NEW YORK - They cheered for Yogi and Reggie, Whitey and the Goose, and 45 other Hall of Famers who adorned Yankee Stadium before the 79th All-Star Game, which was intended as a fitting sendoff for Yankee Stadium but turned into a two-day affair, the American League winning, 4-3, in 15 innings.
They paid their respects to George Steinbrenner, the ailing Boss never leaving his golf cart in a New York moment that was designed to rival Al Forrester wheeling out Ted Williams at Fenway in the 1999 All-Star Game for emotional effect, though the Teddy Ballgame tribute is unlikely to be matched.
There was even a moment straight out of the Charles Steinberg catalog: The Village People popped out of the home dugout before the seventh to lead the crowd in a round of "YMCA," though that slice of kitsch was quickly forgotten in the wake of Josh Groban's moving rendition of "God Bless America."
But for much of the night, a Bronx crowd of 55,632 was presented with an uncomfortable quandary, one that designated villain Jonathan Papelbon probably imagined wasn't much of a choice at all, at least not for the loudmouths who made his New York experience rude, crude, and lewd.
Root for a team filled with Red Sox uniforms, beginning with the manager, or throw your lot behind the National League All-Stars, a team so feeble for so long, it was impossible to work up a good hate.
But as ugly as the night was for Papelbon, by the end of last night's marathon no one was squirming more than the commissioner, Bud Selig, who was faced with the nightmare scenario of another All-Star Game in which the teams ran out of pitchers. That happened the last time the game went into extra innings, in 2002 in Milwaukee's Miller Park, when an apopleptic Selig was forced to declare the game a 7-all tie after 11 innings.
With both teams down to their last pitcher, Selig was spared a repeat of that embarassment when Michael Young's bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Philadelphia's Brad Lidge scored Minnesota's Justin Morneau with the winning run. The game ended at 1:37 a.m.; at 4 hours 50 minutes, it was the longest by time in All-Star history, and matched the 15-inning, 2-1 NL win in 1967 for longest by innings.
The NL had won all nine previous games that had gone to extra innings before the '02 tie but could not avoid extending its winless streak to 12 games (11 losses and a tie), despite an extraordinary tight-wire act by Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook, who had 11 runners on base in three innings (10th through 12th) but did not allow a run.
"He was going to go on for hours," AL manager Terry Francona said of Scott Kazmir, the Tampa Bay lefthander who was the 12th and last pitcher used by the AL last night. "It got to the point where [MLB executive] Jimmie Lee Solomon came down to the dugout just to check, and I asked him if he could pitch."
The NL used 11 pitchers, as San Francisco righthander Tim Lincecum was taken to the hospital earlier in the day suffering from flu-slike symptoms and dehyrdation.
Sox outfielder J.D. Drew, who hit a tying two-run home run in the seventh, singled, stole a base, and walked in the winning rally, was named the game's Most Valuable Player in his first All-Star appearance.
The AL tied the score in the eighth at 3, but blew a stunning array of scoring chances in extra innings, including a bases-loaded, no-out chance in the 10th. AL hitters were 3 for 22 with runners in scoring position and left 17 on base.
"You wait a lot of your life to do something like this," Francona said, "but the last few hours were not a whole lot of fun.
"I was very nervous. I was more nervous before the game than I thought I would be. But every single player was on the top step of the dugout, with energy and enthusiasm. They knew where we were at."
Drew, who entered the game in the top of the sixth and played a full nine, said, mostly in jest, that he was prepared to pitch if need be, even though he hadn't pitched since high school.
"I'd have been ready," he said. "I've had an opportunity to throw a lot in the outfield.
"I don't know if I would have gotten anyone out, but I'd have thrown something up there."
NL manager Clint Hurdle said that he was prepared to use Mets third baseman David Wright to pitch if Lidge had been required to go a second inning.
For most of the night, the crowd sat on their hands as the NL All-Stars took an early two-run lead, then cringed as their hometown heroes, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, were as stymied by NL pitching as the rest of the AL squad (four singles in six scoreless innings) before grudgingly acknowledging a tying two-run homer in the seventh by Drew, who became the 15th player in All-Star history to hit a home run in his first Star at-bat.
But the crowd's bloodlust for Papelbon - who unfairly had been portrayed as less than properly reverential toward resident closer Mariano Rivera - trumped its desire for an AL victory. Thunderous boos rained down as Papelbon jogged in from the dugout to start the eighth.
The boos gave way to a singsong chant of "Ma-ree-a-no," which was followed by a mocking "Oh-ver-ra-ted." Then, the boos returned, as the NL pushed across an unearned run against Papelbon, who stood to be the loser with the senior circuit ahead, 3-2, and six outs to go.
Papelbon was spared that fate when the AL tied the score in the bottom of the inning. Grady Sizemore of the Indians grounded a two-out single against Mets lefthander Billy Wagner, stole second, and scored on a ground-rule double by Tampa Bay rookie Evan Longoria, who was the beneficiary of Internet polling that made him the 32d and last player added to the AL roster.
Sizemore's stolen base was the sixth of the night, setting an All-Star record, and the AL added another. The six by the AL Stars set the record for one team.
The NL had gone ahead against Papelbon when AL refugee Miguel Tejada of the Astros, formerly of the Orioles and Athletics, dumped an opposite-field single into right field. Papelbon struck out Dan Uggla of the Marlins, but with Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres at the plate, Tejada stole second and continued to third when catcher Dioner Navarro of the Rays threw the ball into center field.
Gonzalez then lifted a fly ball to left deep enough to score Tejada.
There was some grumbling in the ninth when Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez emerged from the AL bullpen. Rodriguez walked the first batter he faced, Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs, but retired Corey Hart of the Brewers on a fly to right.
At last, Francona satisfied the masses, summoning Rivera, who was making his ninth All-Star appearance. With the crowd chanting, "Let's go, Yankees," Rivera fell behind Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals, 3 and 2, but then in the night's storybook moment, Ludwick swung and missed and Navarro threw out Ramirez to end the inning.
The game was scoreless through the first four innings, the first time since 1990 that neither team had broken through to that point in the game. Cliff Lee of the Indians struck out three in his two-inning start, as did Ben Sheets of the Brewers in his two innings.
Matt Holliday of the Rockies gave the NL a 1-0 lead when he lined a home run off Ervin Santana of the Angels to start the fifth. The NL doubled its lead in the sixth against Athletics pitcher Justin Duchscherer when Hanley Ramírez of the Marlins singled, went to third on a single by Chase Utley of the Phillies, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Lance Berkman of the Astros.
The NL sent the game into extra innings when Ryan Dempster of the Cubs struck out the side, whiffing Ian Kinsler of the Rangers, Navarro, and Drew in succession.