2021 All-Star Game
The 2021 All-Star Game, the 91st edition, was originally scheduled to be played at Truist Park in Atlanta, GA on July 13, 2021, but was moved to Coors Field in Denver, CO. It marked the resumption of the Midsummer Classic after a one-year hiatus, as the 2020 edition, scheduled to be played in Dodger Stadium, had to be scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic which wiped out 60 percent of the 2020 MLB season. As Atlanta was already well advanced in its preparations to host the 2021 game, Major League Baseball decided to let the city remain the host, and to award the 2022 All-Star Game to Los Angeles, to make up for the one it had lost, a reasoning that became tainted with irony as the game was ultimately moved from Atlanta. On the field, the American League won for the 8th straight time, 5-2, over the National League, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, who drove in two runs including one with a monster home run, winning the Ted Williams Award as the game's MVP.
MLB also announced that the 2021 amateur draft would be held in conjunction with the game, breaking with the tradition that it take place in early June. This change was made to give the draft a higher profile, and not have it take place before the College World Series. The logo for the game was unveiled on September 24, 2021, by Commissioner Rob Manfred in the presence of Atlanta Braves all-time great Hank Aaron. Sadly, Aaron passed away a few months later but his memory was honored before the game with a moving tribute in the presence of his widow, Billye.
Controversy became attached to the game in March of 2021 when the state of Georgia adopted a new set of voting laws that were transparently aimed at making it more difficult for African-Americans to exercise their right to vote. Many voices called for the game to be moved away from Atlanta in order to put pressure on state authorities. Even President Joe Biden expressed support for the campaign in an interview with ESPN on March 31st, backing calls from the Players Association to look at this option. Two days later, on April 2nd, Commissioner Manfred announced that the game and the draft would be moved as this was the "best way to demonstrate our values as a sport." On April 6th, it was announced officially that the game would be played at Coors Field in Denver, CO, although word had leaked out the day before.
For the first time, MLB decided that players would not wear their regular uniforms during the game, as had been the tradition from the outset, but a specially-designed set of threads providing a more common look and feel for the two teams, although each player's home team and city would still be reflected prominently on these bespoke jerseys.
A few days before the game was to take place, three men and one woman were arrested after police found a cache of weapons in a hotel room near Coors Field. Police had been tipped off by a housekeeper at the hotel, who found the suspicious gear. While it was not certain that the group's intent was to perpetuate a mass shooting at the game, they had sought to obtain an additional room with a balcony, the preparations seemed very similar to those for a shooting perpetrated against concert attendees from a Las Vegas, NV hotel room in 2017. One major difference however was that police also found significant quantities of illegal drugs in the room, and that one of the suspects claimed that his plan was to either sell or trade the weapons, not use them.
Major League Baseball approved a special rule change for the game, to allow Shohei Ohtani to both hit and pitch, as fans wanted him to do: having been voted in as the AL's starting DH, he was also permitted to serve as the starting pitcher and to remain in the game as the DH once his turn on the mound was completed. This dispensed the AL with the need to use a pinch-hitter every time the spot he had occupied came up again during the game, something that would have been necessary under standard playing rules.
The game started with Max Scherzer on the mound for the National League. He got Ohtani on a ground ball on which 2B Adam Frazier made a nice play. Up next was 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and he absolutely smoked a ball through the box, whizzing just past Scherzer's head at 110 mph, but right at Frazier who was positioned perfectly. Guerrero Jr. hugged Scherzer on his way back to the dugout, telling him that he had not meant to decapitate him as he almost did. Scherzer then struck out SS Xander Bogaerts to end his night's work and Ohtani took the mound. It took him a few more pitches than Scherzer, but he was just as efficient, retiring all three batters he faced on a fly out and a pair of ground balls, and incidentally hitting 100 mph on the radar gun on one of his pitches to 3B Nolan Arenado. Corbin Burnes took over on the mound in the top of the 2nd, and just as ESPN was showing a graphic of how he had set the major league record by recording 58 strikeouts without walking anyone to start the year, he issued a four-pitch free pass to RF Aaron Judge. 3B Rafael Devers followed with a bouncer down the right field line that jumped clean over the leaping Freddie Freeman at first base and landed just fair for a double. 2B Marcus Semien followed with a softly hit ball down the third base line; Arenado, one of the best in the business, did all he could, but Semien was safe at first with an infield hit and Judge scored the game's first run. This could easily have turned into a big inning, but Burnes, who to be fair had not given up a hard-hit ball yet, recovered by striking out C Salvador Perez and getting LF Teoscar Hernandez to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The AL's second pitcher of the night was Lance Lynn and he got two quick outs before walking LF Jesse Winker and then striking out C J.T. Realmuto. Burnes came back for a second inning of work, and it started off well enough as he struck out CF Cedric Mullins and got Ohtani, still in the game thanks to the rule exception mentioned above, to ground out. But then Guerrero came up and boy did he get all of Burnes' third pitch, a hanging slider. He absolutely demolished it, sending it way back in left-center field, past the first tier of seats for a home run that left everyone in the ballpark gasping. At 468 feet it was both the longest All-Star home run of the Statcast era and the longest of the budding star's career. It was another signature moment for a player who at 22 seemed to be collecting these by the bushel. Bogaerts followed with a single, but Burnes then got Judge to hit into a forceout. However, the AL now had a 2-0 lead and seemed to be in complete control. Kyle Gibson, a first-time All-Star at 33, gave up a long fly ball to CF Bryan Reynolds that seemed like a sure double - except that Judge ran it down, using all of his 6'8" frame to grasp it just before it reached the wall. Frazier followed with a single for the NL's first hit, but Gibson retired the next two men without further drama. Local favorite Germán Márquez pitched a clean inning for the NL in the top of the 4th, while Nathan Eovaldi also faced the minimum three batters by inducing RF Nick Castellanos to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The AL put the game away in the top of the 5th with rookie Trevor Rogers on the mound. On his first pitch, Hernandez hit a double to right, and Mullins followed with a ground ball that the normally sure-handed Brandon Crawford mishandled at shortstop to put runners on the corners. J.D. Martinez pinch-hit for Ohtani and struck out swinging, but Guerrero ensured that the game MVP award would be his and his alone by hitting a bouncer to second base on which Frazier's only play was to throw him out. Hernandez scored for a 3-0 lead and Mullins moved to second. He immediately scored the fourth run when Bogaerts singled to right and while Judge flied out to end the inning, the 4-0 lead seemed almost insurmountable in light of recent history. Kevin Cash made a whole slew of changes after that half-inning, bringing in five new defensive players and a new pitcher in the guise of Gregory Soto, probably the least-well known of all the participants in the game, by virtue of toiling in the bullpen for the last-place and low-profile Detroit Tigers. After retiring Winker, Soto was tagged for a home run to center field by Realmuto that cut the lead to 4-1, but he limited the damage by getting the next two batters, Reynolds and Frazier, to both ground out. It was now Dave Roberts' turn to make wholesale changes, with five new defensive players and a new pitcher, Taijuan Walker. He got a couple of quick outs, but C Mike Zunino increased the lead to four runs again by doing what he does best when he does not strike out: hit a home run, this one to the opposite field in right center. Chris Bassitt was the next to pitch for the AL and it looked to be an easy inning when he retired the first two men he faced, but he then allowed a single to center by 3B Manny Machado. CF Adolis Garcia bobbled the ball, allowing Machado to take second, and Bassitt walked 1B Jake Cronenworth. RF Juan Soto also drew a walk, and suddenly the bases were loaded for LF Kris Bryant. Bassitt struck out Bryant to end the inning, but not before Zunino had failed to handle one of his pitches, allowing Machado to score on the passed ball to cut the lead to 5-2.
The American League had scored in four of the last five innings at that point, but National League pitchers finally got their act together starting in the 7th. Freddy Peralta displayed some pretty filthy stuff in striking out the side that inning, but then so did Andrew Kittredge, a last-minute addition to the AL's roster, as he got three outs on just 9 pitches. In the 8th, veteran Mark Melancon made SS Bo Bichette look like a schoolboy by getting him to swing wildly at three nasty curveballs, but he then walked RF Joey Gallo and gave way to Alex Reyes. 3B Joey Wendle singled to center to put a second man on base, but 2B Whit Merrifield hit a ground ball to first base. Cronenworth, normally a second baseman, made a nice play to force out Wendle at second base, then Zunino displayed the other side of his game besides hitting homers when he struck out to end the inning. Next to the mound was Matt Barnes and he put himself in trouble after retiring SS Trea Turner on just one pitch. DH Justin Turner and 3B Eduardo Escobar hit back-to-back singles, before Cronenworth lined a ball to left that would have been another single with a normal defensive alignment; however, the AL was playing Cronenworth to pull the ball to right field, and Wendle, the only defender on the left side, was exactly in the right spot to snag the line drive for the second out. But Barnes was not out of trouble; like Bassitt in the 6th, he walked Soto to load the bases, and Bryant had another chance to tie the game. This time he did not strike out, but hit a sinking liner to left field. Jared Walsh, normally a first baseman but playing his first game in left field as a major leaguer, made a beautiful sliding catch to end the inning, preventing what looked like a sure two-run hit coming off Bryant's bat. As a result Bryant became the goat (and not the G.O.A.T.) for the NL, but really not through his own doing. In the top of the 9th, a re-born Craig Kimbrel got the first two outs around a one-out double by Garcia, and Zack Wheeler came on to strike out 1B Matt Olson to end the inning. It was up to Liam Hendriks to close out the win. He made things interesting by allowing a lead-off single to C Omar Narvaez. Then, while facing CF Chris Turner, one of his pitches went through Zunino's legs; Narvaez immediately took off for second, but the ball bounced off the brick backsplash straight back into Zunino's glove, and he had no trouble gunning down the slow-footed catcher at second base. That lucky bounce was a one-in-a-thousand shot, but it really ended the NL's chances. Turner struck out for the second out, and after a double by 2B Ozzie Albies, Trea Turner hit a grounder to second base to end the game.
Vlad Junior was named the game's MVP in what was a foregone conclusion. Ohtani received credit for the win in his historic appearance, and Hendriks was credited with a save even if it was far from the cleanest of the Australian's career. Burnes was the only pitcher to go more than one inning in getting tagged with the loss, while Bryant was the player who could have made the difference but didn't, squandering both of his bases-loaded opportunities.
|Shohei Ohtani||DH||Los Angeles Angels||1||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SS||San Diego Padres|
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||1B||Toronto Blue Jays||2||Max Muncy||DH||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Xander Bogaerts||SS||Boston Red Sox||3||Nolan Arenado||3B||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Aaron Judge||RF||New York Yankees||4||Freddie Freeman||1B||Atlanta Braves|
|Rafael Devers||3B||Boston Red Sox||5||Nick Castellanos||RF||Cincinnati Reds|
|Marcus Semien||2B||Toronto Blue Jays||6||Jesse Winker||LF||Cincinnati Reds|
|Salvador Perez||C||Kansas City Royals||7||J.T. Realmuto||C||Philadelphia Phillies|
|Teoscar Hernandez||LF||Toronto Blue Jays||8||Bryan Reynolds||CF||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Cedric Mullins||CF||Baltimore Orioles||9||Adam Frazier||2B||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Shohei Ohtani||P||Los Angeles Angels||SP||Max Scherzer||P||Washington Nationals|
American: Shohei Ohtani (W), Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, Nate Eovaldi, Gregory Soto, Chris Bassitt, Andrew Kittredge, Matt Barnes, Liam Hendriks (SV)
National: Max Scherzer, Corbin Burnes (L), Germán Márquez, Trevor Rogers, Taijuan Walker, Freddy Peralta, Mark Melancon, Alex Reyes, Craig Kimbrel, Zack Wheeler
Tom Hallion was named home plate umpire and crew chief, assisted by CB Bucknor (1B), Chris Guccione (2B), Lance Barrett (3B), David Rackley (LF) and Adam Hamari (RF). Greg Gibson served as the replay umpire, based in New York.
- Mark Bowman: "MLB, Braves unveil 2021 All-Star Game logo", mlb.com, September 24, 2020. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "'21 All-Star Game, Draft moved from Atlanta", mlb.com, April 2, 2021. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "AL staves off NL for 8th straight All-Star win: Vlad becomes game's youngest MVP, Ohtani earns win in historic Midsummer Classic", mlb.com, July 14, 2021. 
- Thomas Harding: "Rockies to host 2021 All-Star Game", mlb.com, April 6, 2021. 
- Victoria Hernandez: "MLB unveils first-ever All-Star game uniforms", The Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2021. 
- Sanjana Karanth and Amanda Terkel: "Joe Biden Backs Moving MLB All-Star Game Out Of Georgia Over Voting Law", The Huffington Post, March 31, 2021. 
- Matt Kelly and Manny Randhawa: "Here are your 2021 All-Star Game starters", mlb.com, July 1, 2021. 
- Matt Kelly, Sarah Langs and Andrew Simon: "15 wild facts from the 91st All-Star Game", mlb.com, July 14, 2021. 
- Gabe Lacques: "MLB moving 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia voting law", USA Today, April 2, 2021. 
- Bob Nightengale: "2021 MLB All-Star Game will be played at Denver's Coors Field after event pulled out of Atlanta", USA Today, April 5, 2021. 
- Jason Owens: "Police: Alleged ringleader of group arrested for guns sought extra room with balcony near MLB All-Star Game", Yahoo!Sports, July 12, 2021. 
- Neil Paine: "These MLB Players Are All-Stars On Bad Teams", Fivethirtyeight.com, July 12, 2021.