The Major League Baseball All-Star Games of the Nineties

As the Nineties rolled around, the American League was in the midst of a modest two- game winning streak in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Two would become six, and after the National League righted its ship mid-decade, the AL torpedoed it. They embarked on a string of victories in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game that only a tie would interrupt to the present day. The balance of power had shifted once more during this era, beginning with the American League pitchers dominating the NL hitters between raindrops in Chicago, and ending with a display on the mound by a diminutive Dominican.

1990- Battling Mother Nature and the AL’s finest pitchers, the National League had little chance in this Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Wrigley Field on July 10th. In their worst showing ever in a Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the Nationals totaled two hits, as the contest was delayed by rain repeatedly. Julio Franco, 31 at the time, doubled in the only two runs of the game for the AL to earn an MVP nod. Julio is still playing today, for the Mets at the age of 47; little wonder that his nickname in the clubhouse is Methuselah. Bret Saberhagen of the Royals, who grew up blocks from Wrigley in Chicago Heights, was the winning pitcher, as the AL made it three Major League Baseball All-Star Games in a row.

1991- North of the border, in Toronto’s SkyDome, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played on July 9th. Baltimore’s “Iron Man”, Cal Ripken Jr, clouted a three run homer off of “El Presidente” Dennis Martinez in the third, and the NL continued to scuffle at the plate. They did manage their first extra base hit in a Major League Baseball All-Star Game since 1987 when Ryne Sandberg doubled in the third, but they still fell by the wayside by a 4-2 score. Ripken’s MVP selection was a no-brainer; the shortstop was well on his way to breaking Lou Gehrig’s previously unassailable consecutive games played streak. The AL had a streak of theirown, now four consecutive wins in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

1992- San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium was the place to be on July 14th if you wanted to watch the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, although if you were a fan of the National League you should have gone fishing. If you got there late, you were still able to view batting practice, courtesy of Atlanta’s Tom Glavine. The NL’s starting pitcher gave up seven straight singles, not all of the line drive variety, and by the second inning he was long gone and the horse was out of the barn. It ran all the way into the next county by the sixth, as homers by Ruben Sierra and MVP Ken Griffey Jr. made the score 10-0. Griffey’s award, combined with his dad’s from 1980, made the duo the first father-son team to be named Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVPs. Junior established his own identity early on. “If I’m compared to Babe Ruth or Willie Mays, that’s great. But I’m just going to go out there and be myself.” Someday, a player will be compared to him if he’s lucky enough. The 13-6 final was never in doubt; five in a row for the AL.

1993- The American League would get that number up to six, at Baltimore’s Camden Yards on July 13th. They would survive a two-run homer by Gary Sheffield to come back and post nine runs of their own, including MVP Kirby Puckett’s first Major League Baseball All-Star Game extra base hit, a solo round tripper. Puckett, who suffered a stroke and passed away in 2006, went 2 for 3 with two RBI, but the game would be remembered more for Philadelphia’s John Kruk’s at-bat against lefthander Randy Johnson. Kruk, a chunky lefty batter, couldn’t strike out quick enough after an errant Johnson fastball sailed over his head and made him think that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game wasn’t that great of an idea. “I’m not an athlete” Kruk would declare to a lady who chided him one time on his appearance. “I’m a professional baseball player.” The NL’s pro players were on the skids, but would turn things around soon enough.

1994- Pittsburgh will host the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the first time since July 12th of 1994. The teams in that one combined for 27 hits and 15 runs, with the Orioles’ Lee Smith making an MVP out of Atlanta’s Fred McGriff when he threw him a two-run gopher ball that tied the game in the bottom of the ninth. This sent the Major League Baseball All-Star Game into extra innings, meaning a sure NL victory would ensue. That came to fruition when Moises Alou of Montreal doubled home Tony Gwynn in the tenth to give the NL an 8-7 win. The NL continued their tradition of having never lost a Major League Baseball All-Star Game that went to extra frames. This game was considered a classic, but the baseball strike that would eventual wipe out the remainder of the season, along with the World Series, erased it from the public’s memory.

1995- Three hits are enough to win a Major League Baseball All-Star Game; that is if they all carry over the fences. On July 11th at the Ballpark in Arlington, that was the formula the National League used to defeat the AL 3-2. Frank Thomas of the White Sox had homered off John Smiley in the fourth for the AL to give them a 2-0 lead, and the NL did not have a hit after five full innings, the longest no-hit span at the beginning of a tilt in Major League Baseball All-Star Game history. But the Nationals got a solo home run from Houston’s Craig Biggio in the sixth, Dodger Mike Piazza in the seventh, and the game winner from the Marlins’ Jeff Conine in the eighth. Jeff, who had his only 100 RBI season in ’95, was named the Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVP for his pinch hit dinger. The NL had one more trick up their sleeve for the next Major League Baseball All-Star Game before the well ran dry.

1996- In the only Major League Baseball All-Star Game that featured no bases on balls issued, the NL walked away with an easy 6-0 shutout win. MVP Mike Piazza homered; he became the first player since Fred Lynn in 1979-80 to hit a round tripper in consecutive Major League Baseball All-Star Games. Played on July 9th at Philly’s Veteran’s Stadium, another venue that has since been rendered obsolete, the game would be the last the NL has won as of this writing. The contest was the last appearance by the great Padres’ and Cardinals’ shortstop, Ozzie Smith. The “Wizard of Oz”, who would be inducted into Cooperstown mostly because of his fabulous fielding, once made San Diego announcer Jerry Coleman confuse listeners with this line. “Ozzie Smith just made another play that I’ve never seen anyone else make before and I’ve seen him make it more than anyone else ever has.”

1997- There would be no confusion over who was king of the hill for eight of the next nine Major League Baseball All-Star Games, beginning on July 8th at Jacobs Field in Cleveland. Sandy Alomar Jr thrilled the hometown throng when he became the first player named Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVP in his home park. Sandy’s seventh inning home run provided the margin of victory in a 3-1 AL win. It also was an omen of things to come, as he would hit another, more important homer in the playoffs that Fall against none other than Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. It would propel the Indians into the World Series, where they would lose an agonizing seven game Series to the Florida Marlins. Alomar Jr described the feeling of hitting his shot in front of the 45,000 fans.” You only get one chance to play before your hometown crowd in a (Major League Baseball) All-Star Game. I was flying around the bases. I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast around the bases.”

1998- The mile-high Coors Field in Denver became a fireworks launching pad on July 7th for the highest scoring Major League Baseball All-Star Game in the books. The 13-8 American League win featured homers by Alex Rodriguez of the Mariners, the Giants’ Barry Bonds, and the Orioles’ Roberto Alomar. Like his brother the year before, Alomar would be named MVP; he went 3 for 4 with the homer and a stolen base. Another Major League Baseball All-Star Game mark fell when the AL swiped five bases. Barry Bonds home run brought his father Bobby and he into elite company; they and Ken Griffey Sr and Jr are the only father-son homer hitting combos in Major League Baseball All-Star Game annals. Three hundred game winner Greg Maddux, now with the Cubs, figured out long ago how to handle Bonds when he strides to the plate. “You just walk Barry. Just walk him!”

1999- Baseball partied because it was 1999, on July 13th at Boston’s Fenway Park. The sport’s greatest retired stars were gathered in the infield and introduced one by one at the 70th Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Needless to say, the loudest and longest ovation was for former Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, who was brought out last and exchanged hitting tips with the likes of Tony Gwynn and Mark McGuire. Once the Major League Baseball All-Star Game began, Boston’s own Pedro Martinez took over. The AL’s starting pitcher, Pedro struck out the first four batters he faced- Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, and McGuire. An error broke that string, but Martinez fanned Jeff Bagwell as Matt Williams was caught stealing to end the second. Bolstered by the buzz, the American League scored a pair of first inning runs, which as it turned out, would be enough. They emerged victorious, 4-1, and Pedro was the MVP. Learning early on he needed to pitch inside to be effective, Martinez offered this insight into his thinking. “I will throw inside. The batter must know that the plate belongs to me. They don’t complain when it’s on the outside of the plate, but the inside has them upset. I don’t care, it’s my plate.” The Major League Baseball All-Star Game ledger now stood at 40-29-1 for the NL, but the AL’s wins would start to pile up in the new century.

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