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.
"It was just crazy how it seemed like it lasted forever," Texas' Ian Kinsler said. "It was the last year for Yankee Stadium, the last All-Star game, and it's kind of fitting that it seemed like it lasted forever."
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 NL's 2-1 win at Anaheim in 1967 for the longest All-Star game ever.
"Yankee Stadium is tough, I'm telling you," Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said. "Didn't want it to end."
Morneau started the winning rally with a leadoff single against loser Brad Lidge. After Dioner Navarro singled with one out, 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 Morneau 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.
"It was a little deep for me," Hart said. "I was just trying to get it as close as I could."
The AL improved to 6-0 since the All-Star game began determining homefield advantage in the World Series and 10-0-1 since its 1996 loss in Philadelphia. And it even ended an old hex -- it had been 0-9-1 in extra innings against its older rival.
Still, the NL leads 40-37-2 overall
Young, who got a ninth-inning, go-ahead hit off Trevor Hoffman in 2006 at Pittsburgh, helped avoid 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. The winner was Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir, the 12th AL pitcher.
"I've been in a lot off one-inning situations this year, so I'm not sure how long I could have gone," said Lidge, the 11th NL hurler. "I know nobody would have wanted to start marching position players out there to decide who has home-field advantage in the World Series."
Drew was picked as the MVP, with his two-run homer in the seventh making it 2-all. Being from Boston, he was booed when presented with his trophy. 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.
"One of those undescribable events," said Drew, who was prepared to be an emergency pitcher.
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 left 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.
"I had my kids with me, so there was probably a few choice words that we wouldn't like a 6- and an 8-year-old to hear for an hour," Papelbon said. "But it's part of what goes on in the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox."
When Papelbon entered the game, 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.
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.
Holliday's fifth-inning homer against Ervin Santana and Lance Berkman's sixth-inning sacrifice fly off Oakland's Justin Duchscherer made it 2-0 before tied it against Dan Haren.
Prior to 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.
Notes: The previous longest game by time 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 a record six steals by the AL and a record seven overall. ... The NL was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, the AL 3-for-22. ... The Hall of Fame collected two souvenirs -- Rivera's jersey and dirt from the pitcher's mound.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun