Hey, we can dream, can't we? And here on Planet Baseball, we're letting our imaginations run free with all-time All-Star teams from both leagues, comprised of those luminous players who soared as the brightest of stars in the Midsummer Classic. This, keep in mind, is based entirely on performance in the All-Star Game, not regular-season exploits.
It's no easy task, and there are certain to be rumblings of discontent from all corners of the map. But after studying the numbers, digging into the memory bank and reading accounts of the most memorable performances in All-Star Game history, here are the lineups produced by a correspondent with a career inside the sport spanning five decades.
2. Roberto Clemente, RF, Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Willie Mays, CF, New York and San Francisco Giants
4. Stan Musial, LF, St. Louis Cardinals
5. Ernie Banks, SS, Chicago Cubs
6. Johnny Bench, C, Cincinnati Reds
7. Steve Garvey, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres
8. Gary Carter, DH, Montreal Expos, New York Mets
9. Ken Boyer, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Starting pitcher: Carl Hubbell, New York Giants
Closer: Bruce Sutter, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals
2. Nellie Fox, 2B, Chicago White Sox
3. Ted Williams, LF, Boston Red Sox
4. Ken Griffey Jr., CF, Seattle Mariners
5. Al Kaline, RF, Detroit Tigers
6. Fred Lynn, DH, Boston Red Sox, California Angels
7. Harmon Killebrew, 1B, Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins
8. Cal Ripken Jr., 3B, Baltimore Orioles
9. Ivan Rodriguez, C, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers
Starting pitcher: Lefty Gomez, New York Yankees
Closer: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Let the barking begin.
Clearly, some of the game's greatest names are limited to reserve roles -- starting with Babe Ruth. "The Bambino" is omitted simply because he was ahead of his All-Star time. Ruth, his legendary career winding down, appeared in only the first two showcases, claiming the distinction of stroking the first All-Star Game home run in 1933 at Chicago's Comiskey Park.
Lou Gehrig, the understated half of the game's greatest tandem, played in six All-Star Games and homered twice but hit just .222. Sentiment aside, Killebrew, a .306 hitter with three homers and six RBIs in 11 All-Star games, gets the AL call at first.
Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson were well ahead of their time, along with Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston and Josh Gibson. They likely would appear on any all-time dream team, but this is the All-Star Game's fantasy show.
A number of names more celebrated than some appearing in the lineups are excluded. Their All-Star performances did not match those of the chosen ones. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson and Barry Bonds head this class.
Jackson was the closest of this elite group to cracking the lineup in right field or as the AL DH, but Mr. October -- unlike, say, Lynn, Carter and Garvey -- wasn't Mr. July.
Jackson hit the most eye-popping blast in the game's history, off the transformer in Detroit in 1971, and was a .269 hitter with three RBIs in 12 games. DiMaggio (.225), Mantle (.233), Berra (.195), Campanella (.100), Aaron (.194), Robinson (.250), Rose (.212) and Bonds (.194) all struggled to find base hits in the Midsummer Classic.
The most productive superstar hitters in the game's history are Mays (.307, 20 runs scored, three homers, nine RBIs), Musial (.317, 11 runs, six homers, 10 RBIs), Williams (.304, 10 runs, four homers, 12 RBIs), Jeter (.440, five runs, one homer, three RBIs) and Griffey Jr. (.440, four runs, one homer, seven RBIs).
Robinson, the social pioneer, made the most of his six appearances, hitting .333 with seven runs scored, one homer and four RBIs.
Lynn hit the only All-Star grand slam in 1983, one of four his homers along with 10 RBIs in 20 at-bats in the big show. Griffey is the AL center fielder, nudging Lynn, a great defender like Junior, to DH.
Carter also is moved to DH by an icon. Carter, with three homers in 20 at-bats, was a two-time All-Star Game MVP Award winner, joining Mays, Garvey and Ripken. But Bench's defensive greatness and his .357 batting average in 12 All-Star appearances give him the nod behind the plate.
A shortstop with few peers, Ripken is awarded third base with acknowledgement of the brilliance of fellow Orioles legend and 18-time All-Star Brooks Robinson. Jeter owns shortstop. Alex Rodriguez has been solid, hitting .269 in 11 All-Star appearances, but not in Jeter's class in the Midsummer Classic.
Ripken was voted to his 18th and final All-Star Game as a third baseman in 2001. A-Rod graciously motioned Cal over to shortstop in one of the game's great moments. Ripken responded with a home run at age 40, winning his second All-Star MVP Award in a 4-1 AL victory in Seattle.
The starting pitchers go back to the game's origins. Hubbell, master of the screwball, delivered the most remarkable individual performance in the history of the game when he struck out Ruth, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession to open the 1934 contest in his home park, New York's Polo Grounds.
Gomez, the Yankees' ace, started that game and won a record three Midsummer Classics while working 18 innings. Only Don Drysdale (19 1/3, four runs allowed) pitched more All-Star Game innings. Drysdale or Juan Marichal (two runs allowed in 18 innings) would be the choice to start if not for Hubbell's matchless outing.
Rounding out the NL pitching staff behind Hubbell and Sutter are Drysdale, Marichal, Johnny Vander Meer, Ewell Blackwell, Larry Jansen, Dizzy Dean, Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden and Greg Maddux.
Tom Seaver? Not so Terrific, getting touched for eight runs in 13 innings. Nolan Ryan split his time between the leagues and was charged with five runs in 10 innings. Robin Roberts surrendered 10 runs in 14 innings.
Joing Gomez and Rivera on the AL staff are Mel Harder, Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, Jim Bunning, Early Wynn, Sam McDowell, Bret Saberhagen, Jack Morris, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.
Whitey Ford, largely because of Mays' magnificence, was rocked for 13 runs in 12 All-Star innings. Jim Palmer yielded eight runs in 12 2/3, Roger Clemens nine runs in 13 rounds and Catfish Hunter nine runs in 12 2/3 innings.
The NL bench, managed by nine-time All-Star leader Walter Alston, features Mike Piazza, Willie McCovey, Billy Herman, Arky Vaughan, Chipper Jones, Ralph Kiner, Richie Ashburn, Aaron and Andruw Jones.
The AL reserves, at the disposal of 10-time All-Star skipper Casey Stengel, include Sandy Alomar, Gehrig, Michael Young, Al Rosen, Al Simmons, Carl Yastrzemski, Ichiro Suzuki and Rocky Colavito.
Yes, it's hard to leave off Bo Jackson. But Bo knows he appeared in only one highly memorable All-Star Game, crushing a monstrous Reggie-esque home run leading off the 1989 show.
It was followed by a matching shot by Wade Boggs, another superb All-Star performer narrowly missing the cut. Rosen gets the backup role at third for his two-homer, five-RBI eruption in 1954 in Cleveland.
We can't get away without mentioning Tim McCarver, who has delivered insights and honest analysis over the airwaves for three decades.
One of the game's best and brightest catchers in his time, McCarver is in an exclusive club hitting 1.000 with at least three All-Star Game at-bats. The others: Willie Davis, Jimmy Rollins and Vince DiMaggio (Joe's brother), who fell a double shy of a cycle while representing the Pirates in 1943.
And here, alongside Vin Scully, the game's play-by-play voice, is telecast partner Mel Allen's reaction to the performance of McCarver, the third man in the booth: "How about that?"