Groz Remembers ’01 Mariners: Seattle hosts an All-Star Game for the ages
2001: A Baseball Odyssey – a weekly look back at the record-setting 2001 Mariners and the players who got them there.
The last game before the 2001 All-Star Game for the Seattle Mariners was an interleague clash with the Dodgers, whom the Mariners squashed 9-2 to hit the break with a 63-24 record and a 19-game lead in the American League West. And of course in this one in a million season, the All-Star Game was in… Seattle!
Eight Mariners and manager Lou Piniella were named to the AL squad, and there were also five former and future Mariners playing in the midsummer classic, as well. Naturally it was a perfect day and nothing could spoil it.
It was Cal Ripken’s day, of course, as he made his last All-Star appearance (he had announced that he would retire at the end of the 2001 season).
Even Mariners fans who despised Alex Rodriguez had to cheer when A-Rod, who won the fans’ vote at shortstop, beckoned for Ripken to move over from third base to play the position he spent the majority of his career at one more time. And one of the longest ovations in Safeco Field history awaited Cal when he stepped to the plate to face Chan Ho Park with the theme from the movie “The Natural” playing. Cal then belted the first pitch he saw into the visitor’s bullpen for a home run.
Ripken, who won the game’s MVP award, wasn’t the only legend getting the All-Star spotlight one last time. Fans got to say goodbye to Tony Gwynn, too.
Even when things went wrong, they somehow worked out. In the sixth inning with the National League up, Mike Stanton was pitching to Vladimir Guerrero, who took his usual violent swing and shattered his bat. A huge chunk of his bat rocketed towards the third base coaching box, sending the 74-year-old Tommy Lasorda – the legendary former Dodgers manager was making a special appearance as the NL’s third base coach – flat on his back.
The crowd gasped, but Lasorda popped up unhurt and unfazed.
As for Mariners highlights, there were plenty.
In his first All-Star at-bat, rookie sensation Ichiro led off the game for the AL against former Mariners ace Randy Johnson – No. 51 vs. No. 51 – and beat “The Big Unit” to the bag at first for an infield hit. Ichiro showed off his speed even more by stealing second later in the inning.
Three Seattle teammates joined Ichiro in the AL starting lineup: first baseman John Olerud, second baseman Bret Boone, and designated hitter Edgar Martinez. Later in the game, center fielder Mike Cameron came off the bench and made the highlight reel with a hustle double.
As for pitching, M’s ace Freddy Garcia got the win, reliever Jeff Nelson got a hold, closer Kazuhiro Sasaki recorded the save in the AL’s 4-1 victory (box score here), and there you had it. On July 10, 2001, everything seemed perfect in the Seattle baseball world. That’s because it was.
More 2001 Mariners memories from Groz
• The bounceback year of M’s Hall of Famer Dan Wilson
• Mark McLemore, the all-important 10th man
• Edgar Martinez cements his legacy with his last great season
• Aaron Sele, the pitcher who ‘fell from the sky’
• Bret Boone gave Seattle a huge, surprising boost
• Paul Abbott, the forgotten hero of the historic ’01 M’s
• Introduction: Celebrating the 2001 Mariners, 20 years later