79th All-Star from Historic Yankee Stadium



2008-07-15

Think of the names that have passed through the gates of Yankee Stadium; Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, and more recently Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens. Tuesday promises to be a special night, with so much baseball lore and history. Originally opened in 1923, Yankee Stadium has played host to three prior All-Star Games in 1939, 1960 and 1977. This year’s game will of course be its last, with a brand new home for the Bronx Bombers to be opened in 2009.

Yankee Stadium’s configurations have been altered numerous times, to accommodate the whims of prior ownership. Every player that comes to this ballpark, including first time All-Stars, will make the pilgrimage to the outfield to see the monuments of Ruth, Gehrig and Miller Huggins, along the plagues of past Yankee greats and even Pope Paul VI. In the original version of the park, left-center was known as “Death Valley” where long fly balls of over 400 feet would be easily caught by outfielders. At one time in the 1930’s, Yankee Stadium had a capacity of over 80,000 and when the Yankees were stinking up the joint in the mid-to-late 1960’s, 431 people attend a game on September 25, 1966, to see the Pinstripes lose to the Chicago White Sox 4-1.

The National League holds the all-time lead in this event, 41-35 with two ties. What is fascinating to think about today, a 10-year in 1997, just becoming acquainted to major league baseball, would today be legal drinking age of 21 and still would not have seen the American League All-Star lose a game. Previously, from 1963 until 1983, the senior circuit ruled this contest, losing only once in 1971, when they had better players, who took pride in wanting to win what was and still is an exhibition game.

The American League is a -145 money line favorite, with run line of -1.5(+140) and total of 10 at Sportsbook.com. The AL will start two Yankees, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, three hated Red Sox, LF Manny Ramirez, 1B Kevin Youkilis and 2B Dustin Pedroia. What gives this team a very different flavor is having two Texas Rangers in the starting line-up, Josh Hamilton and DH Milton Bradley.

The underdog National League has a collection of youth and experience. Savvy veterans live Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, are mingled with up and coming stars like Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Braun, along with solid star players still approaching their prime, like Chase Utley and Matt Holliday. The Chicago Cubs have the best record in the league and will have two starters in the opening lineup in Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto.

The starting pitchers for each team are well-deserved, with Milwaukee’s Ben Sheets (10-3, 2.85 ERA, 1.114 WHIP) matching pitches with Cleveland’s Cliff Lee (12-2, 2.31 ERA, 1.035 WHIP). Watching how each handles the limelight on such an occasion will be intriguing to view.

In sizing up the remaining position players, the American League appears to have a few more bats to go to than their counterparts, with names like Grady Sizemore, Carlos Quentin, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young. How each manager uses pitching staff will play a part undoubtedly in outcome, however the NL might have a slight edge.

The All-Star contest in Boston in 1999, evoked unbelievable memories, before the game itself and this one might top that event. This promises to be quite a show. With no rooting interest, wouldn’t the symmetry be fascinating if the Yankees Mariano Rivera could come in the game to close out the ninth inning for an AL win?

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