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What you'll love about All-Star weekend

What you'll love about All-Star weekend

NEW YORK -- The only way to send off Yankee Stadium would be with a tribute to the rich history that envelops that storied patch of land in the Bronx. The 2008 All-Star Game has been painstakingly structured with that thought in mind.

This is first time in history that an All-Star Game has been held in a ballpark's final season, and by the end of the week, baseball fans will have had their senses overloaded with sights, sounds and events to embrace and treasure forever.

The one memory that many will take away, however, is the exposure to tradition, with more than 40 Hall of Famers set to be honored on the field prior to Tuesday's All-Star Game as a gesture to the majesty of Yankee Stadium during its farewell campaign.

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The legends will also participate in the All-Star Game Red Carpet Parade presented by Chevy, where they will join the American League and National League All-Stars in a parade up Sixth Avenue from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the day of the All-Star Game.

"Usually, All-Star Games help celebrate new ballparks, not ones going away," said Whitey Ford, the winningest pitcher in Yankees history and a 1974 inductee of the Baseball Hall of Fame. "I can understand why this is the exception -- so much of baseball's history has happened there, and it's still a beautiful ballpark. It still gives me chills like the first time I wore a uniform there, or the first time I went as a fan."

Ford recently recalled paying his way into baseball's cathedral as a youth, plunking down a few assorted coins and taking up residence in the bleachers on a summer day, watching future teammate Joe DiMaggio cover ground in the fabled center field and bashing fly balls toward the monuments in left-center field, which were once considered in play.

As the city of New York prepares to look ahead to the bright future, All-Star week provides a terrific opportunity to roll the clock back and reflect on what Yankee Stadium has meant -- and will continue to mean, moving forward. Why not? The Yankees, after all, have had the most All-Star players (112) and selections (384) of any franchise since the game's inception in 1933.

And this All-Star Game means something: for the sixth consecutive year, the outcome will impact postseason play, as the team representing the winning league in the Midsummer Classic will have home-field advantage in the 2008 World Series. Everything will kick off in the City when Yogi Berra "flips" the Empire State Building switch on Friday, turning the building red, white and blue.

New York also plays host to the DHL All-Star FanFest, which will take place Friday through Tuesday at the Jacob K. Javits Center. The All-Star Fan Fest will be a terrific outlet for your baseball passion, with all attractions included with the price of admission.

Go ahead and try to hit off a virtual version of Mariano Rivera, take the mound against Alex Rodriguez, and then confirm your MLB experience by having your own baseball card printed to take home.

We know you dig the long ball, and the State Farm Home Run Derby is sure to quench your craving., Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch has always created an inviting target for the game's best hitters, and this promises to be one of the best power displays in recent memory. Part of the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, the Home Run Derby is set to take place under the lights on Monday beginning at 8 p.m. ET and televised live on ESPN.

No hitter has ever pumped a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium in a MLB game, though Mickey Mantle certainly came close, smacking a ball off the iconic frieze well beyond the outfield walls. Could the Home Run Derby create the opportunity for one slugger to leave an ever-lasting note on the history of the Stadium?

"The Home Run Derby this year could be as big as the game itself, when you consider that no one has ever hit a fair ball out of the Stadium," Yankees COO Lonn Trost said. "We know everybody is going to try. We know they are going to hit it in the black [the blackened seats beyond the center-field fence]."

If you've got an interest in peeking ahead, be prepared to see tomorrow's superstars today in the Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, featuring the XM All-Star Futures Game, with first pitch at 12:37 p.m. ET. The top Minor League players will face off for the World and USA teams on the field at Yankee Stadium, showcasing what they'll bring to the table in the not-too-distant future. Who's going to be next year's Joba Chamberlain or Jacoby Ellsbury? Tune in to ESPN2 and find out.

Want to stargaze? The Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game follows the Futures Game, and among the smattering of celebrities who pay tribute to both Hollywood and New York -- Whoopi Goldberg, Spike Lee, etc. -- only one of them has actually batted in a Major League Spring Training game for the Yankees: Billy Crystal, who struck out in his only at-bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates this March in Tampa, Fla. He'll look for better results in a game that also features Chris Rock, James Denton, George Lopez, Maria Menounos and more.

And if you're ready to rock, you won't want to miss the Major League Baseball All-Star Concert presented by Bank of America, featuring Bon Jovi on Central Park's Great Lawn on Saturday. The concert is a free event, but a ticket is required to attend. Bon Jovi's concert isn't the only event that will be a draw for your listening tastes, as there will be an All-Star lineup of musicians for the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby.

Nine-time Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow will perform the U.S. national anthem prior to the start of the All-Star Game on Tuesday, while classically-influenced pop superstar Josh Groban will perform "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. The Home Run Derby will feature a two-song set by multi-platinum rock band Three Doors Down.

If you're anywhere near Manhattan come Tuesday, you'll want to make your way to Sixth Avenue, where the 95,000-square-foot red carpet will be unfurled, extending from 40th Street to 58th Street. MLB mascots will be on the red carpet, distributing gifts to fans along the parade route, and you can find a great spot to watch from Bryant Park or Central Park.

And don't forget to check out the 42 Major League Baseball-decorated Statue of Liberty replicas, which stand 8 and 1/2 feet tall and are positioned near some of the most popular locations in New York City, including Times Square, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, the New York Stock Exchange and the Statue of Liberty.

Then, there's the actual All-Star Game, the 79th in Major League history, with first pitch set to be recorded by thousands upon thousands of flashbulbs flickering throughout a sold-out House that Ruth Built. Whether you're one of the lucky people filtering through the turnstiles in Yankee Stadium's final season or watching with friends on FOX, trust us, this is going to be one sequence of events to remember.

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

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