On July 13, 1999 Major League Baseball played it’s Midsummer Classic at Fenway Park to a fanfare that was only possible in America’s oldest, most historic ballpark. It was a time when generations were passing the baton from one to the next and baseball was in the midst of prolific offensive outputs. They were coming off a decade of expansion with four new teams, and just one year before, for the first time, a team changed leagues with the American League staple Milwaukee Brewers losing the DH and entering the National League Central.
Ken Griffey Jr., the reigning Home Run Derby champion from 1998, completed back-to-back Derby victories - something not done again until Yoenis Cespedes in 2013-14. It was his third, and final, time winning the contest. No other player has matched the feat of winning three Home Run Derbies; only Cespedes and Prince Fielder join Junior in the club with two.
As part of the buildup to the game itself, MLB unveiled the All-Century Team head of the calendar change from the 1900s to 2000s. Pitchers induced legends Cy Young and Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown but also the still-active Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux.
The outfield was packed with names new and hold as well: Ken Griffey Jr., Joe DiMaggio, Barry Bonds, Roberto Clemente, and Ricky Henderson just to name a few. But there was also one Hall of Famer making an iconic appearance that night: Ted Williams. Perhaps the Red Sox biggest historical figure aside from Fenway itself, Williams was carted onto the field and raised his hat to the crowd in an image that will never be forgotten.
Starting the game, Pedro Martinez, at the height of his powers, showed a national audience what he could do. In his home park, Martinez cut down the impressive National League lineup. In his first inning of work Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa all went down. In what seems nearly impossible for a player who hit 37 home runs, Walker would strike out only 52 times in the entire 1999 season. Pedro liked a challenge.
In his second inning of work Mark McGwire came up with a chance to show off what the NL had to offer: strikeout. Matt Williams actually managed to reach first base before being wiped from the slate in the next play. When Jeff Bagwell stood in the batter’s box it was a could-have-been Red Sox great facing their ace. In what might have seemed like the time for something to go wrong, nothing did as Pedro retired Bagwell and got Williams thrown out heading to second by Ivan Rodriguez.
Martinez entered the ASG with a league-leading 2.10 ERA but would actually improve to 2.07 over the second half on his way to winning the AL Cy Young Award for the second time as part of a four-year stretch that would see him win three times (and come in second the other year).
If you want to relive the whole game, and you know you do, it’s available online.