Prior to Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, Major League Baseball unveiled the results of a fan vote anointing the four greatest faces of each franchise, as well as the sport’s best living players.
Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax walked onto the field during the ceremony, names written about in books, memories told from generation to generation.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout, just five seasons into his big-league career, added to his already illustrious résumé by becoming the first player in the 86-year history of the Midsummer Classic to receive Most Valuable Player honors in consecutive summers.
Trout blasted a leadoff homer, and Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder also helped ensure home-field advantage for the American League in the World Series by collecting two RBI in the AL’s 6-3 victory over the National League at Great American Ball Park.
“It’s awesome to see guys like that,” said Trout, who went 1 for 3 with the homer and two runs. “Growing up I didn’t really get to see them play that much because I’m a young guy. Looking up, seeing highlights of all the Hall of Famers, it’s something I really look at, learning more about them and how great they played and the respect [they had] for the game.”
The AL, which has won the All-Star Game three straight years, took a 3-1 lead in the fifth with a pair of two-out runs off 2014 NL Most Valuable Player Clayton Kershaw, the last player added to the roster this past weekend.
Fielder, pinch-hitting for Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz, knocked in Trout with a single to left. Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain followed with an RBI double.
“When I saw Kershaw out there — I had Prince Fielder,” Royals and AL manager Ned Yost said. “I know how tough an out he is. It doesn’t matter if it’s left-handed or right-handed. In that situation, I felt good about Prince doing exactly what he did.”
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen trimmed the deficit to 3-2 an inning later with his first All-Star Game home run. His first-pitch swing to start the sixth sent Rays right-hander Chris Archer’s 85 mph slider into the second deck in left.
But the AL countered with two more runs in the seventh off Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez on Orioles third baseman Manny Machado’s RBI double and Fielder’s sacrifice fly to center. Twins outfielder Brian Dozier tacked on with a two-out long ball to center against Pirates righty Mark Melancon in the eighth. Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice fly in the ninth off Twins closer Glen Perkins capped the scoring.
Trout, who also received the 2014 AL MVP award, opened this All-Star edition with a homer into the first rows of the right-field seats against NL starter and Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke. It was the sixth leadoff home run in the Midsummer Classic and first since 1989 when Bo Jackson did it. Looking fastball, Trout connected on a 94 mph pitch from Greinke, the NL ERA leader, on a 1-2 offering.
“First couple pitches, you get so excited,” said Trout, whose .500 average ranks second all-time for a player with at least 10 All-Star at-bats. “Who doesn’t get excited? Once it got to two strikes, I calmed myself down a little bit and just looked for the fastball. It was a fastball up and away or middle away, and I just barreled it and it went out.”
Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta’s two-out RBI blooper off AL starter and Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel tied it at 1-1 in the second. Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson. Though Giants catcher Buster Posey moved him over to third on a grounder to short, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo grounded out to first with the infield in. Peralta came through with the clutch hit that fell into shallow right.
Both Marlins representatives — Giancarlo Stanton (fractured bone in left hand) and Dee Gordon (left dislocated thumb) — were voted in as starters but were inactive due to their injuries. Though Stanton did not make an appearance, Gordon attended the festivities. Stanton joined Jeff Conine, Mike Lowell and Gary Sheffield as part of the Marlins “Franchise Four” campaign.
MLB saved the Reds selections for last for the home fans, introducing Bench, Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan and Pete Rose in front of the mound. The quartet received a standing ovation from the crowd of 43,656 — the fifth-largest in the ballpark’s history. Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, has been serving a lifetime ban from baseball since 1989. He currently works as a Fox Sports analyst.
Just minutes before, Trout’s name appeared on the Angels list despite being just 23 years old.
“This is a tremendous talent,” Giants and NL manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the whole game. He can run, good defender, good hitter, power. He’s got the whole game. It’s great to see these young players like Trout and [Bryce] Harper. They’re great faces for our game, great ambassadors. He’s going to be standing there, I think, with the guys we saw tonight.”
Should this fall’s postseason run the table again, an American League ballpark will play host to Game 7 of the World Series.