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By anyone's standards, '71 game gets gold star

DETROIT -- Al Kaline still recalls the distinct sound and the spectacular sight as though it were yesterday, instead of 34 years ago.

Kaline was an outfielder representing the Detroit Tigers in the 1971 All-Star Game when American League teammate Reggie Jackson smacked a home run off a Tiger Stadium light tower.

''It was one of those hits, when the bat hit the ball, it had a tremendous ringing noise," Kaline said recently in the home clubhouse at Comerica Park, which replaced Tiger Stadium five years ago and will host this year's All-Star Game Tuesday.

''I had a great view from the dugout. It was still going up with plenty of steam when it hit the tower on the roof in right. Nobody knows how far that could've gone."

The lore of that 1971 All-Star Game -- the last Midsummer Classic in Detroit -- has grown so much that many consider it the best ever. The '71 game featured 18 future Hall of Famers and Jackson's memorable homer.

The AL beat the National League, 6-4, July 13, 1971, snapping an eight-game losing streak -- only to go until 1983 before winning again. Detroit also welcomed All-Star Games in 1941 and '51 at Briggs Stadium -- which later was named Tiger Stadium.

The runs in '71 scored on six homers, all hit by future Hall of Famers, including home run king Hank Aaron's first home run in his 17th All-Star Game. Frank Robinson followed Jackson's two-run homer in the third inning with another two-run homer, scoring Rod Carew, to put the AL ahead for good. Robinson became the first player to hit home runs for both leagues in All-Star Games.

''There were a lot of great moments in that game, including one that a lot of people don't talk about," Kaline said. ''Johnny Bench's home run carried deep into the right-center-field bleachers, and that was really impressive.

''Without question, it was one of the best All-Star Games."

The game flew by in 2 hours 5 minutes, and 53,559 fans watched legends such as Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, and Carl Yastrzemski also grace the Motor City with an errorless game.

''All the great players I idolized were in the game: Mays, Aaron, Clemente, [Juan] Marichal, Ferguson Jenkins, Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, [Tom] Seaver, Bench, Rod Carew," Jackson said. ''It was a thrill for me to be there and be in that company."

Just as Jackson listed names in the game off the top of his head, he also easily recalled the situation when he hit his homer -- pinch hitting for Vida Blue -- off Dock Ellis with Bench catching.

''The neat thing for me," said Jackson, ''I was really trying to keep from striking out."

Jackson said he saw the ball when it finally landed, an estimated 540 feet away before bouncing back onto the field.

''It hit the fence in the light stand," he said. ''I remember it totally now."

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