In 2006, the Midsummer Classic returned to the city of Pittsburgh for the fifth time in its 77-year incarnation. After being held at the pastoral Forbes Field (twice) and in the "behemoth bowl" known as Three Rivers Stadium (twice), the All-Stars traveled "back in time" to one of the newest additions to the Steel City's skyline, PNC Park. Recalling the glory days of old-time baseball, the retro-designed ballpark provided a perfect stage for showcasing the modern game's best players. addition, the National Football League's reigning "City of Champions" spared no expense when hosting the Major League Baseball event despite the fact that the hometown Pirates were experiencing one of the worst seasons in recent memory. It was a worthwhile investment to say the least, as All-Star events lured an estimated 100,000 visitors to the city. Local officials estimated that the game was worth over $50 million to the economy in hotel rooms, restaurant tabs, parking, VIP parties and related galas.
For one week, a World Series-like atmosphere descended on the town, initiating a myriad of tributes to the memories of great ballplayers in black and gold including Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. In addition, the downtown area itself was transformed into a baseball lover's paradise. Huge baseball-themed banners were hung from the building tops. Several of the city's famous bridges were closed for street carnivals. Huge inflatable baseballs floated in the nearby river and the entire area around PNC Park was filled with vendors, entertainers and fan activities. A recent addition to the summer celebration known as "Fanfest" occupied the city's Convention Center and featured acres of Major League attractions for fans of all ages. Bridging the gap between the National Pastime's yesterdays and today, "Fanfest" featured everything from "The Bambino's" bat to a virtual reality game in which participants went up against "The Big Unit."
The game itself could not have come at a better time, as the baseball world was in the middle of one of the most exciting and unpredictable seasons in recent memory. Following the international acclaim of the World Baseball Classic, the first leg of the Major League's marathon included a phenomenal Detroit Tigers team that was running away with the American League Central, the second "un-retirement" of Houston Astros ace (and future Hall Of Famer) Roger Clemens, and the highly-contested run by Giant's slugger Barry Bonds toward Hank Aaron's homerun title. This came in the third year of historical upsets, accolades and mishaps, the most startling of which were the championship seasons put together by the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, who had both broken their 80-plus year curses in back-to-back fashion. It was as if America had rediscovered its National Pastime and the enthusiasm surrounding the 2006 All-Star Game proved that baseball was definitely back!
On a humorous note, one of the most famous fictional characters in the history of baseball was briefly brought to life during the All-Star "Futures Game" as Dodgers prospect Chin Lung Hu (of the World Team) moved from shortstop to play first base. For one Sunday afternoon, Abbott & Costello's comedy routine rang true as the old question of "Who's on first?" finally made sense.
The National League was hoping to cash in on the recent unpredictability after falling short in eight of the last nine All Star contests (a tie was declared in 2002 when both teams ran out of pitchers). In fact, the last win tallied by the Senior Circuit was in Philadelphia in 1996, but things looked promising in '06, as the Nationals had historically run the table when playing in Pittsburgh. Adding to the pressure were the postseason implications of the game, which came after the institution of an "it counts" philosophy in 2003, granting home-field advantage in the World Series to the victor. Since then, the Americans had dominated the Fall Classic 2-1 as well as the regular season's inter-league play that was designed to provide the fans with some rare and exciting matchups.
In describing the previous year's 7-5 defeat, one reporter had written that, "There was no overstating how good the (American League) lineup was. It looked like it was drawn up, not by a manager, but by a higher power, an entity with even more sweeping powers than the Commissioner." Eager to get payback, the Nationals entered the contest boasting a strong line-up of "lumberjacks" including St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, Washington DC standout Alfonso Soriano and New York's David Wright, who had put on a tremendous first-round performance in the previous evening's Home Run Derby. After reaching the finals of Monday night's CENTURY 21 contest with 16 "jacks," Wright was finally cut down to size (5-4) by All-Star teammate Ryan Howard of the Phillies, in an all-NL East showdown.
On the mound, NL fans had elected several pitchers to their first All-Star appearance including Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo and Arizona's Brandon Webb, while others voted for the "old-timers" including New York's Tom Glavine, who decided not to participate in what would have been his 10th game. Skipper Phil Garner, a former Pittsburgh Pirate, was fully aware of the talent around him and was shown in the clubhouse (prior to the game) telling his players to simply "do what they do best" in lieu of signs.
In the American League clubhouse, the outspoken and at times, unstoppable Ozzie Guillen was also holding a lineup card filled with some big names. At the plate, Seattle superstar Ichiro Suzuki and Anaheim's own guardian angel, Vladimir Guerrero, joined Boston's "Big Papi" David Ortiz on the offensive side, while Detroit ace Kenny Rogers, Chicago standout Mark Buehrle and Toronto's Roy Halladay topped the list of AL starters. Backing them up was one of the most stacked bullpens in the game, led by perennial All-Star and postseason standout Mariano Rivera.
Paying tribute to "The Family," Pittsburgh's World Series Champions, during the pregame festivities, Pirate fans were treated to a reunion on the mound that was highlighted by the ceremonial first pitch, courtesy of Bucco manager Chuck Tanner. As the 77 year-old skipper stepped to the mound, he was greeted by some familiar All-Stars from the 1979 team that included Kent Tekulve, Bill Madlock, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Parker and Phil Garner.
It was reported that as manager of the National League team, "Mr. Garner got permission from Major League Baseball to have his former mentor serve as honorary bench coach. To the disco tune "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge, the six men mugged for pictures and the former players, all former All-Stars, autographed the ball Mr. Tanner chucked left-handed to the plate."
It was the first of many memorable tosses. Strangely, both pitching and hitting dominated the first (and last) few frames of the game, which appeared to have more moments of greatness on both ends, and a lot less in the middle. LA right-hander Brad Penny set the tone for the National League's staff after striking out Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter and David Ortiz in the first inning, with nothing but blazing fastballs. Registering on the radar at 99 mph, Penny's only mistake came in the second inning when Vladimir Guerrero launched a 356-foot opposite-field shot to right field that opened the scoring.
David Wright of the Mets answered Guerrero's blast with a solo homerun of his own and his teammates followed suit by taking advantage of their speed, while running on Detroit's 11-time Golden Glove Award-winning catcher, Ivan Rodriguez. Alfonso Soriano contributed to the campaign by singling with one out and stealing second base. But he was thrown out at home plate (by Vernon Wells) after running through third base coach Jerry Narron's stop sign during Carlos Beltran's single. After reaching second himself, Beltran stole third and dashed home on a wild pitch by Roy Halladay.
For the next 6 2/3 innings, it appeared that the National League had returned to its roots and was edging closer to ending its long All-Star Game drought by relying on solid pitching, speed and "highlight-reel" worthy defense. Pittsburgh Pirate fans even had something to cheer about, after home team favorite Freddy Sanchez made a spectacular grab at shortstop to end the fifth inning. (Prior to the fifth, the game was momentarily halted so that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig could present Vera Clemente, the widow of Pirates legend Roberto Clemente, with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award, in honor of her late husband's achievements on and off the baseball diamond. It was a fitting tribute to one of Pittsburgh's (and baseball's) favorite sons.
Despite the initial scoring excitement in the second inning, both teams appeared to be at a stalemate. Nationals Roy Oswalt, Brandon Webb, Bronson Arroyo, Brian Fuentes, Derrick Turnbow and Tom Gordon each delivered scoreless innings of relief. On the American side, Halladay went two innings and Barry Zito, Scott Kazmir, Johan Santana and B.J. Ryan went one each to set up Rivera. They held the National lineup hitless in the final five innings.
Things appeared to be tipped in the National League's favor, that is, until the final inning, when the American League hitters came alive. Staked to a 2-1 lead in the ninth, Padres closer Trevor Hoffman quickly retired the first two batters that he faced on ground balls back to the mound. Both Hoffman's reputation and record (18 shy of Lee Smith's all-time save record of 478) spelled disaster, but things weren't quite over for the Americans yet. First, White Sox slugger Paul Konerko hit the first pitch that he saw, just to the left of NL third baseman Miguel Cabrera, to keep the AL's hopes alive. Then Troy Glaus nearly tied the game with a double to deep left field. But the ball bounced into the bleacher seats and pinch runner Jose Lopez was forced to hold steady at third. After getting ahead of Rangers shortstop Michael Young with two quick strikes, Hoffman surrendered a two-run triple that proved to be the National's deathblow.
The rest was left up to AL closer and Yankee phenom Mariano Rivera. The "Sandman" got Freddy Sanchez to ground out to third base for the first out, but Seattle's Jose Lopez couldn't handle his second opportunity, as the third baseman committed an error on a grounder hit by Carlos Beltran. Not to be shaken, Rivera got Home Run Derby champ Ryan Howard to ground out to second base. But Beltran moved from first to second, putting the tying run in scoring position. Unfortunately for NL fans, Milwaukee's Carlos Lee couldn't take advantage of the situation and popped out to Young at second base. The save was Rivera's third in the Midsummer Classic, tying him with Dennis Eckersley for the most in history.
As a result of his clutch hit in the ninth inning, Young was voted the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player while joining Alfonso Soriano (2004) and Julio Franco (1990) as the third Texas Rangers player to be so honored. The loss dropped the NL record in All-Star Games to 0-9-1, and once again secured home field advantage for the American League for the fourth consecutive year.
"I like what we're doing for the All-Star Game. This is the Midsummer Classic. This is a big, big game for us. This is a game that means a lot. It had lost its luster. Players didn't seem to care. They'd wouldn't show up and if they did, they left early. Now, what you have is real intensity because each league understands that they're playing for home-field advantage in the World Series. I think it's the best way to do it." - Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig on MLB.com (Barry Bloom, 07/12/2006)
2006 All Star Game
|2006 All-Star Game Capsule|
|A.L. Pitcher(s)||N.L. Pitcher(s)|
Roy Halladay (3 rd )
Barry Zito (5 th )
Scott Kazmir (6 th )
Johan Santana (7 th)
B.J. Ryan (W, 8 th )
Mariano Rivera (S, 9 th )
Roy Oswalt (3 rd )
Brandon Webb (H, 4 th )
Bronson Arroyo (H, 5 th )
Brian Fuentes (H, 6 th )
Derrick Turnbow (H, 7 th )
Tom Gordon (H, 8 th )
TrevorHoffman (BS,L,9 th )
|A.L. Home Runs||N.L. Home Runs|
|Vladimir Guerrero (2 nd )||David Wright (2 nd )|
2006 All-Star Game
American League All-Star Squad
|Mark Buehrle (3)||Chicago White Sox||P||Did Not Pitch|
|Robinson Cano (1)||New York Yankees||2B||Replaced - Injury|
|Jose Contreras (1)||Chicago White Sox||P||Replaced-Scheduling|
|Jermaine Dye (2)||Chicago White Sox||OF|
|Troy Glaus (4)||Toronto Blue Jays||3B|
|Roy Halladay (4)||Toronto Blue Jays||P|
|Bobby Jenks (1)||Chicago White Sox||P||Did Not Pitch|
|2.||Derek Jeter (7)||New York Yankees||SS|
|Scott Kazmir (1)||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||P|
|Paul Konerko (3)||Chicago White Sox||1B|
|Francisco Liriano (1)||Minnesota Twins||P||ReplacedContreras|
|Jose Lopez (1)||Seattle Mariners||2B||Replaced Cano|
|8.||Mark Loretta (2)||Boston Red Sox||2B|
|Gary Matthews, Jr. (1)||Texas Rangers||OF||Replaced Rios|
|Joe Mauer (1)||Minnesota Twins||C|
|Magglio Ordonez (4)||Detroit Tigers||OF||Replaced Ramirez|
|3.||David Ortiz (3)||Boston Red Sox||1B|
|Jonathan Papelbon (1)||Boston Red Sox||P||Did Not Play|
|A.J. Pierzynski (2)||Chicago White Sox||C||Final Vote|
|Manny Ramirez (10)||Boston Red Sox||OF||Replaced - Injury|
|Mark Redman (1)||Kansas City Royals||P||Did Not Pitch|
|Alex Rios (1)||Toronto Blue Jays||OF||Replaced - Injury|
|Mariano Rivera (8)||New York Yankees||P|
|4.||Alex Rodriguez (10)||New York Yankees||3B|
|6.||Ivan Rodriguez (13)||Detroit Tigers||C|
|9.||Kenny Rogers (4)||Detroit Tigers||P||Starting Pitcher|
|B.J. Ryan (2)||Toronto Blue Jays||P|
|Johan Santana (2)||Minnesota Twins||P|
|Grady Sizemore (1)||Cleveland Indians||OF|
|1.||Ichiro Suzuki (6)||Seattle Mariners||OF|
|Miguel Tejada (4)||Baltimore Orioles||SS|
|Jim Thome (5)||Chicago White Sox||1B|
|7.||Vernon Wells (2)||Toronto Blue Jays||OF|
|Michael Young (3)||Texas Rangers||SS||MVP|
|Barry Zito (3)||Oakland Athletics||P|
|BOLD = Fan's choice to start the game (Manager chooses pitchers).|
2006 All-Star Game
National League All-Star Squad
|BronsonArroyo (1)||Cincinnati Reds||P|
|2.||Carlos Beltran (3)||New York Mets||OF|
|Lance Berkman (4)||Houston Astros||1B|
|4.||Jason Bay (2)||Pittsburgh Pirates||OF|
|Miguel Cabrera (3)||Florida Marlins||OF|
|Chris Capuano (1)||Milwaukee Brewers||P||Replaced Glavine|
|Chris Carpenter (2)||St. Louis Cardinals||P|
|David Eckstein (2)||St. Louis Cardinals||SS||Replaced Reyes|
|Brian Fuentes (2)||Colorado Rockies||P|
|NomarGarciaparra (6)||Los Angeles Dodgers||1B||Final Vote|
|Tom Glavine (10)||New York Mets||P||Replaced-Scheduling|
|Tom Gordon (3)||Philadephia Phillies||P|
|TrevorHoffman (5)||San Diego Padres||P|
|Matt Holliday (1)||Colorado Rockies||OF|
|Ryan Howard (1)||Philadephia Phillies||1B|
|Andruw Jones (5)||Atlanta Braves||OF|
|Carlos Lee (2)||Milwaukee Brewers||OF|
|8.||Paul Lo Duca (4)||New York Mets||C|
|Pedro Martinez (8)||New York Mets||P||Replaced - Injured|
|Brian McCann (1)||Atlanta Braves||C|
|Roy Oswalt (2)||Houston Astros||P||Replaced Martinez|
|9.||Brad Penny (1)||Los Angeles Dodgers||P||Starting Pitcher|
|3.||Albert Pujols (5)||St. Louis Cardinals||1B|
|5.||Edgar Renteria (5)||Atlanta Braves||SS|
|Jose Reyes (1)||New York Mets||SS||Replaced - Injured|
|Scott Rolen (5)||St. Louis Cardinals||3B|
|Freddy Sanchez (1)||Pittsburgh Pirates||3B|
|Jason Schmidt (3)||San Francisco Giants||P|
|DerrickTurnbow (1)||Milwaukee Brewers||P|
|Dan Uggla (1)||Florida Marlins||2B|
|7.||Chase Utley (1)||Philadephia Phillies||2B|
|Brandon Webb (1)||ArizonaDiamondbacks||P|
|6.||David Wright (1)||New York Mets||3B|
|CarlosZambrano (2)||Chicago Cubs||P|
BOLD = Fan's choice to start the game (Manager chooses pitchers).
The American League manager, Ozzie Guillen ( Venezuela ) of the Chicago White Sox , was the third foreign born All-Star manager in Midsummer Classic history. The first two were Bruce Bochy ( France , 1999 All-Star Game ) and Felipe Alou ( Dominican Republic , 1995 All-Star Game ).
The National League had not won an All-Star Game since the 1996 All-Star Game in Philadelphia, but the odds were with them as all four previous Midsummer Classics played in Pittsburgh were won by the senior circuit. Did you know that the Pirates were the first franchise to host the All-Star Game in three different parks — Forbes Field ( 1944 & 1959 ), Three Rivers Stadium ( 1974 & 1994 ), and PNC Park (2006)?
When Trevor Hoffman took the mound in the ninth inning, it almost seemed as if the win was a lock. Three time All-Star and this years Most Valuable Player Award winner Michael Young said, "I have a great deal of respect for that guy, he's about to break the saves record. He's a great guy and I do consider myself fortunate to be in that situation in the first place." The situation was described by MLB.com staff writer Barry Bloom as "one for the All-Star ages" and when Young doubled in the tying and go ahead run, he knew it was going down in history as one for the ages and said after the game, "I'm not going to lie, this is a pretty big highlight in my baseball career. I think everyone dreams of having a big All-Star Game . Even coming to the All-Star Game is humbling enough, but to be in this situation now where I have an All-Star Game MVP is pretty exciting. I'm happy about it."