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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2008

The long goodbye: AL wins All-Star game 4-3 in 15

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau (33), of the American League team, and Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann, of the National League team, react after Morneau scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Texas Rangers' Michael Young in the 15th inning in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday. Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau (33), of the American League team, and Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann, of the National League team, react after Morneau scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Texas Rangers' Michael Young in the 15th inning in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday.
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NEW YORK Baseball s All-Stars came to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium and what a long, long goodbye it was.

In a game that started Tuesday night and faded well into Wednesday, Justin Morneau slid home just in time on Michael Young s sacrifice fly in the 15th inning, giving the American League a 4-3 victory that extended its unbeaten streak to 12.

Young ended a 4-hour, 50-minute marathon at 1:37 a.m., with the grand old ballpark half-empty. It was a good thing, too neither team had any pitchers left in the bullpen, but this one was not going to end in another tie.

The NL was given a pregame pep talk by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, whose motto is: Let s play two! And they nearly did, matching the longest All-Star game ever.

Morneau started the winning rally with a leadoff single against loser Brad Lidge, and Ian Kinsler hit a low liner to left that Ryan Ludwick caught with a dive. After Dioner Navarro singled, J.D. Drew walked to load the bases.

Young lofted a fly to right and Corey Hart s throw home took two bounces and was slightly to the first-base side of the plate. Catcher Brian McCann gloved the ball and tried a sweep tag, but Young sneaked his right foot in, barely ahead of the tag. Plate umpire Derryl Cousins made the safe call, and the AL players left in the dugout rushed out to celebrate.

Yankee Stadium is tough, I m telling you, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said. Didn t want it to end.

The AL improved to 6-0 since the All-Star game began determining homefield advantage in the World Series. And it even ended an old hex it had been 0-9-1 in extra innings against its older rival.

Young got the winning hit off Trevor Hoffman in the 2006 All-Star game at Pittsburgh, and it gave the win to Tampa Bay s Scott Kazmir, the 12th AL pitcher.

Young s winning fly also avoided a repeat of 2002, when the game at Milwaukee ended in a 7-7, 12-inning tie and caused the commissioner s office to expand the rosters.

Drew was picked as the MVP, with his two-run homer in the seventh made it 2-all. Being from Boston, he was booed when presented with his trophy.

One of those undescribable events, Drew said. To be voted in by the players and to be in this position is really an honor.

The only other AL player with an All-Star ending RBI was Red Sox great Ted Williams, who hit a three-run, ninth-inning homer in 1941.

This game tied the NL s 2-1, 15-inning victory in 1967 at Anaheim. It made the AL 10-0-1 since its 1996 loss in Philadelphia and narrowed its overall deficit to 40-37-2.

And this one had nearly everything a fan could ask for a Yankees fan, that is.

The pinstriped crowd got to boo Boston s Jonathan Papelbon and the Mets Billy Wagner. The fans showed their love for Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Matt Holliday and Drew hit home runs. Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada made a great, falling throw on a slow grounder to deny the AL a win in the 10th after a pair of uggly errors by Dan Uggla, who made a record three botches in all.

The AL stranded the potential winning run at third base in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings. Uggla twice stranded what would have been the go-ahead run on third.

Colorado s Aaron Cook wiggled out of bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 10th. Grady Sizemore and Evan Longoria grounded into forceouts at the plate, and Tejada made a charging, flying throw to get Morneau on a slow grounder.

In the 11th, Pittsburgh center fielder Nate McLouth made a perfect throw to nail Navarro at the plate on Young s single, with Dodgers catcher Russell Martin applying the tag.

The NL loaded the bases with one out in the 12th before Kansas City s Joakim Soria struck out Uggla, and Baltimore s George Sherrill fanned Adrian Gonzalez.

For much of the past few days, the question that hung over the game was whether AL manager Terry Francona would use Papelbon to close or Rivera, regarded as perhaps the greatest relief pitcher ever. Papelbon, while praising his rival, said Monday that he wanted the ball.

That caused an angry responses, and Red Sox players were greeted with profanities Tuesday during a red-carpet parade up Manhattan s Avenue of the Americas. When Papelbon entered, he was mocked with chants of Mariano! and Overrated!

He gave up a leadoff single to Tejada, and was booed. Tejada stole second with, went to third as Navarro s throw went into center field for an error and scored on Gonzalez s sacrifice fly.

Wagner relieved with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, gave up a single to Sizemore, who stole second and scored on a ground-rule double down the left-field line by Longoria.

It was the eighth All-Star game in New York and the fourth at Yankee Stadium. In the previous one, Joe Morgan homered on the sixth pitch and the NL took a 4-0 first-inning lead en route to 7-5 win.

In this one, the first run wasn t scored until Holliday turned on a 98 mph fastball from the Los Angeles Angels Ervin Santana and sent it deep into the right-field lower deck. Berkman made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly off Oakland s Justin Duchscherer in the sixth.

A sellout crowd of 55,632 came to honor the 85-year-old ballpark, home to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and the most glittering lineup of greats any team can boast.

It was pretty special. When I was running from the bullpen to the mound, I was a little bit shaking, said the Chicago Cubs Carlos Zambrano, who pitched two scoreless innings. I said, Man, six, seven years in the big leagues and you still feel butterflies in your stomach.

Francona honored the Yankees two starters, Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, by removing them with one out in the top of innings, allowing fans the opportunity for extra cheers. Jeter, who went 1-for-3 and is 9-for-19 in All-Star games, left in the sixth, an inning after A-Rod.

It was pretty awesome. It s hard to grasp, Rodriguez said. The best game I was ever in.

Before the game, 49 Hall of Famers led by Yogi Berra and Gary Carter walked in from the bullpens in left-center to their former positions, waved to the sellout crowd and stood as the All-Stars assumed flanking positions alongside them during a half-hour ceremony.

George Steinbrenner, who has owned the Yankees since 1973, delivered the balls for the ceremonial first pitches on a golf cart. The 78-year-old, whose health has deteriorated in recent years, wore sunglasses and was accompanied by wife Joan, son Hal and son-in-law Felix Lopez, his assistant and a driver. Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage hugged the Boss before throwing balls to Jeter, Rodriguez, Rivera and Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Fired New York Mets manager Willie Randolph, a former Yankees star and coach, was in the crowd at the invitation of Steinbrenner. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani watched from his front-row seat and Donald Trump from Steinbrenner s box.

It was the highest-priced baseball game ever played, with lower-deck seats costing $525-$725, the upper deck $200-$400 and bleachers seats $150.

Fans, perhaps jaded from years of pressured postseason excitement, were far more subdued than during even regular-season games.

In the first-inning roll call, the Bleacher Creatures chanted only three names: Derek Jeter, A-Rod and Bobby Murcer, the latter the former Yankees All-Star and broadcaster who died Saturday.

Notes:The previous longest game was 1967, which took 3:41. ... Drew became the 15th player to homer in his first All-Star at-bat, the first since the Mets David Wright two years ago. ... Zambrano started Manny Ramirez with a playful breaking ball over his head in the fourth. ... There were an All-Star record seven steals, including a team-record six by the AL.



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