Fox Sports columnist Kevin Hench called
2008 an incomparable year in sports, and that was before Tuesday night's
(and Wednesday morning's) classic major league baseball all-star game at
The New York Giants' monumental triumph
over the seemingly-invincible New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, a
college basketball Final Four with four No. 1 seeds and an overtime
final, the dramatic U.S. Open golf playoff that showcased Tiger Woods'
determination on a bad knee, the Boston Celtics' return to glory in the
NBA finals against an old nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the
classic showdown between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the Wimbledon
tennis singles final were all components in Hench's lofty evaluation.
The all-star game certainly deserves to
be included in that impressive group of events.
New York literally rolled out the red
carpet for a pregame parade, and the collection of 49 hall of famers
assembled for pre-game introductions was unmatched.
Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, was shown as he
talked to the National League All-Stars in their clubhouse before the
game. George Brett was shown exhorting the American League's elite prior
to the midsummer classic.
"Don't think about being a hero," Brett
said. "Think about being a winner."
The game itself managed to live up to
the mountain of hype that had been generated, which is saying a lot.
This is the last season for Yankee
Stadium, as a newer version of the House that Ruth Built goes up on the
adjacent block. The current greats of the game gave the venerable
structure a fitting sendoff with both clubs dodging more bullets than
Wyatt Earp before the American League managed to scratch across a run in
the bottom of the 15th inning for a 4-3 win.
It was the longest all-star game ever,
lasting four hours and 50 minutes. It was a delight for night owl
baseball fans but a sizeable stumbling block for those who had to go to
work on Wednesday morning.
"It seemed like the Stadium didn't want
it to end," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
East Carolina baseball coach Billy
Godwin was among those who had to retire early as threat after threat
was defused by clutch defensive efforts. Godwin is involved with his
hitting camp for youngsters at ECU this week and missed the start of the
"I was in camp until probably 9:30
(p.m.) and then I probably saw until about the tenth inning," said the
Pirates coach. "I'll be honest — that was about all I could hold out
It was an appropriate game to be played
in the city that never sleeps.
As managers Terry Francona of the AL
and Clint Hurdle of the NL were contemplating how they might continue if
they had to send position players to the mound, Michael Young's
sacrifice fly off of Brad Lidge scored Home Run Derby champion Justin
Morneau on a bang-bang play at the plate to decide it.
The AL's 11th straight win in the
All-Star series means home field advantage in the World Series for the
AL champion. Although Fox commentators were speculating that
commissioner Bud Selig might have to declare another tie as happened in
Milwaukee in 2002, it's difficult to see how that would have happened
with home field advantage in the Series depending on the outcome.
Right fielder J.D. Drew, who played at
Florida State, was MVP with a tying two-run homer in his initial
all-star at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. Francona said Drew might
have had to pitch if the game had gone much longer.
Meanwhile, Godwin was catching his Z's
so he could be fresh to teach the aspiring sluggers in his camp.
"We've got about 100 kids and it's
going good," Godwin said.
The ECU coach enjoys working with the
younger age group.
"I love it," Godwin said. "I'm probably
more involved than most people. I just think where a great game has been
good to us, we've got to keep the fire burning."
And last night's game was one that had
the ability to stoke the passion of future major leaguers.
"It's got to, certainly" Godwin said.
"You sit there and watch. You saw the second baseman (Dan Uggla of the
Florida Marlins) make a couple of errors. It just shows that the game
ain't as easy as most people think because they're the best players in
"When he made those, there was some
adversity and they pitched out of it. They just kept battling. For a
game like that to go 15 innings, you've got the best players out there
competing at one o'clock in the morning in the middle of the summer when
they've played 80-some games already this season is pretty impressive."
The All-Star game certainly
strengthened Hench's contention about the greatness of sports in 2008.
ECU had its share of success in the
2007-08 school year. The Pirates won the Hawaii Bowl over Boise State on
the last play of the game, handed N.C. State an unprecedented loss in
basketball and made the NCAA Tournament once again in baseball.
It already has been a special year in
sports. Expect the fun to continue at the Olympics in Beijing next
month, where former ECU sprinter
LaShawn Merritt will be one of those in the world's