MLB All-Star Game 2019: A few Indians (and one ex-Indian) share their favorite memories of the Midsummer Classic
By Cameron Fields, Special to cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio – With the 2019 MLB All-Star Game and festivities coming to town this weekend, baseball fans from all over the world will have their eyes on Cleveland.
The city and the Indians will host the All-Star game July 9 for a sixth time, the most by any team in MLB. The fan favorite Home Run Derby will take place next Monday, July 8.
But every big leaguer started watching the All-Star Game the same way everyone else did: Sitting in front of their TV.
We asked some Indians (and one former Indian) to share some of their fondest memories watching the game through the years.
What are some of your favorite memories of All-Star Games past? Share them in the comments.
SHANE BIEBER, INDIANS PITCHER: JOSH HAMILTON IN 2008
Bieber grew up in Orange County in California, and for him watching the All-Star game was “the epitome of summertime.”
Bieber, 24, said he always had fun watching the Home Run Derby in the middle of summer, admiring how the players smacked balls well over the walls. He remembers watching the 2008 Home Run Derby, the last one in old Yankee Stadium.
That Derby was when former Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton hit 28 homers in the first round, setting a record for most home runs in the round. Hamilton would be defeated by former Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau in the final round.
“Those guys always put on an incredible show during the Home Run Derby, just to realize how difficult it is to do what they’re doing,” Bieber said. “And to like really kind of appreciate what kind of feats they’re doing, especially during the Home Run Derby, hitting those balls 500-plus feet and doing it so many times. It’s pretty incredible.”
TERRY FRANCONA, INDIANS MANAGER: ‘IT GAVE YOU CHILLS’
Francona managed the American League teams in 2005 and 2008 when he was the manager of the Boston Red Sox. For his first one in 2005, he remembers the game’s pace being quick because he was trying to get all the players in.
“The first one felt like it was going a thousand miles an hour,” Francona said.
In 2008, though, he was part of the last All-Star game at old Yankee Stadium. Francona recalls watching Hall of Famers being introduced on the field before the game, and said he is fortunate that he was able to see some of the greats that day like Bob Feller, Bob Gibson and Cal Ripken Jr.
“I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing on this field?’ It gave you chills,” Francona said.
The 2008 game was also the longest All-Star game in MLB history, as it lasted 4 hours, 30 minutes. The game went 15 innings, tying the 1967 Midsummer Classic.
Francona remembers talking with then-Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland in extra innings about which pitcher they would bring in. Leyland was one of the managers Francona invited to coach.
By the end of the game, 23 pitchers were used between both teams, and seven of the 12 pitchers threw at least one inning for the American League.
“He (Leyland) goes, ‘You can look at that lineup card all you want, you’re not going to find another ******-ing pitcher,’ ” Francona said.
CARLOS GONZALEZ, CUBS OUTFIELDER: ‘IT TAKES YOU BACK’
When Gonzalez was growing up in Venezuela, watching his favorite player Ken Griffey Jr., he knew he wanted to play in the bigs.
Gonzalez — who was released by the Indians earlier this spring — played in the All-Star game in 2012, 2013 and 2016.
In 2016, when the All-Star game was in San Diego, he participated in the Home Run Derby. He’s grateful for the opportunities he’s had in playing with the game’s best.
“It’s just one of those things that when you’re there, when you live in the moment, it takes you back when you were a child and that’s when you can really say that hey, ‘I made my dream come true,’” Gonzalez said.
For Gonzalez, playing in the All-Star game meant a lot because he remembers watching Venezuelan players such as former Tribe All-Star shortstop Omar Vizquel, Magglio Ordonez and Bobby Abreu come up in MLB.
Now, Gonzalez hopes he and other current Venezuelan players such as Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Felix Hernandez can inspire a new generation of kids in their home country.
“Whenever we do something special on the field, I know there’s some kids watching us right now, and they want to continue their dreams,” Gonzalez said. “And hopefully we can impact their lives and some day they get the opportunity that we have right now.”
JASON KIPNIS, INDIANS SECOND BASEMAN: ‘IT PUTS THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE’
Kipnis played in his first All-Star game in 2013, and he remembers admiring how former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was received at New York’s Citi Field. Rivera retired during that season, and it was his last All-Star game.
“Being able to watch Mariano come out to an empty field and get a standing ovation was pretty special,” Kipnis said.
One of Kipnis’ favorite players growing up was Minnesota outfielder Torii Hunter, and he said got a chance to warm up with Hunter in 2013 during the middle of the game before they went in.
One of his favorite memories of Hunter is when he robbed Barry Bonds of a homer in the 2002 MLB All-Star Game in Milwaukee.
“It’s a cool timeline to go along that way” Kipnis said. “Just being able to share the field with the people you kind of grew up idolizing and respect, it puts things into perspective for you.”