In a bizarre twist to a time-honoured baseball tradition, troubled commissioner Bud Selig suffered yet another humiliating indignity as he was forced to proclaim Tuesday's 73rd MLB All-Star Game a 7-7, 11-inning tie.
Both teams ran out of pitchers.
Curt Schilling threw 24 of his 28 pitches for strikes on Tuesday.(AP Photo)
"I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the fans," Selig explained. "Given the health of the players, I had no choice.
"The decision was made because there were no players left, no pitchers left. This is not the ending I had hoped for.
"I was in a no-win situation."
Torii Hunter reaches high to rob Barry Bonds of a solo home run.(AP Photo)
Selig's controversial ruling brought an abrupt end to an otherwise exciting game at Miller Park, home of his Milwaukee Brewers.
He made the call after conferring with MLB executive vice-president Sandy Alderson, Fox Sports president Ed Goren and managers Bob Brenly and Joe Torre midway through the 11th.
So when Freddy Garcia of the Seattle Mariners struck out Benito Santiago of the San Francisco Giants to end it with the potential winning run at second base, the players walked off to jeers, not cheers.
Eric Gagne, a Montreal native, fires a pitch in the fifth inning.(AP Photo)
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"As much as I hated to do it and, with all of the reluctance in the world, given the people here in the stadium and the people watching on television, I really, really had no choice at the end but to end the game at the end of the 11th inning," Selig lamented.
"It's an unfortunate situation," Brenly added. "I think it's highly improper to try to place a blame on anybody for this thing, but it happened."
Barry Bonds homers off Toronto's Roy Halladay in the third inning.(AP Photo)
"I feel bad for Bud," Torre echoed. "Bob and I had talked.
"You can't have it both ways. You can't have all the people see all the players.
"The last thing I want to do is get a pitcher hurt and send Freddy Garcia back to (Mariners manager) Lou Piniella saying he can't pitch. That, to me, is the mortal sin of the whole thing."
It was the 10th All-Star Game to go to extra innings, but only the second to end in a tie.
Rain forced the cancellation of the 1961 All-Star Game at Fenway Park with the score knotted 1-1.
Only boos rained down on this year's showcase, which ended with the disgusted sellout crowd of 41,871 chanting "Bud Must Go!" and "Refund, Refund!" as it littered the field with trash.
"This is terrible," cried Tim Dugan of Chicago. "These guys are going on strike and they're doing this now?
"We've been ripped off."
"They treated it like it was a meaningless game," complained David Cuscuna, who travelled all the way from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"They're telling the fans this game doesn't matter, not to mention the $175 face value for tickets. It sends a lot of bad messages."
"If I was a fan, too, I would be disappointed," added Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Damian Miller, who doubled twice.
"Obviously, you want to see someone win, but you have to look out for the players and their health."
Milwaukee has now hosted three mid-summer classics.
The National League won the previous two games over the American League, 6-5 on Stan Musial's 12th-inning home run in 1955 and 6-3 at County Stadium 20 years later.
Tuesday's improbable conclusion proved to be yet another black eye for baseball, already embarrassed by the failure of contraction, rumours of rampant steroid use and the looming spectre of a potential work stoppage.
"It could be the last big baseball event ever," surmised Mike Bremer, a fan from Tempe, Ariz. "If they go on strike, no one is going to forgive them."
"With everything going on in baseball, I'm sure the fans were very upset," remarked Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins.
"I don't think the sport's hurting at all or we're jinxed," countered Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros. "Baseball is a business and, in any business, there are going to be hiccups along the way.
"I don't think it's going to have a long-term impact on the integrity of the sport."
Not only did baseball's annual bragging rights go unclaimed, but so did the Most Valuable Player Award, re-named the Ted Williams Award on Monday.
"This is a very regrettable situation," Selig muttered. "I feel very badly about it.
"Frankly, I couldn't feel worse."
Williams, an 18-time all-star who died of cardiac arrest at age 83 on July 5, was at least honoured when Boston Red Sox all-stars Johnny Damon, Nomar Garciaparra and Ugueth Urbina unveiled his No. 9 painted into the left field grass.
"It's a nice tribute to Ted," Garciaparra said.
Diamondbacks righthander Curt Schilling started for the NL for the second straight year and third time in four years.
"It's no less an honour today than it was the first time," he said.
Schilling started strongly, getting leading vote-getter Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners on a first-pitch groundout and striking out Shea Hillenbrand of the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees in succession -- all swinging.
All he surrendered over two innings was a single to Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez.
"I threw the ball as hard as I could throw the ball for two innings," said Schilling, who topped 97 miles per hour and threw 24 of 28 pitches for strikes.
"That was everything that I had today."
Red Sox righthander Derek Lowe started for the AL, allowing one run on two hits and a balk -- the eighth in all-star annals -- in his two innings.
"It's a tremendous honour," Lowe enthused. "In my first year starting, I came into the year with no expectations.
"So this is more than I could ever have dreamed of."
Unable to pitch were Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves, Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks and Matt Morris of the St. Louis Cardinals.
"It's an honour to be selected," Johnson stated. "But it's in my best interest to rest."
"It's just better for me for the second half not to pitch," echoed Morris, still bothered by minor back spasms.
Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez politely declined an invitation, too.
The game was preceded by a lengthy celebration counting down MLB's 30 greatest moments, everything from the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees to Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak to Jackie Robinson's 1947 debut and beyond.
"Seven no-hitters for Nolan Ryan, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris hitting 61 homers, there are so many things and to be in that group is great," exclaimed Giants slugger Barry Bonds, whose record 73-home run season ranked among the top-30.
"But for all we've done, a lot of it couldn't have happened if Jackie Robinson didn't do what he did. Jackie Robinson changed baseball."
Highlighting the tribute were on-field appearances by Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski and Cal Ripken Jr. to name just five.
"Whatever's fresh in your mind is more apt to be more popular than old stuff," observed Mazeroski, whose dramatic homer clinched the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I was wondering about Harvey Haddix's 12-inning perfect game. I thought was one of the great moments in baseball.
"It was probably the most enjoyable game or the most memorable game I played in outside of the 1960 World Series."
Aaron, baseball's career home run king with 755, flew in from Washington, where he was one of a dozen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour.
President George W. Bush said Aaron "overcame poverty and racism to become one of the most accomplished baseball players of all time" upon presenting him with the medal during a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House.
Aaron joined fellow Milwaukee favourites Warren Spahn, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Bob Uecker for the ceremonial first pitch(es).
Hunter made an immediate impression with a leaping catch to close out the first inning.
The first-time all-star reached high above the centre field wall to rob Bonds of a homer for what he considered the highlight catch of his career.
"It was like a dream come true," Hunter said. "You know what?
"Because it was in the All-Star Game, I think it was No. 1. And it was Barry Bonds.
"I made a great play on Barry Bonds, a guy who's going to be in the Hall of Fame. I can always tell my grandkids I robbed a Hall of Famer."
"That was a great play," Bonds acknowledged.
"I think everybody was speechless," Schilling said. "It's always awesome in an all-star game to see an all-star do what got him there.
"Those are the moments people will never forget."
The NL opened the scoring off Lowe in the bottom of the second.
Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs led off with a single up the middle, but was gunned down trying to advance to third base on a shallow single to left by Vladimir Guerrero of the Montreal Expos.
Guerrero scampered to second on the play, was balked to third and scored on a groundout to second by Mike Piazza of the New York Mets.
Roy Halladay, the lone representative for the Toronto Blue Jays, was rocked for three runs in the third.
The red-headed righthander gave up an RBI single to Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies followed by a two-run homer to Bonds before striking out Sosa swinging.
"I faced him before," Bonds said, referring to an interleague series between the Giants and Blue Jays at SkyDome.
"I was familiar with him, so I had a little bit of an advantage."
Bonds now has two homers in 10 all-star appearances.
The AL sliced it to 4-1 in the fourth as Giambi singled with one out, scooted to second on a passed ball and scored on a single to centre by Ramirez.
Giambi's Yankee teammate Alfonso Soriano made it 4-2 with a solo homer off Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne in the fifth.
"I was nervous when I was warming up, but I didn't have too many butterflies in my stomach when I was on the mound," said Gagne, a Montreal native. "I savoured every moment of the experience.
"It's the second-most beautiful experience of my life. The most beautiful was the birth of my daughter."
Gagne, who leads the majors with 32 saves, is the 10th Canadian invited to the All-Star Game.
"I'm happy to have represented the Dodgers, Quebec and Canada," he said. "I hope it gives young people the desire to do the same thing."
The NL pulled out front 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth as Miller doubled home Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies, who singled to lead off the frame.
But the AL answered with four runs in the top of the seventh for a 6-5 lead.
Damon singled, stole second and, one out later, raced home when Garret Anderson of the Anaheim Angels grounded out to first.
Randy Winn of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays drew a walk from Braves reliever Mike Remlinger, who gave way to Byung-Hyun Kim of the Diamondbacks.
Winn promptly stole second before Tony Batista of the Baltimore Orioles plated him with an RBI single to left.
Miguel Tejada of the Oakland Athletics singled to put runners at first and second for Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who drove in both runs with a double to left.
"It was a good cap on the first half," claimed Konerko.
"This is the All-Star Game, not the World Series," Miller barked about Kim. "He gave up some runs, so what?"
The NL responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the seventh.
Mike Lowell of the Florida Marlins opened with a pinch-hit single off Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki.
Miller doubled to bring up Berkman, who singled home both runs for a 7-6 advantage.
The AL tied it 7-7 in the eighth when Robert Fick of the Detroit Tigers singled off Giants righthander Robb Nenn and, one out and one stolen base later, trotted home on a triple to right off the bat of Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel.
"You could never get tired of playing in the All-Star Game," Expos second baseman Jose Vidro concluded.
"The whole world watches us. It was a good game.
"It had a little bit of everything. In fact, both teams came out winners."
Bud Selig may beg to differ.