What was originally thought of as a one-shot deal in 1933 has been turned into the annual mid-summer night baseball event. Of course, the All-Star Game pits the best players in each league against each other. But even among these high-profile contests, some shine brighter than others—and make up our All-Star “All-Stars.”
C: Gary Carter
His youthful exuberance earned him the nickname “Kid.” His 11 All-Star appearances helped get him to the Hall of Fame. That combination of joy and dedication towards baseball were quite evident in representing the National League. Carter made his first All-Star Game as an outfielder in 1975 before transitioning behind the plate. His first start came in 1981, where he hit two home runs to win the Most Valuable Player award. He went deep again in the 1984 contest, putting the NL on top to stay and earning a second MVP.
1B: Stan Musial
His place on our team is not just because he was elected to the contest 24 times (in some years in which there were two All-Star Games). Stan “the Man” Musial leads all players in All-Star total bases (40), extra base hits (eight), and home runs (six)—the most famous of which occurred in 1955. It came in the 12th inning and gave the National League a 6-5 walk-off victory at County Stadium in Milwaukee.
2B: Pete Rose
Versatile and invaluable, Rose played almost everywhere on the field. So, there’s no harm sticking him at second base—a spot he occupied early in his career. On 17 occasions, he made the All-Star team. No appearance was more dramatic than the 1970 game at his home park, Riverfront Stadium. In ending an extra-inning affair, the aggressive Rose barreled over AL catcher Ray Fosse to give the NL a victory—and give fans an image that will last forever in the annals of the All-Star Game.
SS: Cal Ripken, Jr.
For the better part of two decades, Ripken was a regular in the lineup. That included the AL All-Star lineups—as he holds the record for most starts at shortstop (14). Twice he was named MVP, the first of which came in 1991. There, he followed up his Home Run Derby championship of a day earlier to launch a long ball over the center field fence at SkyDome and propel his club to victory. Ten years later, his final major league season, Ripken exited the All-Star stage in spectacular fashion with a home run and a deserved curtain call.
3B: Al Rosen
His entire 10-year career was played in Cleveland. So was his All-Star moment. In 1954, Rosen keyed an AL offensive attack by going 3-for-4 with a single-game record five runs batted in. He also drilled a pair of home runs—which made him just the third player in history to perform that feat. It’s too bad the MVP award didn’t exist back then, because it would have easily gone to him. He’ll have to settle for this distinction.
LF: Ted Williams
Showcasing his extraordinary hitting ability (which resulted in 521 home runs and a lifetime batting average of .344), Williams was just as potent in exhibitions as he was in the regular season. In 46 All-Star at-bats, he recorded 14 hits (.304), had four home runs and drove in 12 runs. The 1941 classic in Detroit ended with his walk-off, three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Five years later, at the familiar grounds of Fenway Park, Williams set or tied single-game records for hits, home runs, RBI, and runs scored. It’s no wonder, then, that the MVP award is named in his honor.
CF: Willie Mays
Players of past generations obviously get more recognition on this list due to the fact that they often played for duration of the game and had more chances to accumulate stats. But for just about all of them—especially Mays—it doesn’t matter. Ted Williams was quoted as saying, “they invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.” With 660 career home runs, 12 gold gloves and countless more accolades, his performance in 24 mid-summer classics is just an addendum to what was an epic career. Nonetheless, he set All-Star records for most at-bats, runs, hits, and triples—and won the game’s MVP in 1963 and 1968.
RF: Fred Lynn
Unlike Williams or Mays, Lynn isn’t in Cooperstown. But he did play in an All-Star Game in each of his first nine seasons—and had a batting average of .300. He also had 10 RBI and four home runs. Most of that production came in one at-bat in 1983 at Comiskey Park, when Lynn recorded the first (and only) grand slam in All-Star history. His bat played a significant role in that AL victory, but his glove also made him one of the best fielders of his era.
DH: Willie McCovey
If the Home Run Derby was a regular event in the 1960s, you’d be crazy not to consider McCovey a front-runner. There wasn’t a stadium big enough to withstand Willie’s clout. That included spacious RFK Stadium, which hosted the 1969 game. In the third inning, he blasted a two-run home run to deep right center field. One inning later, he connected off Denny McClain. That solo shot to right capped the NL scoring at nine runs—plenty enough for the win and for McCovey’s MVP.
Starting Pitcher: Carl Hubbell
No performance in All-Star history was better than what Hubbell did in 1934 at the Polo Grounds. Facing a devastating AL lineup, the New York Giants hurler proceeded to baffle them with his famous screwball. After the first two hitters reached base, Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth. He then fanned Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. The top of the second began with K’s of Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. All five are Hall of Famers—and all five were struck out in succession. That alone gets you the starting nod.
P: Fernando Valenzuela
Exactly 50 years later, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Valenzuela and 19-year-old Dwight Gooden combined to fan six AL batters in a row. But Fernando’s All-Star credentials go beyond that combined record. In 1986, he single-handedly matched Hubbell with five straight strikeouts of his own—albeit just one of those victims is currently in the Hall of Fame.
P: Pedro Martinez
It was Pedro’s turn to stymie the top of the NL lineup in front of many Red Sox fans at Fenway Park in 1999. Martinez used his devastating combination of fastball and change-up to set down five of the first six batters (Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell) on strikes and show why he was the best pitcher in the game at that time. The AL went on to win 4-1, and Pedro garnered MVP honors.
P: Lefty Gomez
Before rules dictated innings limitations, managers had the freedom to utilize their pitchers however they pleased. During the 1930s, it would have been hard not to put Gomez out on the mound. The former Yankee was the starting AL pitcher in five of the first seven All-Star Games. He was able to stay in long enough to chalk up a record three victories—including the inaugural 1933 edition, in which he helped his own cause with an RBI single.
Closer: Mariano Rivera
It just makes sense to close with the greatest closer ever. Rivera’s four All-Star saves are a record, but it was his final appearance that we’ll all remember. Last season’s farewell tour for this Yankee great made a short detour to Citi Field. He came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth and stood alone on the mound to a standing ovation of appreciative fans and fellow players. Rivera promptly retired the NL in order and was further honored with the game’s MVP.