It seems crazy that the old Yankee Stadium has been closed for almost four years now, but Major League Baseball definitely gave it a fine send-off by allowing the Yankees to host the 2008 All-Star Game. It was fortunate that the Stadium could be on the national stage one last time too, because '08 was, of course, the only year since 1995 that the Yankees missed the playoffs. "The House that Ruth Built" was given a terrific game as well, probably the best overall All-Star Game of the decade. The All-Star festivities also included a terrific Home Run Derby starring Josh Hamilton, who lit up the New York night with several titanic blasts to the far reaches of Yankee Stadium. The next day, MLB invited all living Hall of Famers to Yankee Stadium, and fans (including yours truly) were treated to the biggest cavalcade of baseball legends since the "Team of the Century" presentation in '99 at Fenway.
The game itself was started by Brewers ace Ben Sheets and the eventual AL Cy Young Award winner, Cliff Lee of the Indians. '08 was Lee's breakout year after his banishment to the minors during the Tribe's AL Central-winning campaign of '07, and he showed his dominant form by striking out three in two scoreless innings of work. Sheets was helping the Brew Crew reach the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, and although his season would soon be interrupted by injuries that haunted him over the years, he matched Lee's performance. The game was scoreless through five as Carlos Zambrano, Roy Halladay, and Joe Saunders kept the All-Stars off the board despite fearsome lineups that included sluggers like Hamilton, defending AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Chase Utley.
The National League broke through in the fifth against the Angels' Ervin Santana on an opposite-field solo home run to right by the Rockies' Matt Holliday, and they tacked on another run in the sixth against Oakland's Justin Duchscherer on a sacrifice fly by the Astros' Lance Berkman. The American League remained scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when J.D. Drew of the Red Sox (who would be named the game's MVP for a 2-4 game) slugged a two-run homer against the Reds' Edinson Volquez to tie the score. It was unlikely for a Boston player to be cheered in Yankee Stadium (all of their players were booed during the lineup introduction), but Drew's homer brought applause from all American League fans. Both teams added a run in the eighth inning to make the score 3-3, but eventual AL Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria's game-tying ground-rule double would be the final scoring on both sides for over six more innings.
Dan Uggla of the Marlins tried very hard to allow the AL to win the game by committing three errors in extra innings, but Aaron Cook and Carlos Marmol worked out of the jams that Uggla created. Mariano Rivera tossed 1.2 scoreless innings to keep the NL at bay, and Mo's excellent performance was followed by scoreless innings from Joakim Soria, George Sherrill, and Scott Kazmir. The AL almost won the game in the bottom of the eleventh by putting runners on first and second with one out for '06 All-Star Game MVP Michael Young, who singled, but Dioner Navarro was thrown out at the plate to end the threat. Both NL manager Clint Hurdle and AL manager Terry Francona became very nervous as the game dragged on, as they did not want to endanger other teams' players in the exhibition, but both were bailed out in the fifteenth inning. The AL mounted another attack against the Phillies' perfect closer Brad Lidge, who had warmed up multiple times already. Justin Morneau singled to begin the frame, then advanced to second on a single by Navarro. A walk to Drew allowed Young another chance to be the hero. Young hit a shallow fly to Corey Hart in right field, who caught it and fired home in an attempt to gun down Morneau, but the Twins' first baseman narrowly avoided the tag and the American League won the game 4-3.
Many All-Stars and Hall of Famers never made it back to old Yankee Stadium, but for a curtain call, it was certainly worthy. I think we all still miss it.