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A Midsummer Classic, indeed

July 21, 2008

by Matt Kane

What a game. The Midsummer Classic actually turned into a classic.

I always enjoy watching the all-star game, simply because it is the best players from every team on the field at the same time, but the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game Tuesday at Yankee Stadium was one to remember.

Fighting my increasingly heavy eyelids, I managed to stay awake into early Wednesday morning to see the conclusion of the game.

I was hoping our Twin favorite, Justin (not Jason) Morneau would end the game with a home run when he led off the top of the 15th inning, but it didn’t happen. Morneau, instead, sliced a single to center field off Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge.

He eventually moved around to third base with one out, and, as you probably know, his less-than-swift legs raced home just ahead of the tag laid down by Atlanta Braves’ catcher Brian McCann. Morneau’s run, which came on a Michael Young sacrifice fly to right field, gave the American League a 4-3 win and increased its unbeaten streak to 12 games.

Morneau may not have ended it with his bat, but I was glad to see he was a key figure in deciding the game.

Morneau had two hits in the game, and both came in key situations. Before the 15th-inning single, he doubled in the seventh and scored on a two-run home run by eventual MVP J.D. Drew. Drew’s blast tied the score at two.

It would have been nice to see Morneau end the game by himself in the 15th inning. He probably would have been a cinch to claim the MVP award if he did, and that would have looked nice next to his Home Run Derby trophy.

Morneau’s Twins teammates, Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan also represented Twins Territory well. Mauer, the starting catcher, walked and singled, and Nathan pitched a perfect seventh inning.

Heck, even former Twins shortstop Christian Guzman played well. Guzman was hitless in three at-bats, but he showed he can field the ball on several occasions, making several nice plays from third base.

I think what I appreciate most about the all-star game is that it was played well, for the most part, with players giving great efforts.

Miguel Tejada stands out in my mind. He singled off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon in the seventh inning, stole second base, moved to third on a throwing error, and scored on a sacrifice fly by San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez.

Tejada also flashed his glove, throwing out Morneau after charging hard on a dribbling ground-ball in the 10th inning.

Strong pitching, good defense, and some timely hitting is what an all-star game should be about.

As the clock approached, reached, and passed midnight, I thought about how much of a joke all-star games in the other sports are.

The other three major sports leagues in America all run on clocks, meaning everybody has a good idea of when the game is going to end. And does anybody in the NHL, NBA, or NFL actually try in their all-star games?

My God, they’ve even changed the rules of the game in some of the sports so people don’t get hurt.

There haven’t been any rule changes in baseball, and it is evident by the efforts given forth Tuesday that the players at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game are trying to play well, and win.

What a concept.

Evidence of effort can be seen on the statistics sheet. There were seven stolen bases in the game (six by the AL and one by the NL).

This effort, combined with a want to win is why baseball’s all-star game is, by far, the best of any.

Actually, that’s probably why baseball is the greatest game of any. Baseball is the one game where you keep playing by the same rules as when the game started until a winner is decided.

That’s what happened Tuesday night, and everybody who fought off sleep saw the result — a great game.