Musial's homer voted top All-Star moment
Walk-off homer in 1955 game by 'The Man' recognized by fans
PHOENIX -- Stan Musial is still "The Man."
The 90-year-old Hall of Famer from the Cardinals, presented earlier this year with the Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony, is the people's overwhelming choice as winner of the Midsummer Classics bracket competition voted on by fans the past month at MLB.com/moments.
While the 82nd All-Star Game was being played at Chase Field, "Musial's Midsummer Magic" -- his 12th-inning walk-off homer to win the 1955 game for the National League-- was deemed as the greatest memory in the history of sport's most traditional All-Star event. The announcement was made during Tuesday's worldwide FOX telecast.
Musial's glorious moment, the pinnacle in a string of 24 All-Star appearances for the NL, took 62 percent of the vote in the final round, compared to 38 percent for Cal Ripken's 2001 "Perfect Script." Yes, a moment that was delivered over snowy black-and-white television sets just beat out an Iron Man memory still fresh in the minds of many online voters.
Legends last forever -- Midsummer Classics just proved it.
"It was quite a game, and when Stan hit that home run, it was one of six he hit [in All-Star Games]. I know he was thrilled about it," said fellow Hall of Famer and longtime Cardinals teammate and roommate Red Schoendienst, who batted six times that game as the NL's leadoff man. "He reached so many great honors on the field and off the field, and [he] is deserving of every bit of it. He is a true baseball man. He loves the game and made sure fans loved him. He loved going out there and giving 100 percent."
Midsummer Classics was created as a way for fans to refresh their own All-Star memories leading up to the 82nd edition. The starting field consisted of 16 games, eight per league, determined by former All-Stars and MLB Network analysts Al Leiter, Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams. Each ballot nominee featured a highlight video narrated by Bob Costas, an educational and sentimental journey through Major League Baseball history.
Musial's path to the title began with a first-round victory over the 1993 comedic moment in which John Kruk ducked a Randy Johnson fastball. Then came a major test, narrowly eliminating the iconic 1970 play at the plate where Pete Rose barreled over American League catcher Ray Fosse to also win it in the 12th for the NL. Musial next won a semifinal matchup against the 1934 legend of Carl Hubbell striking out five consecutive future Hall of Famers.
Could Stan the Man possibly beat out Ripken, the ever-likeable Hall of Famer whose 2,131st consecutive game played already had been voted by fans as No. 1 in the 2004 Most Memorable Moment contest at MLB.com?
"Even in a game that had no bearing on the pennant race, Musial hated to make an out," the great Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck once said of Musial's greatest All-Star moment. "For at all times, he was a study in concentration."
The 1955 All-Star Game was played on July 12, the same day that funeral services were held for Arch Ward, the Chicago Tribune sports editor who founded the event.
The AL jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but it was 5-5 in the bottom of the 12th at Milwaukee's County Stadium. Schoendienst had made the last out of the 11th, stranding Musial on deck. Now Musial was leading off against Frank Sullivan, who represented the Red Sox. Musial told AL catcher Yogi Berra before stepping into the box, "Yogi, let's end this thing."
Berra replied: "I'm getting tired."
Legend has it that Musial also had told his NL teammates in the dugout before the inning that he was going to send everyone home next.
With one swing, the mission was accomplished.
"I never even looked back," Sullivan said. "As soon as he hit it, I knew that was that."
Ripken ran into one left-handed Hall of Famer too many during this competition. He had reached the final by scoring wins over Babe Ruth's 1933 homer (the first in All-Star history), Reggie Jackson's 1971 blast that hit a light-tower transformer, and Ted Williams' three-run walk-off homer during the endless summer of '41.
"By no means do I put myself in front of any of those guys," Ripken said during the final week of voting. "I am smart enough to know I am more current and played in an era of ESPN where they got the message out, and the Internet was around. I understand that some of this has to do with being current."
Fans put Ripken into the final round because of the charming sequence of events at Safeco Field in 2001 that are so unforgettable now. It was his 17th and final All-Star Game, and his last season in the big leagues. Alex Rodriguez, voted to start at shortstop, Ripken's old position, started the game by running out to third base and instructing Ripken to take short. It was a great tribute for Ripken, who would then switch over to third base for the second inning.
"At the time, it wasn't so meaningful because I was mad," Ripken said. "I don't like to be surprised. Alex said to go play shortstop for an inning. I was wired, I was on a mic. I really wanted to tell him 'No, get out of here' -- in a different way than I described to you.
"Then I looked at Joe [Torre, the AL manager] and he was pointing me over there, and I realized I was one of the few people who didn't know what was going on. After the moment was over and you started thinking about it, it was the coolest gesture anybody could give you. ... Alex came up with it himself. He called ahead and got the OK, and once it was over and I wasn't feeling embarrassed, it was the coolest thing ever."
Ripken hit a solo homer in the third inning and was named MVP of the game in his swan song. It was an indelible All-Star memory.
But in the end, Stan was still "The Man."