April 24, 2019

The Curse of the Virtual Bambino

May 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Even in the world of virtual reality, Babe Ruth is king.

It seems that I’m always working on serious research for my next book or article, spending almost all of my free time on it, that I almost forgot what it was like to have fun. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the research/writing process (well, most of it anyway), but I become so obsessed with it at times that I often forget to step back and relax a little. So, the other night, I did just that. I pulled my big, fat leather chair up in front of the TV, popped MLB ’06: The Show into my Playstation and launched a game between the 2005 A.L. All-Stars and a team of All-Time Greats made up of players I unlocked with points I’ve accumulated since I bought the game.

Being a Red Sox fan, I thought it would be fun to empty Boston’s roster and reload it with the likes of Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and, of course, Babe Ruth, which is exactly what I did. I also thought it might be fun to keep track of the play-by-play and recount it here.

Pre-Game:

With a roster chock full of Hall of Famers (and chocolatey goodness), there’s really no wrong way to fill out the lineup card. Although I’m planning on starting southpaw Johan Santana for the ’05 All-Stars, I tell Jimmie Foxx he’ll have to sit this one out. I’m going with Lou “The Iron Horse” Gehrig at first base. Foxx has the platoon advantage. Lou Gehrig is Lou “Effing” Gehrig. Besides, the game’s at Yankee Stadium, which demands that ol’ “Biscuit Pants” be in the lineup. Foxx nips at a flask of Wild Turkey to ease his pain. When it’s his turn to pinch hit, I’ll just have to remind him to “hit the one in the middle.”

All-Time Greats 2005 A.L. All-Stars
1. Ty Cobb LF 1. Johnny Damon CF
2. Honus Wagner SS 2. Alex Rodriguez 3B
3. Babe Ruth DH 3. David Ortiz DH
4. Lou Gehrig 1B 4. Manny Ramirez LF
5. Rogers Hornsby 2B 5. Miguel Tejada SS
6. Tris Speaker CF 6. Vlad Guerrero RF
7. Roy Campanella C 7. Mark Teixeira 1B
8. Mel Ott RF 8. Jason Varitek C
9. Jackie Robinson 3B 9. Brian Roberts 2B
SP Walter Johnson SP Johan Santana

Babe Ruth puts his game face on before facing Johan Santana and the 2005 American League All-Stars

Cobb played only 35 of his 3,035 career games in left field, while Ruth played almost as many games in left (1,057) as he did in right (1,131), so I suppose I should have started Ruth in left and had Cobb DH. I don’t think it mattered much either way, though.

One could also argue that I should have had Hornsby batting second ahead of Wagner, but Wagner had much better speed and I wanted to pair him with Cobb at the top of the lineup. Hornsby had superior power (his .577 career slugging percentage was almost .200 points higher than league average; Wagner’s was “only” .115 points better than LG) and I thought he’d be better suited for the #5 hole behind Ruth and Gehrig. Lastly, Jackie Robinson played only 256 of his 1,382 games at third base, but I already had Hornsby at second, and I preferred having Jackie at third base over George Kell (may he rest in peace).

The ’05 All-Star lineup is exactly as it was during the 2005 All-Star game, except that Mark Buehrle started and not Johan Santana. But truth be told, I’d already played the ’05 A.L. All-Stars a few times and I was tired of facing Buehrle, so I went with someone different this time around.

Top of the 1st

Johnny Damon leads off against the great Walter Johnson. The Big Train starts Damon off with a four-seamer at the knees for a called strike. It’s amazing how the game’s programmers have captured Johnson’s motion. Based on photos and movies I’d seen of him I can barely tell the animated Johnson apart from the real thing. Johnson comes back with a two-seamer that Damon swings at and misses. Not only is it coming in at 94 MPH with hair on it, but it’s sinking as it nears the plate. Damon doesn’t have a chance. Johnson finishes Damon off with high heat in on his hands. Damon takes a rip at it, but he’s not even close. One batter, one K.

Walter Johnson mows down the A.L. All-Stars in the first inning like he’s, well, Walter Johnson

Alex Rodriguez steps up to take his first hacks of the ball game. I’m tempted to plant one between the 1 and the 3 on A-Rod’s back (I try to bean A-Rod at every opportunity), but I figure it’s too early in the game for that, so I have Johnson pitch to him. Johnson crosses Alex up with a curve ball, but it just misses outside for ball one. He comes back with a two-seamer that A-Rod bounces to Hornsby for the easy 4-3. Five pitches, two outs. This is too easy.

David Ortiz steps to the plate with two outs and nobody on. I’ve watched Big Papi hit in MLB ’06: The Show and I’ve played as Big Papi, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I need to keep the ball low and away. Johnson starts him off with a four-seamer on the outside corner and Ortiz smashes it foul into the left field stands. Even his foul balls are crushed. Johnson throws a sinker outside for ball one, then nips the outside black with a 94 MPH two-seamer, but the umpire misses it and calls it a ball. I wish there was a button that would allow me to argue balls and strikes, but there isn’t so I have to soldier on in silence. Johnson tosses a curve that drops below Ortiz’s knees and he’s behind 3-1. Typically I wouldn’t mess around in this situation, but I’m Walter #$%&!@ Johnson, damn it, and I came to play. Johnson buzzes a 98 MPH fastball on the inside corner at the letters and Papi takes it for a called strike. He then comes back with a two-seamer on the outside corner that’s tailing away as it reaches the plate. Ortiz reaches out and pops it up to Gehrig at first for the final out. At this pace, Johnson will toss a complete game on less than 100 pitches. Nice!

Bottom of the 1st

Ty Cobb leads off for the Greats. He looks odd in a Red Sox uniform, but he’s wearing his pants old style so that all you can see is sock from his cleats to his knees. I tip my cap to him. He promptly rips Santana’s first pitch (a change up, of course) to Texeira for the first out. I consider admonishing Cobb for not taking a few pitches, but I think better of it. I have no idea what a spleen does, but I know I’m happy that mine is still resting comfortably inside my body and I want to keep it that way. Cobb looks down the bench at me to see if I have something to say. I avert my eyes and pretend that I’m talking to Larry Doby.

Honus Wagner takes his place in the box with one down. Santana starts the “Flying Dutchman” off with a changeup that backs him off the plate.

Dave Campbell: “A few more inches inside and that’s a pitch he’ll turn on.”

No Dave, a few more inches inside and Santana is wearing his ass for a hat.

Santana sets Wagner up with a slider low and away, but Wagner is too smart for that and he lays off to run the count to 2-0. Johan pushes the envelope and comes inside again with a changeup that Wagner hammers to left for a loud foul. Santana’s fourth pitch, a two-seamer, is also inside (I’m beginning to detect a pattern here) and Wagner grounds it right back to the mound for an easy out.

That brings up Ruth and the crowd goes crazy with anticipation. It’s amazing how the programmers were able to capture a playoff atmosphere during a mere exhibition game. Santana starts the Bambino with a changeup down around his knees and Ruth turns it around and sends a blue dart back to center for the game’s first hit.

In typical 1920s Yankees fashion, Gehrig follows Ruth in the order, and in typical fashion there are ducks on the pond waiting to be driven in. Santana wastes no time and blows a 97 MPH heater by Gehrig for strike one. Santana and A.L. catcher Jason Varitek then decide the best course of action is to work Gehrig down in the zone, so the southpaw comes back with a changeup and a slider below the knees for balls one and two. Santana tries to sneak another changeup past Gehrig, but he leaves it up and Ol’ Biscuit Pants drives it deep to straightaway center field. Damon races back to the track…to the wall…FLY, FLY, AWAY! (Mariners play-by-play man Dave Niehaus isn’t calling the game on my Playstation, but he is in my head). Just like that it’s 2-0, Greats.

Hornsby steps up with no one on and two down. He takes a ball outside, then misses a changeup for strike one. Santana throws a slider outside for ball two, then comes back with a circle change that Hornsby is way out in front of to even the count at 2-2. Another change is hit to Manny Ramirez in left for the third out of the inning.

Top of the 2nd

Manny Ramirez

Ramirez leads off the top of the second for the All-Stars. How many times does a player make a great play only to lead off the next inning? I don’t know either, but this isn’t one of them. His catch in the bottom of the first was routine, although I can imagine Manny turning it into a circus before hauling it in.

Johnson starts Man-Ram off with 95 MPH gas that Ramirez misses for strike one. The Big Train comes back with a 94 MPH two-seamer at the knees for strike two. The contrast between Johnson and Santana is obvious. Walter’s bringin’ heat and challenging hitters. He throws a sinker for ball one, then throws a 98 MPH fastball above the letters to even the count at 2-2. Manny’s looking upstairs on the fifth pitch, but Walter paints the inside black at the knees with a two-seamer and Ramirez takes it for a called strike three. Manny walks back to the dugout shaking his head, partly because he just fanned, but mostly because he doesn’t know where he is or how he got there.

Shortstop Miguel Tejada steps into the box with one out. Johnson starts him off with a heater off the plate for ball one, then throws a two-seamer at the knees that sinks and fools Tejada, who swings over it for strike one. The flame-thrower completely fools Tejada with a big jughandle curve that he swings at and misses by a foot to run the count to 1-2. Johnson throws high octane heat at the letters, but Tejada lays off for ball two. Tejada fouls off a sinker, then takes one in the dirt to run the count full. Johnson, tired of toying with Tejada, blows a fastball by him for strike three. He’s now whiffed three of the first five batters he’s faced.

That brings up Vlad “The Impaler” Guerrero with two down and nobody on. Johnson, smelling strikeout number four, doesn’t mess around. He fires a 96 MPH fastball by Vlad for strike one, paints his knee caps with a two-seamer for strike two, throws a sinker in the dirt to see if Guerrero will bite on it (oddly enough, he doesn’t), then blows him away with high heat for strike three. Three up, three down, and four Ks in six batters.

Bottom of the 2nd

If Santana thought he was going to catch a break with the bottom of the Greats’ order, he’s sadly mistaken. Leading off the inning in the #6 hole is Tris Speaker. Apparently Speaker has seen enough of Santana from the bench that he doesn’t feel the need to see many pitches and he grounds to first on the portsider’s second offering for the first out.

Roy Campanella steps up to take his hacks and steals a page out of Speaker’s playbook, gripping and ripping from the get-go. He sits dead red and gets what he wants, slamming the pill over Damon’s head in center field. It’s clearly a hit, but the question remains: who will win the battle of physical limitations, Damon’s arm or Campy’s wheels? Campanella chugs into second with a stand-up double, corroborating what I already suspect: Damon has the worst arm in the history of mankind. Even Pete Gray makes fun of him.

Right fielder Met Ott steps to the dish for his first plate appearance of the game and Santana wastes little time retiring the Giants slugger, backing him up with a slider inside, then jamming him with a two-seamer and coaxing him into an easy pop up to A-Rod at third.

It’s up to Jackie Robinson to drive his old teammate in from second, but Jackie is no match for Santana, who starts him with a low fastball, paints the black at Robinson’s knees with heat, screws the Dodger up in knots with a circle change that Jackie misses by a wide margin, then puts him away with a slider at the knees.

After two, it’s 2-0 in favor of the All-Time Greats, and the All-Stars are lucky it’s not worse.

Top of the 3rd

Mark Teixeira, when he was still cool and not a Yankee, leads of the top of the third and wastes no time, lacing Johnson’s first pitch past a diving Wagner and into center field for the All-Stars’ first hit of the contest.

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner shows off some grizzled leather and acrobatics in the third.

Wagner decides to show the kiddies in the stands what cool is all about when he snares Jason Varitek’s grounder up the middle then flips the ball behind his back to Hornsby, who steps on the bag for the out and relays on to first, but too late to nab Tek. Replays show he was out and I suppose I could have stormed out of the dugout and gone all Lou Piniella on the poor bastard in blue, but I haven’t figured out how to transport myself from my couch and into my television yet. I was hoping a virtual John McGraw would do my bidding for me but no such luck.

Thanks to Wagner’s “web gem,” Johnson has one out and a man on first instead of two on and nobody out. He shows some gratitude by working Brian Roberts like the master moundsman he is—96 at the knees for a questionable ball, a foul, a 12-6 curve for a ball, a sinker at the knees for a strike, then high cheese to finish him off.

Damon comes up for his second at bat, swings and misses at the first pitch, rips a foul down the first base line, then chops a high fastball to Robinson at third, who throws to Hornsby for the force.

It’s still 2-0, Greats, and Johnson has allowed only one hit in three innings while fanning five.

Bottom of the 3rd

Cobb digs into the box with sharpened spikes for his second attempt at solving Santana and he’s even less successful than the first time. Santana buzzes a strike past him at the letters, throws ball one, then puts the Georgia Peach away with a two-seamer at the knees for a swinging strike, and a four-seamer down and away that Cobb chases for strike three. Cobb stomps back to the dugout. We still don’t make eye contact.

Wagner continues to haunt the All-Stars by slamming Santana’s first pitch to the left-center field gap for a two-bagger. Johan appears to be working everyone inside and The Flying Dutchman serves notice.

Santana gets the message and works Ruth outside for ball one. Then he makes a mistake and throws heat down and away, but not down and away enough. The Bambino’s eyes light up as if Santana had thrown him a keg of beer, a hot dog cart and a whore house. He poles a two-run shot over the 385 sign in right-center field and the Greats double their lead to 4-0.

Gehrig swings and misses at an inside fastball, then pounds a change-up into the ground to short for the second out of the inning. Unlike most superstars, The Iron Horse sprints down the line and almost beats the throw.

Hornsby follows with a two-strike double to the right-center field gap, but Speaker grounds a 1-2 change-up to Roberts at second to retire the side. Greats are up 4-0 heading into the fourth.

Top of the 4th

Johnson immediately reestablishes his dominance on only 11 pitches, fanning A-Rod on four, coaxing Ortiz into a 6-3 grounder on only two, then toying with Ramirez again with four, two curves, followed by 92 MPH cheese on the inside black and a letter-high four-seamer that Manny can’t catch up to. Later, Johnson might be asked to pee into a cup, but I have a feeling the only thing they’ll find in his urine are heart and soul.

Bottom of the 4th

Campy leads off the bottom of the fourth and promptly skies one to his counterpart and Varitek squeezes the pop up for the first out. Ott takes another turn and looks absolutely lost up there. Santana comes up and in and instead of backing away from the chin music, Ott swings and misses. The strategy works; the Twins southpaw goes low and away and Ott flails at it helplessly. Master Melvin fouls off a slider, but goes down swinging on a change-up.

Robinson detects a pattern—everything to him has been down so far—so he sits on a fastball down and in, but can’t connect. The next pitch is also down and in and Jackie drives a liner to left for a base hit. Whether or not Cobb was truly a racist or not (and that has been debated), the fact that Ty comes up with a black man on base is fantastic. But Cobb’s been struggling all day and continues to do so, grounding an 0-2 fastball to Roberts for out number three.

Top of the 5th

 

Vladimir Guerrero

Tejada leads off the fifth with a cloud-scraper that Wagner hauls in behind the mound for out number one. Guerrero touches Johnson for a single just past a diving Hornsby but he could have put the All-Stars on the board when two pitches before, he slammed a shot to left that hooked just foul. Teixeira, owner of the only other hit by the All-Stars to this point, wastes no time again and fists an inside fastball to short. Wagner goes all conventional on me and simply flips to Hornsby, who tosses to Gehrig to complete the twin killing. It ain’t sensational, but it gets the job done.

Bottom of the 5th

Santana appears to be in a rhythm now. He starts Wagner off with a slider down and in for a ball, then fools the shortstop with a circle change that Wagner takes for a strike. Color man Rex Hudler announces: “Couldn’t recognize the change-up out of his hand.” I can’t tell if he’s referring to Wagner or himself. Santana blows two fastballs by Wagner for the first out of the inning.

Ruth steps up already 2-for-2 with a homer, but he quickly loses their third battle when the portsider paints the outside black with a slider, Van Goghs it again with a two-seamer, then goes to the high octane heat and sets the Sultan of Swat down on three straight offerings. Gehrig fares only slightly better, taking a change for a ball, then another for a strike before offering at a third change and lining it to Guerrero, who races over towards the gap and makes a nifty backhand grab to retire the side.

Top of the 6th

The All-Stars finally solve Johnson in the sixth, thanks in part to some poor defense, but the damage could have been much worse. Varitek takes balls one and two, swings at a 96 MPH heater for strike one, then flies out to left for out number one. Roberts takes ball one, then finds a fastball to his liking and drives it to the right field wall. Ott misplays the ball, forcing Speaker to play the carom and fire it into the infield. By the time the smoke clears, Roberts is standing on third with a triple.

A still bearded and long-haired Johnny Damon belts Johnson’s first pitch to left-center field that parts Ruth and Speaker for a double, and Roberts easily trots home with the All-Star’s first run of the afternoon. Who better to reach a baseball God than someone who looks like His son? Alex Rodriguez steals a page from Damon’s script and offers at The Almighty’s first pitch, but the result is far from impressive—an easy 4-3 ground out for the second out of the inning.

David Ortiz

David Ortiz can’t believe his deep drive in the sixth stayed in the yard

Then Big Papi steps in against the ultimate Big Daddy and an epic battle ensues. Johnson paints the outside corner with a two-seamer and Ortiz flails helplessly for strike one. A 97 MPH heater backs Ortiz off the plate for ball one, a curve that misses inside brings the count to 2-1, and another 97 MPH offering misses up and Ortiz has a decided advantage. Johnson takes a little off his next pitch and gets Ortiz swinging for strike two. The Big Train decides to go up and in one more time, but this time Big Papi is waiting for it and drives it deep to straightaway center field. He doesn’t quite get enough of it, though, and Speaker hauls it in right in front of the wall for out number three.

Heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Greats are up 4-1 and the All-Stars need to start putting more rallies together if they’re going to have a chance to pull this one out.

Bottom of the 6th

Johan Santana’s day is done, as Roy Halladay takes the hill in the bottom of the sixth. Santana’s final line reads: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Not typical Santana, but not bad against a lineup loaded with some of the greatest hitters who ever lived.

Tris Speaker

“You’ll take a 100 MPH heater and you’ll like it!”

Halladay announces his presence with authority right off the bat, getting Hornsby to ground to second on his first pitch, then blowing a fastball past Speaker that reaches triple digits on the gun. Speaker, who’s faced Johnson and played behind Smoky Joe Wood, is hard to impress, but he steps out of the box, gathers himself, and reluctantly digs back in. “Doc” comes back with a filthy 79 MPH change-up that Speaker swings at and misses, and the crowd begins to wonder if this series of pitches should even be legal. The tall right-hander misses inside with a cutter, then hits the outside corner with a curve that The Grey Eagle hacks at and misses.

From the comfort of my couch, I decide it’s time to bring Mickey “Black Mike” Cochrane in to bat for Campanella, hoping to take advantage of the lefty-righty match-up. Cochrane almost makes me look like a genius when he rips a shot to first, but Teixeira makes a nice play, flips to Halladay covering and the side is retired after only seven pitches.

Top of the 7th

ManRam leads off the seventh with an opposite field single past Gehrig and into right field. Tejada steps up and battles Johnson for five pitches before he shoots an inside fastball up the middle for a single, putting runners at first and second with no outs. Had anyone but Manny been on first, the All-Stars would have had runners at first and third, but I digress. Dave Campbell announces that Johnson has over 75 pitches under his belt, which means “they’re going to have to keep tabs on him.” In Campbell’s defense, there’s no doubt this is a canned response but Johnson tossed almost 6,000 innings in his 21-year career and completed over 80% of his starts, so I have a feeling he’ll be okay.

Vladimir Guerrero has a chance to cut into the Greats’ lead but instead bounces into a 6-4-3 double play. Tejada does his best to break it up, taking out Hornsby with a hard slide, but Rajah gets his throw off in time and the All-Stars suddenly have two outs and a man on third. Teixeira stands in to take his hacks and the crowd stands in support, urging him to drive Ramirez home and make it a ballgame. Teixeira just stands there and takes four wide ones for a walk, but Johnson gives the crowd something to cheer about when he uncorks a wild pitch on ball four and sends Ramirez to the plate with the All-Stars’ second run. Johnson gets Varitek on a routine fly to center to retire the side, but the lead has been sliced to 4-2.

Lefty Grove begins to warm up in the Greats’ bullpen so it looks like Johnson’s day is over and what a day it was—7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.

Bottom of the 7th

Mel Ott steps in against Halladay and redeems himself with a scorching single back up the middle. With the right-handed Jackie Robinson due up, I decide to go with lefty swinging Eddie Collins, who takes a cutter at his ankles for ball one, then smashes a shot past a diving Brian Roberts and into right field for a hit. Ott can only advance one base, but the Greats have something brewing here against Halladay and the All-Stars.

Ty Cobb digs in hoping to finally get good wood on the ball, but instead he lays a gorgeous bunt down the third base line and A-Rod has no chance to get the Tiger speedster. I can’t help but think Buck Weaver is rolling in his grave. “Buck Weaver was the only man I wouldn’t bunt against,” Cobb admitted. “He would be down there with a big smile, daring me to hit it by him.”

With the bases loaded and nobody out, southpaw reliever B.J. Ryan begins warming up for the All-Stars. But with the right-handed hitting Honus Wagner due up, the All-Stars’ manager sticks with Halladay. The strategy pays off as Wagner hammers an 0-1 change-up to Rodriguez who throws home for the force. But with Ruth and Gehrig due up the All-Stars call Ryan into the game. The southpaw immediately gets behind Ruth when he throws two cutters down and away. Dave Campbell, in all his brilliance, wonders if Ruth will be swinging with a 2-0 count. “And now we’ll see if they’re going to give him the green light with the bases loaded.”

It’s Babe freaking Ruth! The Bambino! The Sultan of Swat! The King of Clout! The…hell, I don’t know; it’s Babe freaking Ruth! If I thought he could see me, I’d give him any color light he wants. Fortunately we’re all on the same page, except Ryan, who throws a fastball where Ruth can reach it. Before you can say grand slam, the ball is already in the right field seats and it’s 8-2 Greats. Ruth’s first home run was a majestic shot to straight away center; this one is a liner that probably killed a few people along the way.

Ryan tries to regain his composure while Halladay tries to calculate his ginormous ERA (it’s 20.30 Roy). He starts Gehrig off with a slider that’s called a ball though K-Zone clearly shows it’s a strike. Then he comes in with a two-seamer that Gehrig drives deep to center field and it looks like back-to-backers for the Pinstripe Pair, but Damon uses the gift of beard given him by Chuck Norris and corrals the shot at the wall for out number two. Hornsby watches two strikes go by before lofting a pop-up to Varitek for the third out of the inning, but the damage has already been done. Greats 8 All-Stars 2.

Top of the 8th

Grove comes into the ballgame and pitches extremely well, though he needs a little help from his defense and it comes from an unexpected source. He starts Roberts off with a slider down and in for a strike, then throws a fastball that the Orioles second baseman grounds to Wagner for a 6-3 putout. Damon slashes Grove’s first pitch to the left-center field gap, but Speaker races over and snares the pill for out number two. Then A-Rod battles Grove for a few pitches, taking a slider at the knees for strike one; a 96 MPH fastball for ball one; and a sinker at the knees for strike two before belting a fly ball to right-center field that Ott grabs at his shoe tops before finishing the brilliant play with a somersault.

Grove sets down the All-Stars 1-2-3 and I decide it’s best to take no chances. He’ll beat me like a red-headed stepchild for taking him out, but he’ll be even angrier if I leave him in and he surrenders runs, and I’m really looking forward to that postgame spread and still intact urinals into which I can take a pee. Still, I don’t want to mess with him, so I’ll have Jimmie Foxx break the news. I’ll just remind him to deliver the message to the dude in the middle.

Bottom of the 8th

After B.J. Ryan’s implosion in the seventh, the All-Stars decide to go with arguably the best closer the game has ever seen in the eighth. Mariano Rivera toes the rubber to face Speaker, Cochrane, and Ott, and whomever else might come up. It doesn’t seem wise to go with a righty against a stampede of lefties, but this isn’t just any righty. In fact, Rivera reminds all of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry when he tosses a fastball behind Speaker for ball one. So far, Tristram has seen a 100 MPH fastball from Halladay and a behind-the-back fastball from Rivera, and he’s probably wondering what’s next. He gets two more fastballs, one that he fouls off and the other he swings at and misses and the count goes to 1-2. Then Rivera goes to his vaunted cutter and Speaker flies out to center.

But the rest of the Greats’ line-up poses more of a problem. Cochrane rips Rivera’s cutter up the middle for a hit, and Ott follows suit with a shot to center to put runners at first and second with only one out. George Kell, who entered the game when Collins pinch hit for Robinson is due up, but I decide to go with Foxx instead. Rivera throws one high and outside and The Beast offers at it for strike one, and I’m already regretting my decision, wondering if Double X can even see straight at this point. Rivera throws his cutter up and in for ball one, then inexplicably hits the same spot with the same pitch and Foxx belts it to the left field wall for a ground rule double and a ribbie, putting the Greats up 9-2.

The All-Stars counter with Twins closer Joe Nathan, who will be tasked with disposing of Cobb and Wagner. He’s almost successful thanks to a diving stop by Miguel Tejada, who throws to second for the force, but Roberts’ throw to first is not in time and the Greats score their 10th run of the game.

The DP trio make up for it on the next play when Tejada makes another acrobatic play and starts a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Still the All-Stars are down 10-2 and have only one more chance to win this game.

Top of the 9th

Leroy “Satchel” Paige comes in to turn off the All-Stars’ lights.

I decide to go with Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige to close this one out. It’s not a save situation by any means, but he deserves to be in there. Ortiz greets Paige with a liner up the middle for a hit and the Stars are mounting a modest “rally.” I suddenly remember that I have Jimmie Foxx at third base, which typically wouldn’t be a big deal—Foxx has played the hot corner before, although not very well—but I decide it’s best to be safe, so I call on Pee Wee Reese to play third. Reese has limited experience at third base and is also below average there, but I figure a shortstop will be able to handle third better than a first baseman. We’ll see if I’m right.

Manny Ramirez comes to the plate with a chance to make the score more respectable. He fouls back a fastball, then blasts a hanging slider to left, but well foul for strike two. Paige comes in with a sinker for a ball, then Ramirez fouls back a fastball and the count remains 1-2. Satchel goes back to his sinker and Ramirez swings and misses for strike three. It’s Manny’s third K of the game and to prove he does actually know where he is and what’s just happened, he snaps his bat over his knee in frustration.

Paige gets ahead of Tejada with a curve at the knees followed by a 96 MPH fastball at the hands, and just like that he’s ahead 0-2. He tries to climb the ladder with more heat but Tejada lays off, then Satchel hangs a slider and Tejada rips into the right-center field gap for a run-scoring double to make it a 10-3 ballgame. With two outstanding defensive plays and an RBI double, Tejada is clearly in the groove, but it’s too little, too late.

Vlad “The Impaler” steps up with Tejada on second and one out and he’s somewhat productive, rapping a fly to right to advance Tejada to third. Ott makes a strong throw, but the shortstop beats it to the bag and the All-Stars’ fourth run is only 90 feet away. It’s up to Mark Teixeira now, and he almost comes through. He fouls off a fastball, checks his swing on a curve at the knees, then fouls off a slider. The crowd stands in anticipation of a game-ending punchout, but Teixeira disappoints with a smash that looks like it’s going for another run-scoring base hit until Wagner lays out and makes a sensational diving stab for the game’s final out.

Not surprisingly, the Greats beat the All-Stars, 10-3 and Ruth is named MVP.

Score by innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
2005 A.L. All-Stars 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 3
All-Time Greats 2 0 2 0 0 0 4 2 X 10
2005 A.L. All-Stars AB R H RBI BB K
Damon, CF 4 0 1 1 0 1
Rodriguez, 3B 4 0 0 0 0 1
Ortiz, DH 4 1 1 0 0 0
Ramirez, LF 4 1 1 0 0 3
Tejada, SS 4 0 2 1 0 1
Guerrero, RF 4 0 1 0 0 1
Teixeira, 1B 3 0 1 1 1 0
Varitek, C 3 0 0 0 0 0
Roberts, 2B 3 1 1 0 0 1
Totals 36 3 8 3 1 8
Batting
2B: Tejada, Damon
3B: Roberts
RBI: Teixeira, Tejada, Damon
GIDP: Teixeira, Guerrero
All-Time Greats AB R H RBI BB K
Cobb, LF 5 1 2 1 0 1
Wagner, SS 5 2 1 0 0 1
Ruth, DH 4 3 3 6 0 1
Gehrig, 1B 4 1 1 2 0 0
Hornsby, 2B 4 0 1 0 0 0
Speaker, CF 4 0 0 0 0 1
Campanella, C 2 0 1 0 0 0
a-Cochrane
2 1 1 0 0 0
Ott, RF 4 1 2 0 0 1
Robinson, 3B 2 0 1 0 0 1
b-Collins
1 1 1 0 0 0
Kell, 3B 0 0 0 0 0 0
c-Foxx
1 0 1 1 0 0
Reese, 3B 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 38 10 15 10 0 6
a-batted for Campanella in the 6th
b-batted for Robinson in the 7th
c-batted for Kell in the 8th
Batting
2B: Hornsby, Wagner, Campanella, Foxx
HR: Gehrig, Ruth (2)
RBI: Gehrig (2), Ruth (6), Cobb, Foxx
GIDP: Wagner
2005 A.L. All-Stars IP H R ER BB K
Santana (L, 0-1) 5 7 4 4 0 5
Halladay 1.1 3 3 3 0 1
Ryan .2 1 1 1 0 0
Rivera .1 3 2 2 0 0
Nathan .2 1 0 0 0 0
All-Time Greats IP H R ER BB K
Johnson (W, 1-0) 7 6 2 2 1 7
Grove 1 0 0 0 0 0
Paige 1 2 1 1 0 1

Mike Lynch is the author of Harry Frazee, Ban Johnson and the Feud That Nearly Destroyed the American League and It Ain’t So: A Might-Have-Been History of the White Sox in 1919 and Beyond, and the founder of Seamheads.com.

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