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Archive for Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hall of an introduction

Hall of Famers, All-Stars mingle before Classic

July 16, 2008

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New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (13) chats with Reggie Jackson, while Yankees manager Joe Girardi (27) talks to Yogi Berra during opening ceremonies for Tuesday's All-Star game at Yankee Stadium.

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (13) chats with Reggie Jackson, while Yankees manager Joe Girardi (27) talks to Yogi Berra during opening ceremonies for Tuesday's All-Star game at Yankee Stadium.

— Alex Rodriguez cut across the diamond to third base, then warmly embraced Chipper Jones, Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Wade Boggs.

Now that's some hot corner.

Baseball blended its past and present Tuesday, starting with Yogi Berra leading a red-carpet parade through midtown Manhattan. Hours later, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron highlighted a procession of 49 Hall of Famers onto the Yankee Stadium field before the All-Star game.

Starting pitchers Ben Sheets and Cliff Lee were greeted by the likes of Bob Gibson, Bob Feller and Steve Carlton.

"Kind of nervous to meet the guys on the mound," Sheets said after throwing two scoreless innings. "Probably should have been in the bullpen, but I didn't care.

"The pregame ceremony was amazing. I wanted to be a part of it, because I thought it was unbelievable they got everybody together, and I wanted to be a part of it," he said.

Toronto ace Roy Halladay said he enjoyed the experience and had only one regret.

"The one guy I read a lot about but didn't get to meet, Whitey Ford," Halladay said. "It was very impressive.

"A lot of guys, a lot of history. Being able to be on the field with those guys is an honor," he said. "I felt like a kid in a candy store."

Once all the Hall of Famers took their old spots, the starting All-Stars trotted out to join them. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter drew a rousing ovation on his way toward his position - and the eye of ol' Brooksie.

Earlier in the day, Robinson said Jeter was his favorite player to watch, "but I've never met him."

"Maybe tonight," Robinson said.

Known for throwing hard, high and tight, Gibson presented a much different face at the festivities. The no-nonsense pitcher waved to thousands of fans and beamed for their snapshots during the parade.

Hey Gibby, going soft on us at 72? Not even one glare for the crowd?

"I really am getting tired of it," the St. Louis Cardinals great said. He was joking, sort of.

"I didn't do half the things they said I did," he said. "They said I was always knocking guys down and hitting guys. But I won a game or two in there."

Gibson and Gary Carter rode together for the 11â2-mile route up the Avenue of the Americas - and down baseball's memory lane.

Ferguson Jenkins, Tommy Lasorda and 40-some Hall of Famers took part, too, sitting in the back of shiny pickup trucks. The two-hour procession included the current All-Stars.

Feller recalled the first All-Star game held at the big ballyard in the Bronx - it was 1939, and the 20-year-old fireballer threw 32â3 scoreless innings to preserve an AL win.

On that day, the men who would become monuments were on the field. Joe DiMaggio homered, and an ill Lou Gehrig was an honorary captain.

"I was not much in awe," said Feller, the oldest living Hall player at 89. "I had good stuff that day."

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