Tonight, the American League All-Stars, featuring Yankees Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera, take on the National Leaguers in the 84th edition of the MLB All-Star. It's dumb that home-field advantage in the World Series rests on the hopes of the Chris Tillmans of the world rather than the Hiroki Kurodas, but such is life. It's one reason to, at the very least, briefly check the score while doing more relevant things tonight anyway.
For the fourth consecutive season, Cano is the starting second baseman for the AL, and he will hope to help the AL snap its three-game losing streak in the All-Star Game. It already seems like it's been a while since the AL dominated the festivities, winning 12 games in a row from 1997-2009 aside from the 2002 tie that never happened, according to MLB. In the midst of that streak was the 2000 All-Star Game at Turner Field in Atlanta, where one famous Yankee did something that no other player had done in franchise history.
Aside from the war-torn 1945 campaign, the MLB All-Star Game has been held every year since 1933, when Chicago sportswriter Arch Ward implemented the idea of such a showcase and 38-year-old veteran Babe Ruth slugged the first All-Star Game homer off the Cardinals' Bill Hallahan. Ruth might have been named the game's MVP since he had two hits and his two-run homer was the difference in the AL's 4-2 victory, but the award did not yet exist. It would take another 29 years before the first All-Star Game MVP was issued, seven years after Ward's death. It was originally named the "Arch Ward Memorial Award," but it would be quite some time before a Yankee stole the spotlight in Ward's famous exhibition to capture this trophy.
Derek Jeter was already a three-time World Series champion by 2000, and his terrific hitting at the shortstop position for these dynasty teams cemented his place in Yankees fans' memories. He did not need All-Star moments to be remembered. Yet it was strange that Jeter barely had any All-Star experience. Thanks to a loaded shortstop pool that included other All-Stars during this period like Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Cal Ripken Jr., the eventual Rookie of the Year was not selected in '96, nor in his sophomore year of '97. Jeter made it as a reserve in '98 behind A-Rod but struck out in his only plate appearance against "Machete Man" Ugueth Urbina. Again, Jeter made the team as a reserve in '99, this time behind Nomar, but he struck out against an incredibly forgettable Cardinals All-Star, Kent Bottenfield.
While A-Rod won the fan voting for shortstop in 2000, Jeter made the team for the third year in a row through the strength of a .322/.371/.482 first half. A right knee strain had A-Rod on the DL though, so Jeter was inserted into the starting lineup by his manager Joe Torre, batting second behind Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar. A-Rod was not the only huge star missing from the game, either. Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, and Greg Maddux were all sidelined with injuries. It was up to one of the other stars to provide the headlines.
Jeter faced a tough draw on the mound to start the game--Randy Johnson, pitching in the second of four consecutive NL Cy Young Award campaigns. Nonetheless, Jeter slapped a 1-1 pitch down the left field line for a base hit, then hustled to second for a double, his first career All-Star Game hit. "The Big Unit" induced a groundout from Bernie Williams and whiffed Oakland's eventual AL MVP, Jason Giambi, to end the frame and strand Jeter.
Two innings later, Jeter faced another terrific pitcher, six-time All-Star Dodgers righthander Kevin Brown, who led the NL in ERA and WHIP and limited righty hitters to a .206/.241/.348 triple slash in 2000. Brown was notorious for his stingy control, but he walked Alomar with one out to bring up Jeter. The shortstop bounced the first pitch up the middle between Barry Larkin and Jeff Kent for his second hit in as many plate appearances. A fielder's choice at third moved Jeter to second, and back-to-back walks to Giambi and Carl Everett brought Jeter home with the first run of the night. It was 1-0 in favor of the American League after two and a half innings.
Jeter's former teammate David Wells threw two scoreless innings for the AL., and the 1-0 lead was entrusted to White Sox starter James Baldwin. He gave up a two-out solo homer in the third to the hometown favorite and Jeter's two-time World Series foe, Chipper Jones. The score was tied heading into the bottom of the fourth, when Jeter's crosstown Mets rival, Al Leiter, entered the game. He got off to a bad start by walking Jermaine Dye and allowing a base hit to Travis Fryman. Larkin bobbled a grounder from Mike Sweeney to load the bases with nobody out. Leiter rebounded to induce a pop-up from Alomar, but he then faced Jeter. The two men would have many more imoprtant matchups in the Subway Series that October, and like then, Jeter beat Leiter. He lined his third hit of the game up the middle, scoring Dye and Fryman to give the AL a 3-1 lead, capping a perfect 3-for-3 day. Garciaparra replaced him in the fifth, and the AL held their lead for the rest of the game, eventually winning 6-3.
For his efforts in the victory, Jeter became the first Yankee to be awarded Arch Ward's trophy, the All-Star Game MVP. No Yankee has won it again to date, but perhaps Cano will change these fortunes tonight to secure the AL's home-field advantage in the World Series and take home the now-renamed Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP.
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