All-Star Game has epic history in Anaheim

All-Star Game has epic history in Anaheim

ANAHEIM -- Every All-Star Game is special, weaving its own colorful tapestry. That's why it's known as the Midsummer Classic.

Some are memorable. A few are epic.

The Angels, preparing to host their third All-Star Game on July 13, have sponsored one of each -- a memorable 1967 marathon stretching a then-record 15 innings, and a true epic in 1989 courtesy of the one and only Vincent Edward Jackson.

"Oh, yes, the 'Bo Show,'" Jackson's former Kansas City teammate, Mark Gubicza, said, recalling in vivid detail the performance delivered by the man he considers "the greatest athlete I've ever seen, bar none."

Who can forget that opening to the bottom of the first inning in '89? There never has been anything quite like it.

"It was my second All-Star Game and I was all pumped up, sitting in the bullpen talking Nolan Ryan's ear off," Gubicza said. "I was saying, 'This is not a good matchup for Rick Reuschel [the National League's starting pitcher]. He's a sinker-ball pitcher, and Bo loves the ball down.' Most right-handed hitters like it high, but Bo loved to go down and get it.

"This was in the midst of the whole 'Bo Knows' campaign, and he was as big at the time as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods -- anybody we have now. Where the bullpens were located back then, you could hear the crack of the bat on the first pitch Reuschel threw. Bo had a unique sound when he got into one, and I recognized it. Then you could hear the crowd make this sound that was like, 'Oh, my God.' Nobody moved. Everybody just watched it keep going, thinking, 'This thing is gargantuan.'

"It landed over where the trees are now, way out there. It still had some distance to go when it landed. It was awesome to see. Playing with Bo, I was used to him doing incredible things. But on the first pitch of the All-Star Game ... that was amazing, even for Bo."

Wade Boggs followed with a matching blast, putting the AL up by two quickly in a game it would claim, 5-3.

"I was down in the bullpen, getting ready to go in the game, when Bo hit that ball about 8,000 feet," said Mike Scioscia, an NL catcher representing the Dodgers in his first All-Star Game. "It was incredible. It just seemed to travel forever."

The winning pitcher that evening -- fittingly so -- was Nolan Ryan, the centerpiece of the Angels' franchise before leaving in 1980 for Houston via free agency. He worked a scoreless third inning, Dave Stewart having drawn the start against Reuschel.

"Of all my All-Star appearances, that was probably my most memorable and the one I enjoyed the most," said Ryan, president of the Rangers. "I had just signed with the Rangers after all those years in the National League [with the Astros], and a week before that I had pitched in Anaheim for the first time since leaving the Angels.

"I received a really nice reception from the fans that day, and it was the same way when I went back for the All-Star Game. At that point of my career, I thought I was done pitching in All-Star Games, so to be able to make it again and to get to pitch again in Anaheim made it a very special moment for me in my career."

Gubicza, now an Angels broadcaster, was elated to be in the presence of the man who would produce a record seven no-hitters and become the all-time strikeout king.

"To follow Nolan to the mound, that was a huge thrill," Gubicza said. "As soon as I was done with my inning [a 1-2-3 fourth], I went back to Nolan and was chewing his ear off.

"He told me all about his workout program. He was a huge believer in lower-body strength, which was new then. He was lifting leg weights, and he showed me his running routine, how he'd do his long-distance work and then run sprints at complete exhaustion. I took everything he told me and applied it the rest of my career. I can't thank him enough for that."

Long after specific game memories erode, the stars remember these personal connections, their interaction with athletes they'd admired, competed against, wanted to emulate.

Twenty-two years before the Bo Show, Tony Perez emerged as the star of stars when he lifted a 15th-inning home run against Jim "Catfish" Hunter that enabled the NL to prevail, 2-1.

Pete Rose, Perez's Cincinnati teammate, wasn't surprised at all to see Perez deliver the telling blow in the 1967 Midsummer Classic in Anaheim.

"He was the best clutch hitter I ever saw," Rose said. "Runner on third and two outs, if I can't be up myself, then he's the guy that I want up there -- because he'll drive in the run."

Young Tom Seaver was terrific, shutting down the AL in the bottom of the 15th to save it for winning pitcher Don Drysdale, the Dodgers' future Hall of Famer.

Hunter went five innings, following Al Downing to the mound for the AL.

In his two scoreless innings, Downing faced six future Hall of Famers, retiring Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron after Jimmy Wynn's leadoff single in the ninth. Another Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks, singled in the 10th, but Downing retired Orlando Cepeda and Bill Mazeroski while striking out dangerous Dick Allen.

"The National League was running hot then," Downing said. "Truth is, that was like a moral victory that we went 15 innings with those guys."

It's hard to imagine there's ever been more talent on one field than the collection that graced "the Big A" in '67.

Of the 20 Hall of Fame-bound players who appeared in that game, 14 represented the NL. Joe Torre, who started behind the plate, figures to make it 15 when he wraps up his managerial career.

The dominant personality in the American League -- future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson of the Orioles -- was injured and did not play.

"When Frank came over to the American League from Cincinnati the year before," Downing said, "he brought a whole heartbeat to the league. He brought a very aggressive game, whereas before everyone was waiting for that three-run homer. Unfortunately, he got hurt early in the season and wasn't able to play for us in that game."

The biggest of the AL stars graced the bench at the game's start. Mickey Mantle pinch-hit in what would be his second to last All-Star Game.

It was the first of Rod Carew's 18 selections to the Midsummer Classic, and the 22-year-old second baseman was joined by fellow Twins Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew in the starting lineup. Boston, in its magical season, also had three starters -- Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro and Rico Petrocelli.

Twelve pitchers were used, seven by the NL. A record 30 strikeouts were rung up, including six by Ferguson Jenkins among the NL's 17.

"I was catching," Torre said. "I think it was the first twilight game, so they could show it back east at prime time. Ed Runge was the plate umpire, and I think we set a record for strikeouts -- and a good number of them were called.

"Players were complaining about his strike zone the whole game. Yaz had one called outside and Runge said, `I don't know why they're complaining; they know the strike zone.' And with that, I just moved a little farther off the plate."

Umpires worked exclusively in their own leagues at that time, and Runge's strike zone was not as well known among AL hitters.

Seaver, at 22, looked so young as he strolled into the NL clubhouse wearing a sweater that Lou Brock asked him to go get him a drink, thinking he was one of the clubhouse personnel.

"Does your guardian know you're out so late?" Brock said, joking.

Dean Chance, the former Angels ace in his first season with the Twins, got the start for the AL, opposed by Juan Marichal. Chance yielded a second-inning homer to Allen, the starter at third base, where Perez finished the game.

Brooks Robinson tied it in the seventh with a solo shot against Jenkins. Yastrzemski had three hits and Oliva two for the AL, while Tim McCarver was 2-for-2 for the NL and handled the final pitch, Seaver striking out Ken Berry to leave Yastrzemski, who'd walked, stranded.

The AL had a total of 10 baserunners in the game -- and Yaz was that guy five times with his three hits and two walks.

As good as the '67 Game was, it had nothing to match the electricity of the Bo Show 22 years later.

"After the game, we flew back to New York to play the Yankees. We were sitting in first class, and the pilots came back during the flight to ask for Bo's autograph.

"I said, 'Excuse me, but who's flying this plane now?' They said, `Don't worry, we're on automatic.' When we landed, it was like being with Mick Jagger. Bo was mobbed."

The shame of it was he never came close to his full baseball potential after a devastating football injury to his hip resulted in a premature halt to his astounding feats.

But we'll always have Anaheim, in the July twilight of 1989, when Bo showed the world what he knew, that it was all true. He was Superman in the flesh.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.