th, Pittsburgh center fielder Nate McLouth made a perfect throw to nail Navarro at the plate on Young’s single, with Dodgers catcher Russell Martin applying the tag.
Papelbon, mocked with chants of “Mariano!” and “Overrated!” gave up Adrian Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly in the eighth, but Mets closer Billy Wagner allowed Longoria’s tying double in the bottom half.
A sellout crowd of 55,632 had come to honor the 85-year-old ballpark, home to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and the most glittering lineup of greats any team can boast. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner delivered the balls for the ceremonial first pitches from a golf cart.
And then the game went on and on.
“Yankee Stadium is tough, I’m telling you,” Rivera said. “Didn’t want it to end.”
The previous longest game by time was 1967, which took 3:41. … There were a record six steals by the AL and a record seven overall. … The NL was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, the AL 3-for-22. … The Hall of Fame collected two souvenirs—Rivera’s jersey and dirt from the pitcher’s mound. … The NL leads 40-37-2 overall.