Tuesday, July 16, 2013

1999 All Star Game

Fenway Park

The All Century Team

Mark McGwire in the Home Run Derby
 From ESPN's All Time Home Run Derby Moments

No. 2 -- Mark McGwire, Fenway Park, 1999

We take you back to another time, a different era, when Big Mac was still baseball's most beloved, almost-mythical figure. And nine months after breaking the 70-homer barrier, he turned Fenway into his own personal Derby stage.
He, too, didn't "win" this Derby. (Ken Griffey Jr. did.) But in the first round, McGwire terrorized New Englanders from Kenmore Square to Kennebunkport with a then-record 13-homer round that amounted to 5,692 feet worth of bombage. His ultimate highlight: a 488-foot mortar that whooshed beyond the Green Monster, cleared the street, soared over a parking garage and hit a billboard above the train tracks, right next to the never-reached Massachusetts Turnpike.
"Once he got in his groove," said his personal pitcher that night, then-Padres coach Tim Flannery, "it was like feeding the great white shark."

Pedro Martinez strikes out five of six batters

And, best of all, Ted Williams 

Williams was in poor health, could not walk without help and his eyesight was failing but no one who was there or watched it will ever forget.

There is a pause. The public address announcer then booms through Fenway's loudspeakers, "Ladies, gentleman and children. It is an honor and a privilege to introduce one of the greatest players to ever grace the field at Fenway Park and any other ballpark. Ladies and gentleman, the great Hall of Famer, Ted Williams." 

The stadium roars like an F-15 is flying overhead. A golf cart emerges from beneath the center-field stands. Sitting in one seat is Williams, the Splendid Splinter, No. 9, perhaps the greatest hitter ever, one of the city's most beloved athletes. 

He is 80 years old. He is ill. But he is in great spirits as he waves to the crowd and tips his white cap as the cart creeps slowly along the periphery of the stadium.

As Williams circles Fenway in the cart, the fans are on their feet, roaring and clapping, the loudest applause Williams has ever received in Fenway in a tribute fit for royalty. As the crowd roars, tears well up in Williams' eyes. Tears roll down the faces of thousands of fans.

As the cart pulls up near the pitcher's mound, the AL and NL All-Stars and slew of Hall of Famers all converge on the mound. The players surround Williams and one by one they shake his hand and embrace him. There's Mark McGwire and Cal Ripken Jr. surrounding Williams. Then Tony Gwynn, who had developed a close relationship with Williams, breaks through the crowd.
Williams wipes away tears as he chats with star after star; the fans stand and watch. Ten minutes pass. Then 15. Officials from Major League Baseball move in on the spontaneous scene and attempt to break it up so that the game isn't delayed too much longer.

But the players don't budge. Even the public address announcer asks the players to return to their dugouts. But they ignore the announcement. They just wouldn't let go of the moment.
"They asked everyone to go to the dugout, and we're like, 'No, we're not," Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said. "It was like, 'Who cares about the game?' It was a special moment that no one expected. We didn't want to it to end."

Williams asks McGwire to lean in so he can ask him a question. "When you foul a ball off, do you smell burnt wood?" Williams asks. "All the time," McGwire responds. "I did too," Williams says, grinning proudly.

Finally, after nearly 25 minutes, the players begin to return to their respective dugouts so Williams can throw out the ceremonial first pitch to -- appropriately -- Fisk. McGwire and Gwynn stay on the field to provide support to the shaky legged Williams.

Williams waves at Fisk, and with Gwynn supporting Williams' left side, he lofts the ball from 40 feet away. It floats through the crisp, black night and lands softly in Fisk's glove, prompting the fans to explode again with another loud, long ovation -- an ovation that grows even louder as Williams climbs back in the golf cart, parades through the ballpark one last time and disappears through the outfield exit.
 You can watch all of the Ted Williams segment here

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