Colossal clouts, wild walk-offs and last-chance lasers top the charts of the Midsummer Classic's greatest knocks
By John Schlegel
When Chick Hafey sent a soft fly to center field at Comiskey Park on July 6, 1933, the All-Star Game had its first hit in the books, and the Reds' left fielder had his place in the game's history. Of course, there have been hits by the hundreds -- nearly 1,500 of them, actually -- since Hafey's second-inning single in the inaugural Midsummer Classic. A select group of them have stood the test of time.
Just a few outs later, though, Babe Ruth would top Hafey's hit in historical significance.
For decades after, there would be hits that would help define the Midsummer Classic as a game in which the elite rise to the occasion. From moments of jaw-dropping power to clutch offensive exploits, the best hits in All-Star Game history share one common thread: They took place on a stage like none other, against the game's best pitchers, establishing a highly-anticipated summertime tradition.
Here's a list of the Top 10 hits in All-Star Game history, in chronological order:
A Feat of His Own Proportions: Babe Ruth, 1933
It was fitting that the man who defined the home run, and in many ways the game of baseball, delivered the first longball in All-Star Game history. In the third inning of the inaugural contest, Ruth stepped up against the Cardinals' Bill Hallahan, who had struck him out in the first inning. Even at age 38, he still had that formidable swing, and he swatted a two-run shot to right field, which was punctuated by his famous trot.
Splendid Walk-Off: Ted Williams, 1941
Seventy-five years ago, Ted Williams was a 22-year-old phenom for the Boston Red Sox who was fast becoming the game's offensive powerhouse. He would bat .406 that year, the last .400 season in Major League history, but the swing he took in the 1941 All-Star Game at Briggs Stadium (later Tiger Stadium) provided a fitting interlude to the feat. With two on, two outs and the American League down one run in the bottom of the ninth, Williams walloped a three-run homer off Claude Passeau to win it for the AL, setting off a wild celebration for that day and age.
"It was the kind of thing a boy dreams about," Williams told the Orlando Sentinel 50 years later, in 1991. "Halfway down to first base, seeing the ball was going out, I stopped running and started leaping and jumping and clapping my hands, and I was just so happy, I laughed out loud. I've never been so happy in all my life, and I've never seen so many happy guys. They carried me off the field, [Joe] DiMaggio and Bob Feller … it was a wonderful, wonderful day for me."
The 12th Man: Stan Musial, 1955
Stan Musial was already a Cardinals icon in possession of three National League MVP Awards and numerous other honors by the time he played in his 12th All-Star Game in 1955. When he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 12th inning with the score knotted at 5-5, legend has it he told American League catcher Yogi Berra, "Yogi, let's end this thing."
Stan the Man promptly launched a homer to right field off Frank Sullivan to give the NL a walk-off win, sending the crowd at Milwaukee County Stadium home happy. It was a big moment for the 34-year-old, who continued to make All-Star appearances until the final season of his career in 1963, at age 42.
Light-Tower Power: Reggie Jackson, 1971
What took place in the twilight at the 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium can best be described as surreal. In the third inning, with Pirates right-hander Dock Ellis on the mound, Reggie Jackson hit one of the greatest home runs ever -- All-Star Game or not. Jackson, with his usual flair, knew it as soon as he hit it, and everyone watching saw the ball fly through the sky and bounce off a transformer on a rooftop light tower above the right-center-field bleachers.
"I didn't think it would ever land," said longtime Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell.
Just how far it would have gone isn't known because it ricocheted off that transformer, but ESPN Home Run Tracker recently predicted it at 539 feet.
Summer Slam: Fred Lynn, 1983
Among such an impressive collection of sluggers, it's amazing that it would take so long, but it wasn't until 1983 that Fred Lynn delivered the Midsummer Classic's first grand slam. By the third inning, the AL squad already had taken a 5-1 lead, and Giants left-hander Atlee Hammaker was struggling. With two runners on, the plan was to intentionally walk future Hall of Famer Robin Yount to get to Lynn, forcing a lefty-lefty matchup. That wound up being a mistake, though, as the Angels outfielder blasted a pitch into the right-field bleachers for the first -- and still the only -- grand slam in an All-Star Game.
Bo Knows the Longball: Bo Jackson, 1989
All-Star Game leadoff homers have been hit by the likes of Willie Mays, Joe Morgan and Mike Trout, but no blast compares to Bo Jackson's longball in the 1989 game. Jackson was batting first for the home team, the American League, and blasted a Rick Reuschel pitch straight into the batter's eye beyond the center-field fence, making everyone watching take notice. "Bo Jackson says hello!" was the call from announcer Vin Scully, who was in the booth with former President Ronald Reagan. "He almost hit it out of state."
It was a blast to remember, that's for sure, and it came during the same broadcast that the famous "Bo Knows" advertising campaign for Nike first aired. Talk about your well-timed blast.
As the 1994 All-Star Game headed into extra innings, only one National League starter remained in the game: 34-year-old Tony Gwynn. Before the inning began, Gwynn had a message for Montreal Expos slugger Moises Alou. "We started talking and I told Alou that if I singled, I was scoring on his drive into the gap," Gwynn said. Sure enough, Mr. Padre singled, and when Alou ripped one into the gap in left-center, Gwynn zoomed around the bases. The dash culminated with a pop-up slide just underneath the tag of AL catcher Pudge Rodriguez, and was followed with a raucous celebration of NL players behind home plate at Three Rivers Stadium.
Strike While the Iron's Hot: Cal Ripken Jr., 2001
The 2001 Midsummer Classic was a showcase to honor 19-time All-Star Cal Ripken Jr., who along with Tony Gwynn was playing out his final season. The tribute took a turn for the dramatic in the top of the second, when starting AL shortstop Alex Rodriguez switched positions with the Iron Man, who was voted in at third base, allowing the legend to return to his natural position one final time. That was the beginning of a storybook sequence, as Ripken stepped to the plate in the third inning and, on the very first pitch, delivered a home run that is etched in Midsummer Classic lore as one of the most poignant hits in the game's history. Both benches stood up and cheered to express their respect for the Hall of Famer.
Last-Strike Heroics: Michael Young, 2006
The NL was one out away from snapping a nine-game winless streak, as Padres closer Trevor Hoffman had gotten the first two outs in the ninth. But Hoffman, who later that season would begin a five-year reign as MLB's all-time saves leader, allowed back-to-back hits to bring up Rangers veteran Michael Young. Young delivered in the clutch with a two-out, two-strike, two-run triple that gave the AL the come-from-behind victory.
"You're never going to forget these things on this kind of stage," Hoffman said at the time. "You feel like you let a lot of people down."
Added Young: "I'm not going to lie: This is a pretty big highlight in my career."
Only one player in Midsummer Classic history has ever legged out an inside-the-park homer: Ichiro Suzuki. They call right-center field at AT&T Park "Triples Alley," but the surefire Hall of Famer -- who now owns nearly 3,000 career MLB hits -- took his gapper a step further with a full circuit in the 2007 All-Star Game, slapping a pitch from Chris Young, then with the Padres, to deep right-center. It bounced off an arched area on the fence, allowing Ichiro to make it around the bases and into home standing up.
Of course, these are but a few of the memorable moments at the plate in the storied, 87-year history of the All-Star Game. And if fans are lucky, we'll continue to be treated to knocks worthy of replacing the ones on this list.
"When guys are hitting, everyone is relaxed," says veteran All-Star Adrian Gonzalez. "It's contagious."
This article appears in the MLB Official All-Star Game Program. Click here to purchase a copy, and read more features on allstargame.com.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.