The 1999 All-Star Game will begin Tuesday night with a distinctly New England flavor -- Hall of Famer Ted Williams throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Carlton Fisk. If that single moment doesn't stir enough memories and emotions to have Fenway Park rocking to its creaky old bones, what follows almost certainly will.
That's when another of Boston's favorite sons -- Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez -- takes the mound to face a National League lineup that will feature Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire hitting back to back and five others who've already hit at least 23 home runs.
Meanwhile, the American League's starting lineup will have four Cleveland Indians and two Texas Rangers. One of those Indians is right fielder Manny Ramirez, who has already driven in 96 runs and has Hack Wilson's record of 191 in his sights. The American League also has baseball's best all-around player -- Seattle center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. -- and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken, who'll be making his 17th all-star appearance.
"I know a lot of the American Leaguers want to see Sosa and McGwire," Rangers designated hitter Rafael Palmeiro said. "And I'm sure the National League guys want to get a look at Griffey and Ripken. It's just one of those games where you remember so many of the details longer than you ever think you will."
While the All-Star Game may lack the drama of a World Series, it's about as good as baseball can get on a summer night. What makes the game even more special than usual is that there'll be 24 first-time all-stars, including 17 on the National League squad.
First-timers such as Baltimore outfielder B.J. Surhoff said they could not find the words to express their excitement. And old-timers such as Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin said the thrill of playing in an all-star game was as great as ever.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be managing the all-star team," said National League Manager Bruce Bochy of the San Diego Padres. "I know it's going to be a euphoric feeling that I'll never forget."
It will also be an extra special night for AL Manager Joe Torre of the New York Yankees. Not only is he managing the team for the second time in three seasons, but he's also returning to Fenway Park. Earlier this season, Torre managed his first game of the season here after missing two months recovering from cancer surgery.
"The respect the fans showed me was very moving," Torre said. "It was quite emotional. . . . It was something when all the people got on their feet."
What makes the All-Star Game special is the chance to see the best competing against the best. This season, that means Martinez, the incomparable right-hander, who is 15-3 with a 2.10 ERA. He leads the AL in strikeouts and seems to have a chance to become the first pitcher in 31 years to win 30 games. In 132 2/3 innings, he has struck out 184 and allowed just five homers and 24 walks, using a devastating combination of power and control.
He was asked about the challenge of facing a lineup that will have Sosa hitting third and McGwire fourth.
"What should I do, start crying?" Martinez asked with a laugh. "I pitch the only way I know. I'm not going to switch anything."
Bochy named Phillies right-hander Curt Schilling (13-4, 3.13 ERA) to start for the NL. Even Schilling has ties to New England. He was drafted and signed by the Red Sox before being traded to the Orioles with Brady Anderson for Mike Boddicker in 1988.
Schilling's 13 victories are one fewer than Cardinals right-hander Kent Bottenfield has. He's tied with Arizona's Randy Johnson for the major league lead with seven complete games and trails only Johnson in strikeouts in the NL.
"I'm honored to be chosen to get the start," Schilling said, "but, seeing the lineup they're throwing out there, it might not have bothered me throwing second or third. I'm as nervous for this as I've been for any game I've ever pitched."
Still, it's McGwire and Sosa that many fans are hoping to see. Sosa hit his first career home run at Fenway Park 10 years ago while playing for the Texas Rangers and very nearly got traded to the Red Sox in 1994.
"I think maybe I'd have hit 72 home runs last season [instead of 66] if I'd gotten traded here," he said. "It almost happened. I was ready to come here."
Sosa was typically outgoing this morning as he showed up at a news conference. He took one look at Fisk and said: "It's like seeing my father again."
The two were teammates briefly with the White Sox before Fisk retired and Sosa was traded to the Cubs, where he has established himself as one of the greatest home run hitters ever. He was the NL's top vote-getter this year.
"It's an honor for me to be together with Mark again and play," Sosa said.
McGwire skipped a scheduled news conference, sending word that he had overslept.
While the Indians have four American League starters, the defending world champion Yankees don't have a single one. Not even Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter won a spot in the lineup, finishing a close second to Boston's Nomar Garciaparra.
Rangers right fielder Juan Gonzalez was so upset by the balloting and what some believe was ballot stuffing in Cleveland that he skipped the game. For Torre and the Yankees, it seemed less important.
"We're used to that," Torre said. "We haven't had that many starters. Cleveland keeps hanging up sellout after sellout, so you know where the votes are coming from.
"New York has never been one of those cities where they've done a lot of voting at the ballpark. . . . The fact that we don't have starters in an All-Star Game doesn't diminish how good we are."
CAPTION: Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., left, and Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra soak up ambience of the All-Star Game during batting practice. Both will start for the American League.
CAPTION: Ryan Ripken does a handstand with help of father Cal Ripken during a workout at Boston's Fenway Park.
CAPTION: Ken Griffey Jr. puts bat to ball and puts himself in position to win the all-star Home Run Derby for the second straight year. He beat the Brewers' Jeromy Burnitz in the final. Story on Page D5.